Aug 22, 2013

In and Out

Who loves a chain link fence? Not me.  I know they have a purpose, but I have never seen one to love until today.

Based on a project, Katherine Daniels, did on Randall's Island two years ago, I had an idea that the new chain link fence enclosing the playground on Randall's Island, could be improved by adding a design using fence weave, a construction material.
Lola Odessey Waters and Sheila Odessey working on the fence.
I starting thinking about who would be the perfect person to come up with a concept for the fence design using plastic.  I thought of my sister.  Sheila, has been weaving for 30 years and currently has a business creating handbags by weaving strips made from ordinary plastic bags of every imaginable color.  She was the logical choice to visualize a design  for the fence and execute it with a group of volunteers.
As a family, we baked cakes, painted still lifes and traveled extensively in the United States, but we never "built" anything together.  My father was Mr. Fix-It.  He saw no need for assistance.  On Saturday, my sister, Sheila, my niece Lola, and volunteers from Google wove a fence design conceived by Sheila for Randall's Island Park playground.

It was a transformative moment.  A pedestrian fence became an playful artifice.  The colors of the weave  are a counterpoint to the colors of the play equipment.  I am imagining all the chain link fences on Randall's Island woven with plastic strips. It's a worthy ambition.


Aug 16, 2013

Two ax heads
a string of beads
and a handful of nails

Was this a fair price in 1637 for Governors Island? Who knows.  It is what Wouter Van Twiller, representative of Holland, paid the Native Americans of Manhatas for the island.  Van Twiller was no fool, he purchased the island for this private use and Governors Island became known as Nutten Island until the Dutch got hip and confiscated the island in 1638.
On Wednesday, I took a private tour of West 8's vision for Governor's Island.
Adriaan Geuze of West 8, is supposed to have remarked on viewing Governors Island for first time "It's as flat as a pancake." And so is Holland.
Painters, like Jacob Van Rusidael captured this perfectly in the 17th century.  To addrerss the issue of topographical boringness, West 8 has designed a series of hills, the highest one is to rise 80 ft.

There is nothing like seeing the BEFORE.  A project this big is overwhelming.  Landscape architects from Mathews Nielsen guided us through the site.  

Think of the responsibility of keeping thousands of trees alive in 100 degree weather.  It's a daunting task.  Of course, like all construction projects, this one is a little off schedule.  The trees came, but the areas weren't ready for installation, so the architects  constructed a "nursery" for bare root trees, potted, mulched and added irrigation.  In addition to tagging the trees, they had the nursery label the trees according to their location called petals.  The rows are all colored coded, which correspond to their petal. 

We were able to ask a lot of questions.  For me the practical often surfaces before the aesthetic.  "What is the maintenance plan?" 
"That is a good question.  We don't know yet."

Having learned the hard way.  Maintenance is just as important as design.  Build it and they will come, but if you don't figure before you build it, how to take care of, you find yourself in a real mess.

Governors Island is an amazing addition to New York.  It's a world away from the city, but within spitting distance.  The same can be said of Randall's Island, but with one big difference.  Governors Island has no cars.  And although the expected quiet is disrupted by the helicopter pad close by, it's still unlike any other green space available to New Yorkers.  

The West 8 vision may not be bucolic, but it has a pastoral charm.

Aug 12, 2013

Garden Blogger?


 I am going.  I made up my mind and bought my ticket.  Buyers remorse has just set in.

"Join garden bloggers, new media innovators, and garden and landscape design leaders for the first annual Garden Bloggers Conference – the premier conference and experience for professionals actively using or interested in learning about new media and the garden and landscape design industry. This two-day conference  brings you a unique opportunity to participate in the intersection of gardening with the world of new media including blogging, social media, and more. We invite all our fellow garden bloggers to attend!"

The conference is Monday September 23 and Tuesday September 24 in Atlanta.  All the big names will be there:  Dan Hinkley,  Amy Stewart. Robin Horton, Rochelle Greayer, Felicia Feater, Amy Flurry, Michelle Slatalla, Adam Japko and Steve Aitken.  It's a good line-up.

The question is:  Who is the Garden Writers Conference for? If you to, the Annual Symposium begins Thursday August 15.  It is filled with tours. a trade how, and a few workshops centered on plants and media.

This year I am opting for the "we can  help you make it" conference.  If you are going to Garden Bloggers or know someone who is going, please send along my work email address;

Aug 5, 2013

Let's Us Now Praise

Fourth Annual
Northeast USA 
Rice Conference
August 3, 2013
Akaogi Farm
Westminster West, Vermont

To grow rice in the Northeastern US might seem like folly, to some people.  For the 100 people, who attended the Northeast USA Rice Conference, growing rice is a matter of perseverance, dedication and collective knowledge.  Growing rice is about asking the right questions.
We gathered at Akaogi Farm in West Westminster West, Vermont to share ideas, learn from one another and laugh at our mistakes.  Under a tent, sandals kicked off, ages from 16 to 90, we discussed the National Science Foundation grant and Cornell rice research that is behind this conference.  The attendees included a group of refugees from Bhutan, who had come to learn how to grow rice in their adopted city of Burlington, Vermont.

Steve Jobs? Yes!  James Dyson? Yes!  Rice Farmers? YES!  Susan Mc Couch, Professor of Plant Breeding and Genetics at Cornell University characterized everyone under the big top as innovators.
I rarely think of myself as doing anything innovative.  The more we talked with each other, the more I was convinced that this characterization was accurate.  We've all gone out on a limb.
Takeshi Akaogi

Don Brill of Brill Engineering on the Bicycle Thresher of his own invention

Our three little rice paddies on Randall's Island cannot compete with acres of rice paddies in places like Vermont and New York State.  It is possible to grow rice in New York City.  Inspired by the conference, we intend to add another paddy to our Urban Farm.  This one will be a test paddy, conforming to standards set out by the NSF grant.  Growing different varieties and keeping data related to temperature, water input, stress levels and soil content will be our goal.

If we can grow something as beautiful as this plant, I might not care if it produces any fruit.

Susan McCouth


Aug 1, 2013

You're The Top
You're the Waldorf Astoria

If you live in New York, there is always a view you haven't seen.  If I had to choose a potager with ta  view, it would be the one at the Waldorf.  The garden was the inspiration of David Garcelon, Executive Chef at the Waldorf.  He came to New York from the Fairmont Hotel in Toronto, which has a very large veg garden on its roof.  The gold supports on the beehives, the white containers reminiscent of Chateau de Villandry and green astro turf on the deck scream pretentiousnesses, but it's a showpiece as much as a working garden.

It's easy to be cynical or at least skeptical about this type of venture: a kitchen garden at the top of the Waldorf.  On Tuesday night, I went to the top:  the roof the the Waldorf Astoria, where the Hort Society and New York Beekeepers have partnered with the Waldorf  Hotel to create a kitchen garden filled with herbs, fruit trees and bee hives. 

George Pisenga, Director of Horticulture for Hort Society has exciting plans for the garden.  Doubling the current space, adding a large dining table and holding events that highlight the garden and the bees. Andrew Cote of New York City Beekeepers and Bees Without Borders ( Without Borders)   is packaging the honey gathered from the hives at the Waldorf.  We were treated to a jar.

Chef Garcelon and all the other chefs from the Waldorf use the herbs  from the garden to garnish their dishes.  The fruit produced by the "orchard," they intend to use to make signature cocktails for the Waldorf bars.  Cole Porter's lyrics "You're the top! You're a Waldorf salad" might have to change to "You're a Waldorf cocktail."

We ate delicious lavender cookies at sunset prepared by Chef Garcelon.  A perfect way to watch the sunset over Manhattan.