Archive for June, 2010

summer spa!

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

What do you do when you’re about to go on vacation? Leave all your beauties to wither in the hot summer sun! Not an option. With our trip to New York on the horizon I decided to conduct a lil’ experiment!

We were going to be gone eleven days.

I crowded all my plants that weren’t succulents into the bathroom and watered them the morning we left, giving my begonia a full on shower for a few minutes. I filled my spray mister and watering cans to the brim and set them amongst the plants. I misted the air copiously and made sure the curtain was pulled back to let in full light. I left the bathroom door slightly ajar.

The idea was that the bathroom retains the most moisture and has the most gentle southern light. The plants once watered would transpire onto each other like in a terrarium! It worked well! My four foot high begonia that usually starts to droop after a little over a week without watering looked great when we got home. And I was able to shower and water everything quickly on my return!

What do you do if your gone longer than a few weeks though? I recently adopted two plants belonging to a traveling soul that was moving to the southwest for who knew how long? I was going to give them the good treatment, and why not? But first I had to put them through a period of isolation before introducing them to my plants to see if they had any bugs. Give them a month in a separate space with plenty of light and water (think garage or basement). Good thing I took the pains… it turned out they did have something that could have spread to my other plants. Now instead of a summer spa with all my other plants they are going to enjoy their own window on the world until I figure out if they can get healthy enough to join the group.

Have any favorite tips for treating your plants right while you’re away? I’d love to have a few new tricks in the bag!

1001 Gardens + New York = Heaven?

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Kay, I’m so excited! My sweet man and I have been talking about visiting New York together since we met and now we’ve got the tickets booked and are making plans. I’ve been eye-ing this book 1001 Gardens You Must See Before You Die, and I finally had a real occasion to buy it! Happily I purchased it at a local garden store and the woman working gushed about the book to me over the counter. It turns out she was recently in NY visiting gardens too and gave me a list of her favorite four. She mentioned Battery Park first and Piet Oudolf’s design there. “What, you mean he has a design in NY?” She was talking to the right girl. I am such a fan…er, um devotee? Garden enthusiasts reside somewhere between rockers and the religious in their passion for righteous moments. But when the clerk and I realized that the grasses would be in bloom at Oudolf’s garden while I was there, that was definitely a “Hallelujah”, play the air guitar kinda thing.

So my Top four gardens to visit while in New York?

Grasses in bloom? Say no more. I’ll be at Battery Park to see what Piet Oudolf’s magic is like in real life. Not just in the books. I know Mr. Oudolf has been inspired by our western grasslands (I wonder how my trip to Thorp last week will compare to his latest work?). He is a dutch designer – Battery Park itself was colonized by the Dutch in 1623 – and The Gardens of Remembrance were created for those who perished during 9/11.

Friends have been sending me photos of The Highline in Manhattan since before its opening. I’m looking forward to a stroll with my sweetie down the path of this elevated garden (which was once a freight line for the meat packing district) and get to investigate some of the local flora and fauna of the region that has made its newest home o way up there! I’ll be sure to blog and post a few pictures, maybe even join in some Tuesday yoga… It seems like yoga has taken New York quietly by storm. Every green public space is an opportune spot for free yoga, even Central Park which is scheduled soon to host one of the largest free yoga events of all time!

I’ve been to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden but not the New York Botanical Garden. Saving the best for last?  Not intentionally. Last time I visited New York I didn’t have a lot of research behind me and I thought they were, well, pretty much the same thing! So this visit is to correct that error, and enrich my senses and my mind with the countries largest conservatory and resource center for plant hunters. Now that I’ve been to Kew in London it’ll be fun to see how Americans tried to match the British in plantsmanship!

I’m still researching and considering a fourth garden, but I’ve heard a lot about the locavore movement in New York. It would be incredible to see a roof top garden and then sit down to a delicious meal harvested on the spot! If you have any ideas tell me what you think!

Terrariums !?!#*

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

There has been a flurry of interest around terrariums this year; glass jars, glass vases, glass beakers, anything in glass to house a plant even glass pendants… And all for good reason. There is something alluring about how glass highlights the luminosity of a space. And for the plants it does create a protected ecosystem to grow with misting and scant watering.

So a few months back a friend asked me if I wouldn’t make one for him. Um, Yeah?! We pulled up a napkin and started sketching.

The basic idea was that we didn’t want it to be an old carboil re-purposed as terrarium, or some twigs and moss that would molder and compost into a sort of magic 70′s sludge. We wanted something that reflected what we liked most about a terrarium, their luminosity on a gray day, the sense of mystery, and how that brilliant green casts a life like glow onto the four walls of a built environment. A talisman of place. Something small enough to keep hidden in the back of your mind throughout the day. We didn’t know what kind of plants we might use, I was feeling inspired by the idea of Florida, and lacy Spanish moss… But we also wanted a folly, something man made that would create new perspectives from the outside yet wouldn’t be recognizable as a specific object.

We landed on the folly as a ladder to the sky. Something made of simple materials that built on itself to make a repeated pattern and delicate sculpture. Over a few hours in two days with a box of toothpicks, a bottle of super glue, acrylic paint, and a brush it came to life. I had a great time making this… a homage to Sol LeWitt and his pure white cubes and my own passion for things more dynamic!

I finished the folly even before it had its glass home. The sculpture had to wait while we searched around for a hand blown terrarium and found just what we needed, but on back order, way back order…

Then the shop owner decided to give us the display piece at discount, unbelievable! All those notes on the bulletin board at the local art school for those students gifted in the art of glass blowing could now come down.

And with the pieces finally together wouldn’t you know it I’m kinda indifferent to the idea of moss and green… How weird right? Just when you have everything you thought you needed for a project your mind takes a detour. Like I’ve been thinking of filling the whole thing with water and blue fish; turn the terrarium into an aquarium instead. I even hiked over to Chinatown and found the little back alley aquarium shop that fits the bill. But maybe its just that I don’t have the right plants… I keep going back and forth about it, which is frustrating. It usually means I don’t like the materials or any of the concepts I have to choose from. It means I have to go back to the drawing board.

For heavens sake…


Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

Just drive east of Seattle. Part the cloud blanketed mountains with the momentum of your car. And you will find you arrived in the sun zone of Eastern Washington…

This last weekend some of us wanted to escape the eternal mist and drizzle that is Seattle, rented a lil’ zip car, and poof! found ourselves transported inside pine forests,

photographing wildflowers…

picnic-ing and playing cards on a sun drenched peninsula.

Since I didn’t really get my fill of flowers – and it’s only an hour and a half drive – I think I’ll have to do it again. THIS weekend!

Bringing in the Warmth

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Last week, in preparation for the month of June — a new month, and what to me feels like the beginning of summer warmth — I toured our nursery at City People’s looking for a few plants to take home and plant in a container by my kitchen. I had just completed pulling together a few flats of color for a client, and was enjoying the insights of plant wranglers Beth and Vivian on some new Coleus that had come in. I was basking in that very special glow that is City People’s nursery; full of so many good things and informative, thoughtful people. Being that this was my last day working as interim container designer at City People’s, I found that, more than ever, I wanted to take home these conversations — the excitement over different plants that everyone had.

I started my foraging by picking out a bronze Fennel that I’d had my eye on in the sale section at the back of the outdoor nursery. I worked my way forward towards the racks of annuals and veggie starts outside the store (when shopping it can sometimes be helpful to have a route in mind to structure your finds and the design!). When I arrived at the indoor nursery, I could hear Rolland jovially discussing the historical question of what constituted an heirloom with one of our plant suppliers.

This little tête-a-tête got me to thinking that although I’ve never experimented much with vegetables, they might be just the right thing for my kitchen container. With my Fennel in hand, Rolland and I got to talking about some of his favorites. Full of warmth and wisdom I was brought into the fold of Heirloom tomatoes — great flavor, many colors… I had to have one. I chose a bright red one that I thought would contrast nicely with the soft purple misted leaves of the Fennel.

What else would help to make this decorative pot pop?

I scooped up two new Coleus with a little smile for Vivian. Of course, I wasn’t sure about the edibility of the Coleus, and spent a minute with Glen hovering around the checkout counter Googling what we could find out about the plant: good for decoration but not for munching — note to self.

To top it all off, I needed a trellis — something I’d always wanted an excuse to splurge on! The little arrangement felt like a bit of a cottage garden, without all the work of staking innumerable perennials. Sometimes all you need is one small item to create a genuine feel for a certain time or place. For me the trellis was going to help make a container that belonged to my landlord (of very different disposition and taste) feel warmer. And all those little pieces really did the trick, because when I placed everything into their pot, I began to reminisce on where all these good things had come from…so sweet! Imagine how I’ll feel when I taste one of my sun ripened tomatoes!