Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Service of Extraneous Embellishments: Balconies on NYC Apartment Buildings

Wednesday, July 17th, 2019

A balcony was never on my bucket list but I am having fun with mine. It came with my apartment, which was chosen in a rush. It has a super view of the East River.

I use it to play city gardener on a miniscule scale. I enjoy watching my posies blossom and grow. The geraniums, some that moved to the city from my house in Dutchess County and lived indoors since–until it warmed up; coleus; a sunflower, a spiky plant and petunias [not shown], all grow much faster outside than in. They aren’t subject to the predators of the country but they have their pet peeves.

Pigeons like them too–so I bought pinwheels hoping to discourage them from disturbing my balcony garden. New York pigeons have moxy–they’re not afraid of much. Rules are strict at the building: we can’t hang pots off the railings. If I could, I bet a few well placed pinwheels in those pots would discourage the pigeons big-time.

But I digress. The purpose of this post is to show the many balconies that are never used– which is most of the ones I’ve seen all over the place. They appear on new and old construction. Way to the back of the photo at the top of this post–if you look carefully–you can see some being added to a building under construction. And they line the sides of the black apartment house across the street from mine [photo below, right], like vertebrae on a dinosaur. The structure was just finished.

Why do architects and developers opt for such a little-used addition? Do you think people would take more advantage of the space if it was a sunroom with walls of windows? Why don’t more people enjoy their balconies?





Service of the Legacy of Passionate Hobbies

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019

My family was besotted by The New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle and bridge. I was interested in neither and that’s never changed. I’d cringe when someone would ask: “What’s a five letter word for X?”

However, I have always had plants, like my dad. In fact, I have a third cousin of a dracaena that he nurtured since the 1960s and an asparagus fern that was his. [He died in 1985.] The fern thrived in the country. I had to split it in two for the move and I’m resuscitating it in its new home. I also play a lot of solitaire on my computer either during long conference calls or as a quick break. My dad played with cards almost every night.

When I recently asked a friend, who lives in a house in the suburbs, what flowers she’d planted in her garden this spring she said “none.” Her mother was a zealous gardener. She thought her lack of interest in flowers may have been related. She works on the Times‘ Sunday puzzle, she said, something her father also finished weekly.

I mentioned all this to another friend who shared a different twist. Her mother was an expert knitter who made countless magnificent, complicated Irish knit baby sweaters. After her husband–my friend’s father–died she stopped cold. Eventually my friend asked her why she didn’t knit anymore and her mother replied, “I don’t know how.”

Are hobby choices as much psychological as they are related to a person’s druthers and abilities? Do you share hobbies with a parent? Have you turned away from or added a hobby?

Service of Not Caring for the Next Guy: Picky, Picky

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

Self-centered behavior has been the source of many of my posts. I’ll cover three examples that take the cake.

What surprised me was the reaction that people had when I mentioned the green bean and missing section in the plant flat examples. Respondents of different ages and industries replied: “Some customers are picky.” Maybe so, but I think that in being so, they are also selfish, disregarding what they are leaving for the next person.

Green Bean

At our market green beans are sold loose and you bag as many as you want. It drives me nuts when people pick out one bean at a time. Apart from preventing anyone else from reaching the bin as they stand there for ages, do they think that the rest of us want to buy all the bad ones they reject? Further, in all the years I’ve scooped out random handfuls of these beans, I’ve tossed too few to mention. They were all fresh and in good shape.

Left me Flat

I went to Greystone Greenhouses in Sharon, Conn. to buy flats of flowers to enhance our garden, [at least until a wild creature discovers what I’ve planted and plans a dinner party with flowers for dessert].

There are six to eight sections of flowers in each flat and I had a hard time finding a complete one. Someone or several people had taken out one section of many different flats.[I removed a section in the flat featured above to illustrate.] Apart from the inconvenience, this egocentric approach made me think: “Why should you leave the less vigorous plants for someone else?” As in the instance with the beans, the crops at this garden center are great and few if any of the flats this early in the season have flaws. But still.

Some Party

That must have been some gathering in the Katherine Hepburn Garden on East 40th Street last week. All the garbage can tops on the pavement between First and Second Avenues were pulled off and leftover food and containers were tossed around throughout the usually pristine block near the UN [photo below]. If raccoons lived here, I’d understand the mess. Otherwise, it’s another instance of not thinking of the effect of your actions on others.

Can you think of examples of what people do to ruin things for others? Do mine illustrate selfishness, people just being picky, unawareness or something else?

Garbage at Katherine H Park

Service of Hope: Art and Flowers

Monday, August 17th, 2015

Creatures left these perennials alone this year.

Creatures left these perennials alone this year.

I was full of righteous indignation when I first read Sonja Sharp’s Wall Street Journal article, “‘Summer Streets’ Art Swiped Again.” As the title hints at, for the second year, people stole art that was made into signs. The project was commissioned by the Department of Transportation [DOT].

Not a blossom in sight.

Not a blossom in sight.

A similar thing happens to me though the perpetrators are animal, not human. I returned to our house on Friday night to discover barren sticks where zinnias and dahlias once thrived. Where were the flowers that I’d patiently deadheaded, fed with Milorganite that has a smell repellant to deer [and me], and watered? Answer: In some wild creature’s stomach. Something like this happens every year. More later.

Sharp wrote about what she described as “A series of cheeky street signs bolted high above Manhattan intersections” commissioned by the DOT to enhance areas of the city throughout August. Starting with 30, some installed seven feet high, she reported that there were only a handful a week after they were installed. “’It’s the nature of signs in public,’ artist Stephen Powers said upon learning that his vinyl-on-aluminum ’emotional wayfinding’ series had apparently been dismantled by sticky-fingered fans. ‘They print a lot of ‘Stop’ signs and they print a lot of ‘One Way’ signs because they tend to walk.’”

Reading about the stolen signs my kneejerk reaction was, “With so much that needs attention, what the dickens is the DOT doing spending resources and staff time on a project involving cool signs that just scream to be taken and always are?” And “Why hang some so high that few would notice them in the first place?”

Adding insult to injury, the first sentence in DOT’s “About” section reads: “DOT’s mission is to provide for the safe, efficient, and environmentally responsible movement of people and goods in the City of New York and to maintain and enhance the transportation infrastructure crucial to the economic vitality and quality of life of our primary customers, City residents.”

Sharp quoted a DOT press release: “These signs will surprise and delight passersby offering them clever food for thought.” So what does this have to do with the mission?

Later she added about the artistic street signs: “’The miracle of it is they’ll live forever on Instagram,’ Mr. Powers said of his work, adding, ‘That’s kind of where art lives now.’”

So what about my flowers? I have a perennial garden that survived relatively unscathed this year [photo at top] so I’m lucky. Once a pond dweller rodent broke every stem and had the nerve not to eat the blossoms of black eyed Susan’s, Echinacea, St. John’s Wort and other flowers I look forward to seeing and picking. Other summers, deer decapitated every colorful top leaving a lozenge-shaped garden of tall green leaves and beaver felled a precious cherry tree we’d planted and nurtured for years.  Like the DOT, I have a list of repairs to which I should direct money and time yet I spend it on flowers.

My husband is blessedly understanding and calm about the annual financial and floral devastation. About the latter, he says, “It’s nature.”  Isn’t the DOT working with similar trust and anticipation?

Do you also think these instances are analogous? Do you repeatedly toss money at hopeless causes?

A day after I took this photo the orange zinnias, like the dahlias in the middle, were also gone.

A day after I took this photo the orange zinnias, like the dahlias in the middle, were also gone.

Service of It’s Never Enough

Monday, March 9th, 2015

There are certain situations and circumstances that occur that no matter what I do, I miscalculate. Either there’s never enough or I haven’t accomplished as much as I thought.

Here are two examples:

flower flat 3When I buy impatiens or other such flowers for a garden border, to surround a tree, or to fill planters and pots around our property I can buy far more than anyone might ever need and then some and yet I always come up short. Why does it matter? It means I usually can’t match the colors or types of annuals when I go back to the landscape place for more plants the next weekend. And not finishing a chore all at one time is annoying.

Here’s the second example. In preparation for a move, I combed through my belongings night after night for weeks and weeks and threw out over 100 plastic bags worth—the 30 lb size. I also brought to the fabric collecting place at the farmer’s market even more. The apartment had a clean, Zen like look to it as did almost empty drawers in bedroom, kitchen and living room cabinets and furniture yet it turned out that I should have tossed much more. Three trained moving company wrappers worked an entire day just to pack the “little” that remained which shocked me; it took days to unwrap it all from hundreds of boxes. I tossed even more after the unpacking.

I mentioned this to an acquaintance who shared a similar story. She owned a vacation house in Massachusetts that she visited only a few days a year. It had no clothes or food in it and was practically empty. When she sold the house, she ordered a small dumpster. The rental place didn’t have a small one free so she took the large size. A crew filled the large dumpster to overflowing which stunned and baffled her.

Such lack of judgment doesn’t happen to me all the time. I buy and make enough food to give some away after a dinner party—which is what I want to do–and get all my Christmas gifts bought, wrapped–and shipped, if needs be–in time. What is it about estimating flower flats and moving that makes/made me fall so short? Has this kind of thing happened to you?


Service of Perfection

Monday, May 13th, 2013


Peter Van de Wetering’s nursery has for 50 years been responsible for the plantings along Park Avenue in Manhattan from 54th to 86th Streets. Constance Rosenblum, in her New York Times article, “A Gardener’s Stage: Park Avenue,” reported that in fall workers plant 70,000 bulbs to best control the results for spring enjoyment. They don’t use the same bulbs year after year because tulips, she explained, “can be temperamental.”

There would also be the back-breaking work of deadheading thousands of spent blossoms and the unsightly look of droopy green-leaves-turned-yellow before they can be cut, not before July 4th weekend: So not Park Avenue.

In spite of the goal—perfection—and every possible step and expense taken to achieve it, there are always some rogue blooms to delight. My father and I made a game of being the first to call out a yellow one among the 30 blocks of mostly red or vice versa.

Peppermint was the color of the tulips on our city street this year and an orange and red one snuck in, making me smile. [Photo above].

“You can plan every detail but something unexpected is bound to happen,” is a version of the advice my friend Liz Mayers’ father shared and I’ve held dear. Mr. Goldberg’s admonition is as true for fields of flowers as it is for work projects and life plans. Unfortunately imperfections are not always as charming as flower surprises such as when job loss, illness or reversals of fortune derail savings plans or home ownership or terrorists ply their trade. Hedging bets is not always possible as with tulip bulbs.

There are examples of foolproof perfection. Can you name some?

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