Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Swan Plant, of the African Milkweed Family

During a visit to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden two weekends ago, we came across a most unusual looking plant. The labels appeared misleading. I overheard a passerby reading aloud Narcissus "Ice Follies" from a nearby plaque as a possible ID. But I knew this plant was no daffodil. A label turned inside out read Moon Carrot, or Seseli gummiferum. Now that sounded quite likely. Yet upon further research, moon carrot, or Seseli flowers looked very different from what we have here, and nowhere was there any mention of the strange looking pods that were so very eye-catching. It just didn't compute.

An email message to the Garden Resource Center at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden yielded the answer, well within 24 hours, with a link to a plant forum in the University of British Columbia website. Our plant is Gomphocarpus physocarpus, one of which common names is the swan plant. So there you are - the swan plant, (or balloon cottonbush, or bladderbush, or wild cotton, and so forth.) But naturally, I favor the swan, and if you look closely at the flower, you may find the clue to the genesis of this more poetic common name. Briefly, according to that source, this is in the African milkweed family, and has apparently established itself in parts of the tropics, where the plant can be invasive. Fortunately, all it can be hereabouts is an annual.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Squash, or Zucchini - The Flower

Has anyone ever seen a squash flower in a more glorious state of deshabille?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Mother of Pergolas

One of the loveliest pergolas is in the Conservatory Garden in northern Central Park in New York City.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Acanthus mollis: this leaf is the basis for the capital of the Corinthian column in the classical orders of Greek architecture

Yellow Wax Beans

This yellow wax bean, a variety the seed packet calls the yellow round-podded Kinghorn wax, Phaseolus vulgarus, is grown in a large pot outside the greenhouse. White bean flowers, typical of legume flowers, cling to the tips of each pod as they elongate and lighten to yellow.

Recently harvested, sauteed whole and untrimmed in a hot cast iron pan with a bit of walnut oil, the waxy pods took turns shooting out tiny geysers of liquid as they cooked. Needless to say, they were delicious, their pale lemon color striped with dark char lines present a gorgeous foil to the tomatoes and other greens on the plate.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Beady Mossy Rocky Mini-Landscapes

A few years ago, I put together another set of boxes, small, 6"w x 6"l x 1-1/4"d, consisting of pieces of moss that I had collected from a friend's discarded flower pots, and transplanted to my group of melamine trays, large and small. Lately, I've added glass beads from my beading projects to a couple of them...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Other Little Red Greenhouse Goes to Gent...

...and displays itself in a shop window
(photo courtesy of Marijke Bontinck)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Little Red Greenhouse

The piece shown above, Little Red Greenhouse, will be shown in the

Küf/Mold 2008 Exhibition in Gent, Belgium

(check out link to Kuf/Mold blog on left.)

Because the piece had to travel from Brooklyn to Gent, only one of the two "little red greenhouses," a red Plexiglass box, 14-1/2"h x 10"w x 10"l, with seams polished to neon brightness will be shown. Plants will be bought and installed locally by the show's curators Suzan Batu, Bill Doherty and Marijke Bontinck.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Then there is drink

Golden hops, Humulus lupulus 'aureus' is gorgeous, prolific and fast growing. It covers an entire fence in the first few weeks of spring with chartreuse trilobed leaves; it will wind its tendrils around all its neighbors if you do not keep a watchful eye. Towards mid-summer, the "hops" - blossoms looking like soft, greenish yellow pine cones which hang lantern-like, light up the already bright summer days. The plant thrives in full sun to part shade.

It will also make you beer. (Sorry, I cannot provide recipes, not being a drinker - my system lacks the enzyme that processes injested alcohol. My appreciation for the plant is purely aesthetic.) A German acquaintance once told me about hop harvesting season in his hometown, when friends gather for brewing parties. I think he was pulling my leg.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The flowers before the fruit

The little yellow flowers can yield huge shiny red fruits or little red cherry ones; they may also give rise to the yellowish or orange pear shaped ones, the cheerful orange globes. (You wouldn't think these simple sweet sunny flowers related to deadly nightshade, but if you're familiar with belladonna, you will recognize the similarity in the structure of both flowers, the flowers of the deadly nightshade an ominous dark purple.)

And the fruits picked from the vine will all be inordinately delicious - or so I've been told - as in truth I'm not the most fond of tomatoes to eat, but my loved ones love them, and that is more than enough reason for me to plant them. So each morning I rush out into the garden to inspect the daily ripening, and marvel at the beauty of it all. I can barely tear myself away.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

And then there is FOOD

Gardening is about food.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Why a-gitate? And in the city no less?

Why a-gitate?

Clearly, the obvious reference is the acronymous reflective in : A - Garden Is The Answer To Everything.
Humpphh... nothing but wordplay, you say... Well, you would be right. And clearly, too, this one here has an agenda.

So consider this:
The dictionary (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/agitate) also defines agitate thus:
5.to call attention to by speech or writing; discuss; debate: to agitate the question.
6.to consider on all sides; revolve in the mind; plan.
7.to arouse or attempt to arouse public interest and support, as in some political or social cause or theory

Of course, most people assume the first four definitions, which mostly point to the standard meaning of the word, involving anxiety, even violently intense motion or emotion.

But look at this passionflower, Passiflora caerulea, from the Brooklyn garden, the vine dies back every winter, coming back every summer, self-seeding itself all over the garden , I pull unwanted seedlings up like weeds - their long taproot prevents easy transplanting. (All photos in this blog, unless otherwise noted, are by Larry Hedrick)

That is one strange looking flower, you say. Wait till I show you what it does to the bees...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Back to Spring

A short clip on YouTube takes us back to the earlier part of the year, showing the garden coming alive: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67U_WRUJFmE

Pokey the red-eared slider slept through the winter, burrowing herself underneath the muck at the bottom of the pond. The fish, four koi and two plain-jane gold, have kept silent company with her, ever since her introduction into their midst three summers ago. She chased me down the garden path the first day she fully awoke. I never thought I'd see a turtle sprint, I knew then that she was truly hungry. So I fed her.

Of late, Revitt McPhee, the bulfrog, has not been heard, but that's not to say he's gone. He boomed his first note and took up residence here last summer.

It's Puggles' thirteenth year, fifth in this particular garden.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Gardening is the Answer to Everything

A Garden is the Answer to Everything.

A-gitate for gardens: they are they are the answer to everything.