Feb 25, 2010

Is Horticulture Over? Stephen Orr answers

Top: The MODERN Rock Garden designed by Tomoko Osonoe, 2009
Bottom:  The Planter by Ludwig Ernst Kirchner, 1911

Tomorrow's Garden: 
Design and Inspiration for a New Age of Sustainable Gardening
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Horticultural Lecture Series
Wave Hill
"The heady days of high horticulture, when gardeners would kill for the newest and coolest perennial, are well and truly over..."
from Valerie Easton's article for the Seattle Times,
"In Uncertain Times, Growing Your Food is Fashionable Again
, 1/30/2010

Is horticulture over?  On Wednesday night, Stephen Orr answered, YES, kind of.  Tomorrow's Gardens: Design and Inspiration for a New Age of  Sustainable Gardening (Fall 2010/ Rodale) is the subject of Stephen Orr's upcoming book.

I decided to take it from the top.  I googled sustainable.  According to Wikipedia, the word sustainable is derived from the Latin sustinere (tenere, to hold; sus, up).  In a lengthy explanation of all the possible uses for the word sustainable, Wikipedia has this to say, "For all these reasons sustainability is perceived, at one extreme, as nothing more  than a feel-good buzzword with little meaning or substance, but, at the other, as an important but unfocused concept like "liberty" or "justice".

Orr's book comes at an interesting moment in the debate over what kind of gardens we should make.    Choosing locations around the country, Orr's book illustrates what gardeners, garden designers and home owners are doing in small spaces to minimize consumption of natural resources. To summarize: more gravel, more permeability, storm water management, rainwater recovery, edible lawns, shared plots, urban farming, median gardening...and even plants, but plants that can adapt to the climate conditions of the local environment.

One of those must-have features for the eco-conscious is the lawn reduced: from wall to wall carpeting to a rug. The lawn (front or back) has become a design object.  By reducing its size, this American icon becomes just a shape among other shapes.  A rectangle set against squares of box or succulents. 

For those of us who have been around for a while, we know that gardeners like Piet Oudolf have been making sustainable gardens for years, before this buzzword entered the horticultural lexicon.  Orr began his talk on Wednesday by qualifying who the book was for.  He said it was aimed at people in the middle of the country, where the jargon wasn't bandied about so much and actual sustainable gardening practices hadn't become chic yet.

Orr ended his talk with his own property in upstate New York.  Small house, shaded piece of property, a few ferns, surrounded by woods:  a piece of land hard to garden on.  To paraphrase Orr "I am training my eye to notice the ordinary... mushrooms, a native orchid, small surprises."

I am in training to.  I made a resolution this year, not to buy anymore books, especially gardening books.  I don't have any more shelf space, I haven't read a lot of the books I bought last year and I keep going back to the gardening books I have been dog-earing for years.  But I might have to change my mind and pick up a copy of Stephen Orr's upcoming book.

*Not to confuse the subject.  Stephen Orr's talk Wednesday night, was the subject of his book. The book has not been published yet.  The photos above are not from his book.  I put the two pictures together to illustrate two different ideas of planters that have involved over time.

Feb 24, 2010

The VOID is not DEVOID

Contemplating the Void
Guggenheim Museum, New York
February 12 - April 28

I don't listen to or watch the news anymore; it's too depressing.  An upbeat story:  scientists have discovered that lisping is genetic, not psychological.  If you lisp, this is definitely good news, but I get my kicks in other ways.

Going to museums and galleries is my pick-me-up of choice.  The current show at the Guggenheim Museum, "Contemplating The Void," is a buoyant moment.  Unlike most museum shows, which we think of as rarefied events, this show is hung unframed, each work just pinned to the walls (with a few fragile exceptions).

"For the building's 50th anniversary, the Guggenheim Museum invited nearly two hundred artists, architects, and designers to imagine their dream interventions in the space...

Organized by Nancy Spector, Deputy Director and Chief Curator, and David van der Leer, Assistant Curator for Architecture and Design, the exhibition will feature renderings of these visionary projects in a salon-style installation that will emphasize the rich and diverse range of the proposals received."
- from the Guggenheim webiste

Most of the proposals brought a smile to my face
and some even a little laughter.
Imagine clothes lines criss-crossing the ramps at the Gugg
Floating rope bridges connecting the ramps.

Others thought about decoration:
Taking that pristine white interior
and attaching red and gold decals to all the surfaces.
How about thousands of balls bouncing down the ramp?
On the extreme front, hot air balloons originating on the ground floor
of the atrium and exiting through the glass roof,
with of course Frank Lloyd Wright lifting the glass dome off the roof,
like a pot on a saucepan.
OR turning the entire building into a giant camera obscura?
And for a real pick-me-up: The Gugg as a container: a cup of macchiato.

If you are feeling a little down, and find yourself in New York City, visit "Contemplating The Void," I believe you will find it has restorative powers.

For those with some bucks,
The Guggenheim will be conducting a live auction of work in the show on March 4.

Curator David van der Leer led a small group of us on a private tour of the show.  He is Dutch, which I only mention, because in my limited experience, Dutch people seem to be very open and extremely engaging.  Maybe that comes from living in a small, crowded country.  Most importantly, he brings a much needed new perspective to the Guggenheim.  I look forward to seasons of interesting shows at the museum.

*Photocollage at the top by Phyllis Odessey

Feb 23, 2010



Instead of those dark holes filled with graffitti, we are forced to walk under in New York City, we may soon be able to enjoy UrbanUmbrella designed by Young-Hwan Choi, a first year architecture student at Penn.
He is the winner of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's  competition to design an urbanSHED to protect pedestrians from construction debris.

Feb 22, 2010

24 Tons of Steel

by Anish Kapoor
Guggenheim Museum
New York City
Commissioned by the Solmon R. Guggenheim Foundation
and Deutsche Bank

A blimp-like shape wedged in a small room at the Guggenheim Museum is unsettling.  24 tons of Cor-Ten steel constructed from 156 parts.  Anish Kapoor's sculpture, Memory sits there, waiting for the viewer.

Memory is an accurate name for this piece.  You have access to the piece from three different vantage points, but at no time can you see the entire piece.  You have to complete the sculpture in your mind and that is the interesting part.

Kapoor has described Memory as a "mental sculpture."  For the viewer, the only way to understand the entire piece is to navigate it in your mind.  The whole is only visible in your imagination.

Whereas in a Richard Serra piece (and it's impossible not to compare the two, both are large and both are made with Cor-Ten steel), you walk not only around the outside of the entire piece, but in most cases, you can walk inside the sculpture.  A Serra piece is the ultimate in feeling connected to the artwork.

And yet I felt, the Kapoor piece left a very strong memory: a memory perhaps more heady, than visceral, but extremely powerful nevertheless.

Feb 19, 2010

Miner's Gold

Barbara Damrosch
From The Ground Up:  Gardens Re-Imagined
February 18, 2010
New York Botanical Garden

Part II
Barbara Damrosch was asked at the end of her talk at NYBG, why she revised her classic book,  
The Garden Primer 
Her answer:  I've managed to learn a few things in 20 years.  The new book is 100% organic, includes new varieties, talks about invasive plants, and 
how to extend the season.
One of the new varieties Damrosch introduced me to was Miner's Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata).  Also known as Winter purslane, Spring Beauty, Cuban Spinach, Cuban Lettuce, Spanish Lettuce and Indian Lettuce.

A native plant from California, many people believe that it is one of few American plants to travel to Europe, where it was introduced in 1749 and widely naturalized.  It can still be found under the name Winter purslane.

Called Indian lettuce by some, the American Indians ate it raw, cooked and made a tea from the plant.

The term "miner's," comes from the gold-rush era when this green was served to miner's:  it was inexpensive and readily available, but also a good source of Vitamin C.   
Barbara suggested using it in salads.  It is best picked when budded or blooming before seeds form. 

The temperature is rising, so my spirits are soaring. I intend to reap what I sow:  miner's lettuce.

Barbara mentioned Johnny's seeds often as a good source for seeds and tools.  A small disclaimer, her husband, Eliot Coleman sells many of the tools he has invented through Johnny's seeds.  However,
I think I will switch to Johnny's for the following reason, it is a worker owned business with good prices.
http://www.fourseasonfarm.com is Barbara and Eliot's farm in Maine.

Feb 18, 2010

First Kid On The Block

Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman

From the Ground Up:  Gardens Re-Imagined
Barbara Damrosch
February 18, 2010

Where can you get two hours of pleasure 
on a chilly day in New York City?
Listening to Barbara Damrosch talk about gardening.  

20 years after writing, the classic The Garden Primer, Barbara still has something new to say and she is still gardening, even on a bigger scale.  Damrosch spoke at the New York Botanical Garden, as part of From The Ground Up series.  Sometimes,  a person's writing style is like their personality.  Barbara is one of those people; clear, precise, enthusiastic and open to new ideas. 

Here are the facts:  
  • She owns 40 acres in Maine
  • Her vegetable production garden is one and half acres
  • Each acre produces $80,000
  • 19% of the soil is organic
  • Succession planting
  • Crew of 6

What's the most important part of any garden? 

Besides being an advocate for organic gardening, Barbara spoke about the luxury of eating each vegetable at its perfect moment.  She focused on cool season crops.  Trying to make us realize that it is possible to eat many vegetables straight through the winter, even in Maine.  Of course, greenhouses help, but not necessarily.  

Maybe if you have a vegetable garden; you do love to cook.   Damrosch mentioned several different preparations for beets, celeriac and escarole salad with lardon which is as common as a baguette in France.  Barbara had a wonderful photograph of a field of escarole in france.  As we all know the centers of escarole, when you buy it in the supermarket are pale yellowish-white and the outer leaves are green.  In this photograph, white pot covers were placed in the center of each plant to keep that part of the plant from getting any sunlight, thus causing the center to be bleached in color and have a slightly bitter taste.  Apparently this technique has been used around Lyon, France for a more then a century.
During the Q&A, it was inevitable that someone would ask about the tomato blight and what should be done or could be done.  Barbara's point: pests are attracted to stressed plants and its important to figure out why a particular plant is stressed, whether its soil, water, etc.  It's a process of discovery.

Along with her other practical advice this one was a real winner:
Use your shopvac to vacuum off pests, beetles, etc. from the leaves of plants

The minute the talk ended, I rushed home to start ordering more and more seeds.  

Here is Barbara's List of Varieties for an Extended Season:
Spinach 'Space'
Mache 'Vit'
Beet and beet greens 'Bull's Blood' and 'Red Ace'
Carrot 'Napoli (winter) 'Mokum' (spring)
Calytonia (Montia perfoliata)
Argula 'Astro' and 'Sylvetta'
Kale 'Toscano'
Artichoke 'Imperial Star'
Bean 'Fortex', 'Garden of Eden' 'E-Z Pick'
Broccoli 'De Cicco'
Endive 'Biana Riccia' (baby leaf) 'Tres Fine Maraichere', Belgian 'Totem'
Cucumber 'Socrates' (in greenhouse)
Eggplant 'Orient Express'
Fennel 'Orion'
Asian greens: Tatsoi, Mizuna, Komatsuna, Tokyo Bekana, Mei Qing Choi, Red Choi
Leek 'Tadorna'
Lettuce (baby leaf) 'Red Oak Leaf' 'Rouge d'Hiver,' 'Tango' 'Winter Density'
Lettuce (head) 'Rex' 'Lolla Rosa' 'Flashy Troutback' 'Red Rosie'
Onion 'Olympic (overwintered under cover) 'Copra (storage) 'Mars'
Tomato 'New Girl' 'Big Beef' 'Sapho' 'Juliet' 'Amish Paste' 'Sungold'
Potato 'Rose Gold' 'Charlotte'
Winter squash 'Waltham Butternut'
Sweet Potato 'Beauregard'
Swiss Chard 'Fordhook' 'Argentata' 'Orange Chiffon'
Turnip 'Hakurei'
Minutina (buck's horn plantain0
Escarole 'Natacha'
Belgian endive 'Totem'
Radicchio 'Indigo'
Asparagus 'Jersey Knight'
Brussels sprots 'Diablo'
Cabbage 'Gonzales'
Cauliflower 'Cheddar' 'Fremont'
Celery 'Conquistador'
Celeriac 'Conquistador'
Melon 'Gold Star' 'Savor'
Scallion 'Evergreen Hardy White'
Pepper 'Ace' 'Ancho' 'Quadrato d'Asti'
Jigkrabu 'Kongo' 'Kilibri'

Feb 17, 2010

Sharing What You Know

Parks, Plants and People
Beautifying the Urban Landscape
by Lynden B. Miller
Called by Bette Midler," the godmother of New York City's public green spaces," by Dan Hinkley, "the contemporary tour de force of American public spaces," Lynden Miller has staked out her ground as the preeminent authority on how to make a public garden.

For those of us who work in public horticulture, Miller's new book, Parks, Plants and People is an indispensable resource.  It's clear, methodical, well-written and incredibly generous.  In general, gardeners are generous with their knowledge.  Whenever, I have asked a fellow gardener for information about a plant, website, technique or even job possibilities, my requests have always been embraced and all queries responded to.  Miller's book exemplifies this and that is why I think it is worth a mention on my blog.

Every year there are garden books that talk about plants, form, color, texture. Installation issues and maintenance issues are usual topics: you will also find these in Miller's book. But few include how to recruit volunteers, how to supervise volunteers, and how to show your appreciation.  There are two chapters on how to raise money for a public park.  You can write a grant application or call up a donor or convince a business to make a contribution based on Miller's information.  The rationale and the step-by-step are all included.  Miller has shared what she has learned over a quarter century of working in public horticulture.

And don't forget,the complete plant list in the back of book, along with resource directory.

Thank you Lynden for sharing.

Feb 15, 2010

Personal Playpen

Deb Goodenough, Head Gardener: 
The History of The Gardens At Highgrove

Sponsored by The Brooklyn Botanic Garden

"He's 61 years old, and he hasn't started his real job yet."
This is how Deb Goodenough, Head Gardener at Highgrove described her boss, HRH, The Prince of Wales.  Here's a guy with arrersted development issues:  his own mother has prevented him from taking his rightful place in society.  I don't want to speculate on how this has affected him personally, but in terms of the garden he has created at Highgrove, it presents some interesting questions.

What happens when even the sky isn't the limit? When you indulge every whim that ever entered your head, what kind of garden do you make?  When you wake up in the morning, even before coffee; call in your Head Gardener and give the order to rip out the previous black and white garden, previously the rose garden, previously the knot garden and make it into a pink, purple and blue garden; do you ask yourself why?

Deb Goodenough, Head Gardener to HRH gave a well thought out and interesting talk about the history of Highgrove on Thursday night.  Showing some early archival photographs of the estate, she presented a featureless landscape, which HRH has turned into a landscape populated with features.

15 acres of gardens on 1800 acres of property, I saw nothing at Highgrove,  I wanted to emulate.   When reading about or visiting a great garden (take Villa Lante, for instance), I often covet many aspects of the garden. Nada at Highgrove.  Instead, I admirerd HRH as a keeper of traditions, as well as implementer of 21st century sustainable technology.

Goodenough talked about many traditional gardening techniques being preserved at Highgrove by having elder teach younger.  Hedge laying alongside rainwater collection make both preservationist and ecologist happy.

Maybe having limitations, makes us better gardeners after all.  We have to concentrate on relatively small spaces, narrow down aesthetic choices and live with some bad decisions.  We can't all be princes.  But, just once I wouldn't mind being called HRH.

Green Lampshade

Green Spots, Eindoven, study
BYTR architects of Rotterdam, have been hired by Eindoven, one of the greenest cities in the Netherlands to investigate the possibility increasing the green experience in the heart of the city.  
"Green Spots" is a study of how a city can provide a greater green experience for its residents.
For more information go to :  
Aleidisstratt 3-b
SB 3021 Rotterdam
Also on the site  the following information which may be of interest:
Intenship: Our office has an intern in the place for months January till June 2010.  
Please send a motivated application by mail, referring to this period.
I think we should all send MOTIVATED letters, in general.

Feb 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

Copyright Phyllis Odessey.  No usage without permission.
A single red berry
          has fallen
                                          on the frost in the garden.
perhaps outside, but niot in this picture.
Thanks for reading my blog.  Phyllis

Feb 7, 2010

Marketing Yourself: Victorian Women Play With Pictures

Playing with Pictures
Metropolitan Museum of Art
February 2 - May 9, 2010
The Howard Gilman Gallery
 Photoshop had nothing on these ladies.  Sure, some scholars (read the fabulous essays in the catalog, Playing with Pictures, The Art of Victorian Photocollage) argue that these photocollages were anchored in Victorian society.  Essentially, they were domestic busywork reflecting a woman's social status; whimsy, playfulness, wit and amusement  characterized these collages, .
Others argue that these works of "art"  are full of double meanings.  The spider web is a metaphor for how this women sees herself and her connections.  In the photocollage above, Darwin had just knocked everybody's socks off, of course, this wonder has something to do with the origin of the species.

I have to agree with Patrizia di Bello in her essay Photocollage, Fun and Flirations, that these collages were not only an advertisement for a woman's powers, they reflected the ambitions of the women who made them.   Although these ladies never thought of the themselves as avant-garde artists or artists at all, these photocollages speak for themselves.  These were the marketing devices of the Victorian Woman.  These collages are full of double meanings.  Most women of this era did not engage in sexual misconduct, yet some of these photocollages certainly reflect the desire for it. 

Finding a way to  empower themselves, in a male-dominated society, these ladies turned to art.  The collages were an outlet for competitiveness and creativity.  They certainly took the place of sitting on a sofa in a shrink's office.  That came later.

In 2010, we get to pour our talent and creativity into many things, including blogs.

Google Doesn't Like Me!

Part II:  Building Relationships

Richard Banfield
(www.freshtilledsoil.com) at the Garden Writers Association Meeting on Feb.4th in Boston.
Topic: Marketing Suggestions from a Professional Marketer

In Part I, I discussed Richard Banfield's take on building engagement by blogging and using other social networking tools.

Part II:  Building Those Relationships: How?
Have you ever asked yourself the question, in relation to your blog:
How Can I help you?
What Do You Want From Me?
I often ask myself these questions, in relation to personal relationshps, but never in terms of blogging.
If you engage in a shared user experience, Banfield says opportunities will come to you.  Simply said, you need to give people a reason to stay on your site/blog.

QUESTION:  Are you writing for yourself or
Are you writing for an audience?

"A Blog is not a journal or diary." Banfield

QUESTION:  What is the structure of your URL?
Does google like you?

Have you ever thought about how google categorizes?  About title tags? How many characters?
Banfield "Google is like a prom queen." 
Do you think of google as an entity with preferences that you can and should use to your advantage?

QUESTION:  Do you use the tools that are available? 
Video, linking your video on YouTube to your blog? subscribing to other blogs, linking to other blogs, teaching, training, reviewing books, reviewing products, submitting content to Yahoo, indexing on google, submitting articles to other sites, etc. etc.
This may be old hat to most of you, but to me it was an eyeopener.

Ultimately the message from Banfield:
"Blogs require a piece of yourself."
It turns out blogs are about commitment.  Those of us with commitment issues, may not be the best bloggers.  If you can conquer the blogosphere, you may be able to cancel those shrink appointments.
Best of Luck!

Feb 6, 2010

Really, It's All About YOU!

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog called, "It's All About Me, "
in response to an article in The New Yorker titled, "Enough About Me."
Now, I find out "It's All About YOU."

60 seconds after Richard Banfield (www.freshtilledsoil.com), opened his mouth, he shattered my illusions. He, spoke at the Regional Meeting of the Garden Writers Association on February 4th in Boston.
Topic:  Marketing Suggestions from a Professional Marketer."

Richard threw out the first salvo almost immediately,
What! I just spent mucho $$$$ and much time and energy designing my website and now it turns out it's irrelevant.  According to Banfield, websites are like brochures, they are static entities.  Like business cards, they announce your existence in cyberspace, but fail to build relationships.  To me, this sounded like shrink-speak.  It turns out that blogging, twittering and all social networking rely on creating the same relationships that make marriages succeed or fail.

Banfield's point:  The web gives you the opportunity to communicate with other people - either successfully or not.  It's up to YOU to create relevant engagement.  And as in "real" life, this engagement requires a significant interaction, if the two parties are to continue to connect.  I secretly wondered if my success on the web depended on my success in maintaining relationships in life. 

The question Banfield posed:  Is the content you are posting, resulting in a meaningful interaction?

Are you writing for yourself? Are you writing for an audience?

End of Part I.  To be continued in the next blog.

Feb 2, 2010

Forcing The Issue

A partial list of the vegetables grown out of season for the Duke of Devonshire by Sir Joseph Paxton:
3,000 strawberry plants
2,000 broccoli
300 pineapples
12,000 celery
1/2 acre of rhubarb
6,000 endive
ten months worth of kale and kidney beans
2,000 brussel sprouts
100 banana trees
1 acre of asparagus

I just finished reading The Head Gardeners:  Forgotten Heroes of Horticulture by Toby Musgrave.  And I am hapy to say, I am glad I am a gardener in 2010, not 1810.  It is clear; I never would have been hired back then.

These head gardeners (and it seems, they were all guys) were underpaid, considered servants, self-educated, worked a 60-hour week, and often spent 20 years employed by one individual, only to be dismissed by the next generation.  Yet, what they accomplished was truly amazing.

These were some of the demands:

You had to be a magician no matter what:  If the duke or duchess sneezed, a delicious peach needed to appear regardless of the season.

In your spare time, you needed to invent the coldframe and the hot bed so Lord so and so could stick his face into a ripe melon.

No twitter, no blog, yet each head gardener had to publish or rot.

It may not have been Gucci or Prada, but in the 19th century, the garden was a status symbol:  rare and expensive was the currency of the day.

You may have thought being a horticultural genius was enough, but not really.  You had to be an architect/engineer as well.  This was the era of the glasshouse.

You may have been a homebody, but it didn't matter.  Your boss demaded the unusual and exotic, therefore, you needed to become a plant hunter extraordinaire.

Just when you thought it was time for a pint, you had to invent that weeding machine or some other gizmo to save the garden.

Last year it was tough to grew a single tomato in season.  Boy, am I glad I don't need to produce 6,000 endive out of season!

Pushing The Envelope

Envelope addressed to Aline B. Louchheim by her husband, Eero Saarinen
Museum of the City of New York
I don't miss sweeping my tongue across the back of an envelope
I don't miss standing in line at the post office
I don't miss looking up a zip code
I don't miss having mail returned
I do miss choosing a stamp or stamps
I do miss writing with a fountain pen
I do miss choosing print or script
I do miss adding some kind of embellishment to the envelope