Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dogtag Garden


The Old North Church, in Boston, MA, has a "Dog Tag" Memorial Garden. On a recent visit to Boston, coming across this memorial garden was a sobering stop on an otherwise fun day.

There is one dog tag hanging for every man & woman in the armed forces and civilians who have lost their lives in the Afghanistan & Iraq Wars. There were well over 3,000 tags. The saddest part? They left space for more.

The Old North Church, built in 1723, gained its fame when the church sexton, in 1775, climbed the steeple and held two lanterns as a signal from Paul Revere that the British were marching to Lexington & Concord by sea - and not by land. This event ignited the American Revolution.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Not too impressed with the heirloom tomatoes


They're pretty, but not too productive. This is the bulk of the heirloom tomatoes we harvested this year. It was the first time trying heirlooms. Not so sure I'd do it again. When I was kvetching to our local garden guru, Sally Cunningham, about the poor turnout this year, she told me that it was a bad year overall for tomatoes, and as far as heirlooms go, there's a reason why most people plant disease-resistant, consistently-productive, hardy, hybridized tomatoes.

The best looking of the bunch were the Green Zebras. The quality of taste wasn't significantly different from the normal tomatoes we plant.

The tomatoes seen in the top photo are Garden Peach (small yellow salad tomatoes with a peach-like skin), Green Zebra (pretty, small green & yellow), Dr. Wyche's Yellow (the large yellow one). They all tasted good, but we had to buy tomatoes from a local green grocer to get some decent BLTs and caprese salad. The Kentucky Beefsteak tomatoes planted (not shown) were nice and velvety in texture, but didn't taste any better than other 'maters we've grown in the past. The Copia and Williams Striped never produced any tomatoes. Next year less heirlooms and more of the regular tomato plants!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Which leaf is which?


One is from a Redbud, the other from Dutchman's pipe. They're not too close to each other, but the Dutchman's pipe vine is crawling closer to the Redbud each year. Had to take a second look at the soon-to-be-interweaving leaves to distinguish the two.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Rows of sharin'


Okay, it's really only one row of Rose of Sharon, but that wouldn't have worked so well for the post title wordplay.

These are the the Rose of Sharon trees that separate my mother's lake property (outside of Binghamton, NY) from her neighbors (my aunt & uncle). I missed peak flowering of these trees this year, though I'm told they were spectacular (and late!).

Friday, September 18, 2009

Messing with young minds



Yes, they do look something like you might find in the Gardening While Intoxicated garden before you hit the dirt, but alas, you’re seeing them as they are – warped classic pedestals and planters. The are a clever nod to the winds coming off Lake Erie. To hallucinogenicly-prone students, these probably appear perfectly straight. They certainly make you do a double take when you see them for the first time.

These way cool planters are in Founder’s Plaza, on the north campus of the State University of Buffalo (UB). The plants in the urns, which seem a bit uninspired in these photos, are intended to change with the seasons.

For the gentle wind doth move Silently, invisibly is the name of the instillation by artist Brian Tolle. The installation is on a two-year loan. It was commissioned by Cleveland Public Art and was most recently displayed for two years in downtown Cleveland. The artist came to Buffalo and actually studied wind patterns in the plaza to site the pieces.

This is a favorite old post, created before I was on Blogger. I repeat it here to save & catalog it on this new site. Sorry if you've read it before.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A garden party with Frank Lloyd Wright


Toshiko Mori's Greatbatch Pavilion - a building that has been called a "technical tour de force" to parallel Frank Lloyd Wright's revolutionary design for the Martin House.

This year, being our fifteenth anniversary, the Garden Walk Committee threw a party for the gardeners, volunteers, and committee members of the Walk in the brand new Darwin Martin House Greatbatch Pavilion.

First group of tours finishes up and are ready for drinks.

Not only did we throw a two-hour wine & hors d'ouvres party, but we also provided free tours of the Wright's Martin House, the design of which Wright considered his "opus." The facilities manager, also the owner of a local popular garden center, Arbordale Nurseries, was on hand to show historical photos of the original gardens on the grounds of the compound and was able to not only talk about the restoration -- but drafted a few volunteers to help with the effort!

The Greatbatch Pavilion is a special building in that it almost disappears. From the floor-to-ceiling windows to the absolutely silent mechanical services you barely know you're inside a building. It looks onto and accentuates the horizontal aspect of the Martin House.

It was no small task to coordinate tours for 160+ people through a large house with many opportunities for traffic jams. Volunteers were stationed to help the flow of the roughly one-hour tours. As soon as a group of twenty were gathered, they went on the tour, next twenty to gather were right on their heels. Everyone was completely done in about and hour and 45 minutes. All went swimmingly, thanks to the great tour guides and tour coordinators.

Being inside the Pavilion even looks like you're outside.

Due to overwhelming response, and tour & room capacities, some RSVPs after the RSVP date could not be accepted. We apologize to those gardeners and volunteers that really wanted to come. And for the people that RSVP'd and didn't show (and we still had to pay for)? We'll be sending the gardeners we had to turn away over to YOUR house.

Every year, within a few months after the Walk is over, the organizing committee throws a "Thank You" party for the gardeners that are so gracious to open their gardens each year. It started off many years ago with cases of beer and bags of chips in a back yard.

That's my Senior Assistant Junior Garden Supervising Groundskeeper (and garden financial adviser) acting as traffic manger at the front door. To my knowledge, there were no tour group accidents, mishaps or emergency room trips. Though she is defibrillator-qualified.

As Garden Walk has grown, so has the party. Past years have seen the parties in church halls, bars and more recently, in different gardens around the Garden Walk area, hosted by the host gardener and the GW Committee (gardeners don't often get out to see other gardens!).We also did a block party, closing off a street allowing gardeners to peruse a block of gardens they might not ever have the chance to see otherwise.

We tried to keep the comments & announcements brief, but we've never had a captive audience this large AND had a microphone.

This was a big deal for us in time & treasure and it went off without a hitch -- special thanks to the support for the event & tours. Schuele Paint, a Buffalo institution; and JCharlier Communication Design (me) picked up the cost of the tours. Gates Circle Liquor, another Buffalo institution, donated the wine. The Martin House Restoration Corporation was generous with use of the Greatbatch Pavilion and discounted tours from their excellent cadre of volunteer docents.

We encourage all to take the 2-hour In-Depth tour when you're able to be able to see the upstairs of the house, the Barton House and Gardeners Cottage which are all part of the Martin House compound.

A tour starts outside the building. The neighborhood was laid out by Frederick Law Olmsted, with curving streets so as not to see the busier streets that bookend the neighborhood. The Martin House is so close to the Buffalo Zoo that you can hear elephants & lions at night.

If you're part of a local company looking for a unique party/holiday celebration/treat for employees, I highly recommend considering the Martin House tour and a party in the Pavilion afterward. The more local people to tour the house, the more advocates the house will have out in the world. If you're coming to our neck of the woods, the Falls are a must, but so is this house (it's actually more of a mansion, albeit a Wright version of a mansion).

The house still has a ways to go before it is 100% complete. The exterior grounds will be restored to its 1904 original.

You can find photos of the event here, taken by photographer Don Zinteck of Photographics 2, on the events portion of his website.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Japanese cemetery in the trees


My wife was in Tokyo recently and took this beautiful photo of this moss-covered cemetery in the trees. Most Japanese cemeteries are Buddhist and are located around a temple. I'll post eventually her photos from the temple grounds.

In Japan, cemeteries are generally considered spooky and gloomy -- Japanese visit graves of loved ones on few occasions yearly, usually just on the anniversary of a death and during the spring and fall equinox.

I just thought the setting here was beautiful and worth sharing. When your typography reads from top to bottom, it leads to tall & narrow headstones for a totally different aesthetic than we left-to-right readers are used to.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Window box at peak


The window boxes on the front of my house are filled mostly with coleus, Persian shield and potato vines. Right now it looks the best it's looked all year.

Left, in 2004. Right, in 2009. You can see how the baskets & boxes bring the garden right up the side of the house, integrating both house & garden. If I were even smarter, I'd have some of the plants from the baskets & boxes repeated in the garden itself.

The window boxes (there're two boxes side-by-side, giving the impression of one long window box) are made of recycled plastic deck boards, the kind of stuff you'd build a deck with. I built them a couple years ago. They were a bit more expensive with the plastic deck stuff. I knew, built of even pressure treated wood, they'd rot and get weak at points and I'd have to just rebuild them. And pre-made boxes would not fit the width of the window, nor be the right scale for the house. The plastic ones are so wimpy, and can't easily be painted to match the house colors.

I'd love to put a window box on that very top, small, oval-topped, attic window, but I know I won't be good about watering it. And nothing looks worse than dead plants in a box.

From the office window. Blends in nicely from this view of the front garden. There are also more boxes (the cheap plastic kind) attached to the railing of the front porch with the same coleus, Persian shield & potato vines..

They're put together with bolts. No nails. Nails would just pull from all the different weights and forces on such heavy planters. They're up there on cleats that are solidly attached to the house. The brackets you see are purely decorative.

The flaw in my plan? That recycled plastic wood is friggin' heavy! It took all my might to get both planters up there. I did it though, all on my own. Inch by inch up a ladder. Twice.

Cone baskets on either side of the door. A couple neighbors up the street had their front porch baskets stolen. Idiot robbers tried selling them to people down our end of the street. I was paranoid someone would steal these, so they're pretty wrapped with wires on their hanging brackets. Whoever wants to steal them will have some work to do to un-engage them from their holders.

I like coleus because I get constant color without having to worry about bloom times or deadheading. And they are pretty transparent about when they need water. And they bounce back quickly if I haven't watered them for a while. Watering is pretty easy from my office window. Overflow usually gets the baskets below a good soaking. And any mail in the mailbox.

The cone-shaped planters just below the window boxes on either side of the door are planted with the same things, with the addition of a brown spiky grass for even more height.

The lightning-shaped lightning rod is now a few years old. I drew the shape of the lightning and a local sculptor built it for me. Hard to tell here, but at the ends of the splayed wires are very large colored glass marbles.

In the last three years we've had a new roof, new windows, new lightning rod, and this summer, a new paint job. Same color green, but with the addition of a dark green & the purple. Wish we'd pushed the purple a bit more. I may go back next summer and paint the window boxes and a few other surfaces in the purple color.

Do you have window boxes? What's your experience?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Kayak trip to the test gardens


This weekend my wife & I kayaked in Lake Erie from Broderick Park (a short, 4 minute drive from our house, walking distance if we didn't lug kayaks) to the Erie Basin Marina, where our local test garden for annuals is located. It wasn't a great distance, but it was about an hour and fifteen minutes to get there and 50 minutes (downriver) to get back, with time for a water break and stroll through the Marina gardens while there. Here's some of what we saw.


Drop point. Broderick Park, down by Rich Products (they make that white powdered stuff you put in your coffee, among other things) on the Blackrock Canal, between the Bird Island Pier (on the right) and shore (left). On the other side of the pier is where Lake Erie narrows and starts its short route to go over the Falls and into Lake Ontario. I posted a while back about our hike through the Niagara Gorge, where this water is headed.

That's the Peace Bridge seen above, with standstill traffic of frustrated drivers trying to get to Canada for the long weekend. We're trying to get a new bridge built -- we're on year 12 of talking about it. Don't ask. This was built in 1927. It is totally inadequate for modern-day travel.


Next? Scullers. They snuck up on us. Didn't hear 'em comin'. I think this is a Buffalo Seminary (an independent all-girls high school) team, as they were all girls, young, and none were wheezing.


The newest Frank Lloyd Wright structure in Buffalo, The Charles and Marie Fontana Boathouse, was designed (originally for Madison, WI) in 1905, redrawn in 1930 and built in 2006. TV Writer & producer Tom Fontana help raise the money for its construction and leaned on friends Mary Tyler Moore, Blythe Danner and Grant Tinker to join television producer Diane English and newsman Tim Russert (may he rest in peace), both Buffalo natives, to contribute to the cause.


The Buffalo Yacht Club, formed in 1860. Note there are no yachts. Good lunches with great view of the water though.


The Moondance party boat. Rented out for everything from wedding parties to office parties. Friendly crowd.


It wasn't very windy this day, but the trees have a permanent blown look to them. Tough to be a tree on a waterfront.


The Miss Buffalo passed us by. It's a waterfront tour boat that's also available for parties and such.


Heading towards the Marina. Above the dark red marker above the back end of the kayak you can just barely see the ghost images of the nine HUGE windmills on the waterfront on the site of the old Bethlehem Steel plant.


Waterfront condos on the marina. There are other clumps of condos there, but this had the stone block & plants along it which softened the look of the shoreline. The tall building in the background is the HSBC building, our tallest, at 40 floors.



Finally, back on the ground again. In the Marina Test Gardens.


The photo does not do justice to the color of these Verbena Lanai in red and purple, a test plant by Syngenta Flowers.


And end-of-season shot of the miniature sunflowers. They were much more impressive in July.


What's killer right now is the coleus.


These coleus looked good in July, but they're screamin' now.


Millet Jade Princess are the brown fuzzys amongst the assorted annuals. All these will be on the market (if they test well) in one to two years.


During Garden Walk Buffalo they let visitors choose their favorite plants. I chose this, Salvia Sallyfun Blue Tune. The Commercial Growers did too.


These were my favorite of the day - Sunflower Fuzzy Face, by Burpee. When these hit the market, they'll sell well!


The "Chinaman's Lighthouse," so named for it's unique Chinese-hat-like top, was built in 1866.


Down river, Miss Buffalo (left), the USS Little Rock guided missile cruiser (center), permanently docked & on exhibit in the Buffalo Naval Park, and the Skyway (right). You can barely see it, but our auditorium, where the Buffalo Sabres play, is cut off on the right. Today there was just an ever-so-subtle scent of Cheerios in the air. A General Mills factory is just beyond the arena and when they're making Cheerios, on a warm day with little wind, the city smells like them. It's a good scent. Reminds me of childhood (I was a Cheerios-eater in my youth).


Back in the water for the trip back. Condos galore. Gotta be cold down here in the winter, though it's beautiful now. That imposing pointy building is city hall.


Some of the most expensive real estate in western New York.


Good use of ivy to cover the early '80s architecture.


Have to share the waterways with many. I assume they're Canada Geese, Canada's just the other side of the break wall.


Also share the route with bicyclers, walkers, joggers and fishermen. It's a long break wall.


Back by the Frank Lloyd Wright boathouse.

And I'll spare you shots of us trying to get OUT of the kayaks at the end of the trip. Sometimes we drive or bike down to the Marina -- in addition to the test gardens, there's a restaurant "shack," the marina itself, an observation tower, an ice cream stand, a new park around the terminus of the Erie Canal, the Naval Park and more. Often we go just to watch the sun set over Canada. It's good to remind ourselves, every so often, that we live on a Great Lake.

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