Friday, November 25, 2016

Curating the Taj-ma-shed

Okay, so most people don't have to worry about curating the contents of their garden shed. But this is no ordinary shed. I think we can all agree on that. In the coming year the shed will be seen in a national magazine (fingers crossed), a local magazine (fingers crossed), an ad campaign, and a tourism video. It's already been in the Buffalo News. To my knowledge, it's the only garden shed with its own press agent.

New artwork for the shed. Thanks Mike.
I visited a store in Portland, Oregon a few years ago named Boys Fort (Furnish your fort!). It was the closest thing I've every seen to a men's gardening store. The merchandise was garden and home accessories, all with a handcrafted/repurposed materials/nostalgia bent.

I've tried to do the same with the interior of my shed. Most of the items I've had laying around the attic, basement or garage over the years, collecting dust. Others were from my family's summer cottage, on Thunder Lake, just outside Binghamton, NY. The cottage is being sold, so last spring, I took items that otherwise might have been dumpster-bound.

Here's some detail on some of these items. This post is mainly for me. Or, in the off-chance, that my daughter, in the far off distant future, ever wonders where some of the crap in the shed came from.


The bow is one I got for Christmas when I was probably around nine or ten years old (early '70s). I have arrows around someplace I have yet to find. They'll be added eventually.
I keep my gardening books out there in the shed - where I use them!  Many are written by friends and acquaintances. Some even have photos of my garden in them!
I built these shelves from existing wooden crates, parts of shipping palettes and wooden parts from an old waterbed (from the 'late '80s). The brown urn on the top shelf has been in kicking around the Charlier family since the '70s. The copper watering can leaks, so it's only good as a prop. You can barely see, on the far right, the edge of a round mirror. My first job out of collage in 1984 was at the Neon Art Store here on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo. I made neon patterns and designs to be sandblasted onto mirrors and glass. This was a mirror I made for my parents with our last name on it. My parent's really liked having things monogrammed.
I designed the heart-shaped leaves poster (available for sale in the right hand column!). It's hard to see the photo above it, but it's a photo of some of our best friends at my parents cottage – all celebrating our thirtieth birthdays. It's got some of our favorite people: Tom & Sandy, Greg, nieces Jamie and Kristy, Laura, Mo, Sue & Bud. It was taken in the way back days when a panoramic photo had to be pieced together by hand.
Top left is a small cask/barrel. It has painted on it "Jim Charlier's Private Stock." I'm a Junior, it was my dad's. It's been in the family since the '60s around the bar in the "rec room" at our family house and then used for years as an end table at the lake house. The antique radio on the right I trash-picked back in the '80s in Buffalo. I even paid a guy to fix it - and at one point it worked. Now only the light does. The tiki head bowls were a tchotchke find of my mother's. She was good at buying useless and needless items. The oar at the top of the photo I painted with our last name back in the '70s. It hung at the lake forever. One of my most cherished items, of my father's, is his shoe shine kit, (farthest left blondish box) from the 1960s. He died about 12 years ago. He worked for UPS and I remember watching him shine his shoes a few times a week when I was small, sometimes I would help. UPS was a stickler for appearance, back then anyway. It still has all the polish, brushes, and wiping cloths. The smell even reminds me of my dad.
The purple thing upper left, and the deformed snowflake were made by my daughter in art class in grade school. The plate in the upper right was some weird photo print my mother made from a photo of the original cottage on the property. Below that is a "treasure map" I made of the lake when I was in high school. The baseball on the upper shelf is signed by Tommy Lasorda. I did a photo shoot with him in the '80s for Empire Savings Bank, The Big "E". The green tube next to it in the red dish is the baton my wife used in a Ragnar marathon relay race. She's run about six of them.
The woode sign on the left was a sign I made in 1978. It had a saying on it my dad used to say all the time, until we were sick of hearing it. There's a UPS truck on the right, top shelf, like my dad used to drive (only his was actual size). Left of that is a Buffalo State College mug. Both my wife and I went to college there. The little turtle and small cup below it were more daughter ceramic class projects. The two tins are just from old Fossil watches. The tins last longer than the watches. The little wind-up travel clock is the one we would always take camping with us in the late '60s and early '70s. The hands holding the bars and rings were from our bathroom of our first house that never really found a home in our current house.
The door came from somewhere in our current house. It sat in the garage fro the first 14 years we lived here. The diamond-patterned window were the attic windows in our 120-year-old house. I didn't even paint them. I liked the color and patina.
The bench was made from my wife's mother's childhood bed which kicked around the basement of various homes for 25 years. The large pickle barrel (foreground as coffee table) was picked up from an estate sale. It has a crack in it so it's not good for much else.

Mike Gelen, one of the region's best illustrators, and big-time wise-ass, provided me with a mock-up of this year's Time magazine cover for "Person of the year," as well as the first photo of Bernie Sanders and quote.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Pilgim's Garden



 NOTE: This is a repost from 2011...

Back in August, we visited Plimouth Plantation, a recreated village representing how the Pilgrims lived when they first came over on the Mayflower. I posted a while back about the gardens of the local Wampanoag Nation. Here's the Pilgrim garden post.

The deeply religious Pilgrims did not show skin and thought of the Wampanoags as ignorant and child-like in their skin-exposing clothing. Can you imagine gardening in the hot sun dressed like this?

Men planted fields of wheat, barley, peas -- all from seeds brought over from Europe. They also planted new plants the Wampanoags introduced to them -- corn, beans squash and pumpkins. Fields were outside the village and where men would go and spend their days. The Wampanoags also helped show the pilgrims when to plant and how to plant seeds in poor soil by burying seeds with fish to decompose & nourish the soil.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Chihuly at the Atlanta Botanical Garden

In September I attended the GWA | The Association of Garden Communicators Conference in Atlanta. One of the many gardens we toured over the four days was the beautiful Atlanta Botanical Garden. It being my first year of attending, and always taking chances to sleep in, I didn't go on the photographer's early morning tour of the Atlanta Botanical Garden. I won't make that mistake in the future!

There was a Dale Chihuly exhibit, and it was a 15 on a scale of 10. It's not an immense botanical gardens - but I still missed some sculptures.

Here's just some of what was there...

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Fall-isciousness

It's the peak of Fall here on the spread. We've been away many weekends in September and October and have just gotten around to prepping the garden for winter. Even though it's now November, the garden is finally starting to look Fall-iscious.

Patio furniture is put away. Houseplants are back in the house. Canna tubers are sleeping in the basement. Coleus are rooting in the basement. A few plants were moved to new sites. Hosta containers are ready to go in the shed. Garage is cleaned out so we can fit a car in there. The marble and granite scrap "carpet" is covered. Leaves are regularly being chopped up and being composted or spread on garden beds. Fountains are un-fountained.

I have 100 tulip bulbs to plant. But I think I can easily get that done this weekend.

The last thing I have left to do is purchase some canvas to cover the hanging framed succulent garden. Last year it was covered with landscape fabric, but I think that was too thin. I lost about a third of them over the winter.

And then for the winter? I have to come up with some garden projects I can make in the basement over the winter. I'm thinking a hand-made rain chain recirculating fountain for the shed, a collection of homemade bird houses made from all the scrap wood, paint, and pieces of odd bits from other projects, and planter boxes to go around the front porch railing. Oh, and I've had a kick-ass great idea to redo the lights on my front porch (they're currently colonial style and all but falling off teh house. I've hated them since we moved in). Stay tuned.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

A Home Depot garden

Co-founder of Home Depot, and owner of the Atlanta Falcons, Arthur Blank, has a very nice garden, as you might guess. A couple weeks ago, while at the GWA | Association of Garden Writers Conference in Atlanta, he opened it up for attendees as part of our garden tour expeditions.

The only stipulation was that he requested no one photograph the actual home and other buildings. He was gracious enough to let us tour, so I obliged. It killed me though. Imagine a French chateau. With dozens of security cameras. It's a truly beautiful home. But anyone with a net worth of $3.2 billion should have nice digs.

And the gardens? Mr. Blank obvious has good taste and was able to give a virtual "blank" check to some landscape designers. It encompasses a large lot in a very nice suburb of Atlanta. The garden was divided into sections that ranged from expansive, estate-like, to intimate sitting areas for two – to a golf putting green.

The lead photo evokes (in my mind anyway) Monet's Giverny pond garden. Other parts were more mini-Versailles-like. All gardens were impressive.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Gardening on the border


Here's where the blocks taken from the wall went, separating
my planted hellstrip from the grassy neighbor's part of it.
To the left is what the border looked like originally.

Above, what it looks like as of mid-summer.

The initial purpose of this low "wall" was to keep the invasives in my front yard from sneaking into my neighbor's yard. See my original post for what I refer to as my "zipper" wall, because it looks kinda' like a zipper.

I have thugs like chameleon plant (Houttuynia cordata), gooseneck loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides) and Chinese lanterns (Physalis alkekengi). They're all invasives, that being the polite term. Left to its own devices, the chameleon plant alone would take over the neighborhood. Together, they're like a gang of hoodlums, scoping the neighborhood for gardens to invade, plantings to plunder.

I had the zipper wall built by a landscaper. No way was I going to transport, dig, backfill with gravel and sand, and lift each granite block a dozen times, to get them placed just right. It's now been there a few years. It seems to be holding the invasives at bay. For now.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Buffalo gardens are the best

For Garden Walk Buffalo this year, I was able to get out and see a few gardens a few days before the walk, as well as for a couple hours on the Sunday of the Walk.

This Highland Avenue garden is
more like an art gallery with plants.
I was fortunate enough to be able to accompany John Paget, a film-maker around as he shot gardens around the area for a garden tourism video being made by Gardens Buffalo Niagara and the area's visitors bureau, Visit Buffalo Niagara. John's shot some great videos for Visit Buffalo Niagara, including This Place Matters; Buffalo, America's Best Designed City; and Buffalo for Real; among many others.

You can be sure when the video is complete, I'll be showing it here!

On the Sunday of Garden Walk I got out to a couple neighborhoods I hadn't visited in years, or had never been. As always, Garden Walk is surprising in its gardener's creativity. Even having been involved with the group for 20 years, some gardens are still a revelation. I love still being surprised and amazed.

Above is the alcove between two garages on Prospect Avenue at Vermont Street, near Buffalo's Armory. It's an amazing hidden space - and what you see here is ALL of their back yard. They made the most of it!

Here's a bit of some of the gardens I visited. I've got lots of photos for each garden, so some of these may get their own posts in the future.

Make plans o visit the more than 400 gardens of Garden Walk Buffalo - in 2017 it will be held, Saturday and Sunday, July 29 and 30. And make hotel reservations now - downtown hotels fill up!

Friday, September 2, 2016

An oasis in the city. Really.

 
The description of this garden on the Garden Walk Buffalo maps reads:

                              Small cottage garden of raised beds and containers.
                              Large variety of oriental lilies and 11 Japanese maples.

You'd be hard pressed to remember the description once you enter the garden – more like entering the "world" of Jim Ecker's Johnson Park garden. Goes to show the limitations of requiring 25 words (or thereabouts) to describe your garden.
It is in one of Buffalo's oldest neighborhoods, dating back before 1837, when Ebenezer Johnson donated the land in front of Jim's house, as a city park. Jim's house itself dates back to 1831.

It was a very hot day when I visited during the Walk. But entering his densely planted garden shady garden entrance there was a discernible temperature change. It also got very quiet - with walls of trees negating any background city noise. And it even smelled different.

You'd never believe that Buffalo's city hall is just four blocks away, or that Lake Erie/Niagara River is just a quarter mile from here. Or even that it's smack dab in the middle of a dense neighborhood with houses looking like they all nestle into one another.

Jim's a member of the WNY Hosta Society and is a tireless advocate for, and gardener in, Johnson Park, the park in front of his home. As a matter of fact, Jim accepted, on behalf of Johnson Park, a Garden Walk Buffalo Marvin Lunenfeld Beautification Grant for projects in the park. In the past, Jim has been spending his own money for park projects.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Numbers on Garden Tourism

This article originally appeared in Buffalo's weekly arts and culture newsprint publication, The PUBLIC on June 15, 2016.

Did you know that, in the U.S., more people visit botanical gardens, botanical parks, garden tours, and garden events than visit Disneyworld. And Disneyland. Combined. That’s more than visit Las Vegas each year.

Smug creek Gardens in Hamburg.
So I called up the guy who wrote the book Garden Tourism, Richard Benfield, the guy who published the factoid above, and started asking him questions about regional garden tours, attendance numbers, ZIP code research, economic impacts, and more. He tells me he is the nation’s leading expert on garden tourism, basically, because, there is no one else. And, since I was asking such good questions, I could be number two.

It turns out his book was the first ever published on garden tourism, and to date it’s the only book written on garden tourism. And Buffalo has two and a half pages in it.

At the time, I was a few years into my seven years as a leader of Garden Walk Buffalo, which has turned into America’s largest garden tour. I was trying to figure out, through Benfield, where Buffalo stood as far as the size, scale, and impact of our tour. It turns out, there’s really nothing quite like it.

Garden Walk Buffalo, at 23 years old, attracts an estimated 65,000-70,000 visitors to more than 400 participating gardens; 20-23% of those visitors come from more than 50 miles outside of the city, and the two-day event has an estimated $4.5 million economic impact to the region. And that’s each year, for the past eight years. You do that math.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A make-your-own garden totem fountain

 
I bought myself a make-your-own totem of hand-thrown pottery pieces and made it into a fountain. I help organize a Buffalo-style Garden Art Sale and their booth was next to the booth at which I sat for two days for Garden Walk Buffalo at the Sale.

The vendor was Peter Goergen of JPG Pottery (3385 Maple Avenue, Allegheny, NY 14706 716-951-0172 jpetergoergen@gmail.com).

I watched other folks decide on their height first - an unseen interior metal pole screws into a fitting set in a concrete base. The fitting in the base is an "L" shaped pipe that can accommodate tubing to make it a fountain, although Peter hadn't seen any of his totems made into fountains.

You buy the concrete base and pipe for a base price of $25. Then you can add elements - hand thrown clay dishes, columns, balls, finials and more. And you pay individually for each piece. Price is determined by size, design, and complexity (ranging from $9 to $125 for mine). The total for mine was just a hair over $300.

Monday, July 18, 2016

A new favorite garden

I consider myself fairly well-versed when it comes to the region's gardens. Every once in a while, I find a garden that is a real surprise – that I didn't know existed – and this is this year's. This is the garden of Carole and John Hajnosz, in Hamburg, NY. It actually backs up to the Wanakah Country Club's golf course, very near Lake Erie. 

It is on Garden Buffalo Niagara's Tours of Open Gardens. I'm vice president of Gardens Buffalo Niagara, and I help, tangentially, with putting on this tour of 70+ gardens open for select hours on Thursdays and Fridays throughout Eire and Niagara Counties in the month of July.

Carole and John have been working on this one-acre property for 25 years. He described it to me as looking like a football field when they moved in. Brick, grass, stone, and slate paths meander throughout the space, alternating open spaces with densely planted narrow paths.

His original plan was to build an arboretum, but didn't think he had enough room. It is a small-scale arboretum no matter what he says! There are ornamental trees, fruit trees, and mini, dwarf  and standard conifers. He's got an ever-increasing collection of azaleas, rhododendrons, and hydrangeas – and dozens of other flowering shrubs.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Boxes, baskets, pots, planters, walls, and grates...

This year's window boxes and cone baskets, wall hanging, grate-climbing vines, pots, planters and vertical succulent gardens came out great. They're ready for the big show in two weeks, the big show being Garden Walk Buffalo.

Figuring out what annuals go best where for each is a years-long learning process. I've forgone most flowering annuals because they need constant watering, fertilizing and deadheading. All things at which I do not excel. For most window boxes and baskets, I use coleus for color. They come in such varied colors and texture, and I don't have to worry about deadheading. And their color is constant.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

A tour inside the Taj-ma-Shed...

The inside of the 'Taj-ma-Shed" is complete! I built the shed - pounded every single nail, laid every single shingle, cut every board. My wife and daughter did help with extreior painting, as well as held the ladder for me plenty of times, but other than that, I did it all myself. Well, okay, my friend Roger helped me put the counter top on the potting bench - that was HEAVY!

It's complete just in time too – a magazine is sending a photographer tomorrow to photograph it! And another local magazine is coming later in the week to shoot it. Both are for issues to be published next year.

Can't mention names, because I know that sometimes these things don't happen. Once, Martha Stewart Living magazine photographed my garden and the photos were never published. There's some great shots of my garden taken by a Toronto photographer, I've never seen, sitting on a hard drive somewhere in New York City. But I'm not bitter.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Happy as hellstrip

I finally, after many years, finished my hellstrip - the area between sidewalk and road. The spring hasn't been all about the shed!

Hellstrip with dead tree gone,
but stump remaining.
It was like this for three years.
It started off a grass strip with a dying horse chestnut tree. After watching the horse chestnut tree die for a few years, the city (who has the rights to the hellstrip property) came by and cut down the tree.

Then, after three years of asking the city when they were going to grind down the stump, they finally did. They planted a young tree to replace the dead tree. That was my cue to start planting there, since it seems the city was done doing what they were going to do.

The "grass" that was there was mostly crab grass, clover, and various weeds. They were all green, so it gave the appearance of grass. For a few years, this strip is the only reason I had a lawnmower, since the rest of the front yard is a grassless jungle of a garden.

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