Saturday, October 31, 2009

Gingko drop watch


Did you know that a ginkgo tree holds onto all its leaves just to drop them at the same time (within an hour or so)? No dithering here.

I read that in a magazine recently. I have a VERY young gingko tree in the backyard planted a few years ago. Our big October surprise storm three years ago (which we call Arborgeddon because it either killed or defaced the majority of our city's trees) snapped my first ginkgo tree in half, but this one popped up in its place and seems happy.

And in the background is my pear tree diamond-shaped espalier. Half is tree, half is the heavy-gauge wire structure to train them on. Two trees called it quits on me last year, so I'm starting half the espalier from scratch. That's Solomon's Seal at the base of it. And, yes, I know, I have to get that planter put away before it freezes.

I'm going to keep an eye on the ginkgo to see if it drops its leaves all at once.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Metropolis magazine Garden Walk mention


In the current (October 2009) issue of Metropolis, writer Kerry Jacobs writes of Garden Walk...

"...the Buffalo I discovered when I finally made my first trip there this summer was a pretty and vibrant place. The annual Garden Walk filled the city’s more gentrified residential neighborhoods with throngs of strollers determined to drop in on as many luxuriant backyards as possible."

The article, titled, Wright-ish, is mainly about the restoration of Frank Lloyd Wright's Darwin Martin House and Toshiko Mori's newly constructed Greatbatch Pavilion. Jacobs questions the building of demolished historic structures and proposed-but-never-built structures - and issue of no small importance in Buffalo. To read the article, visit here. She suggests buildings remain part of history, and if something needs to be built, it should be built for the future, not the past.

What do you think? Should buildings that were designed and never built, as well as buildings that were built, but destroyed, be rebuilt?

Does the same hold true for gardens? Should old gardens be restored? Both Frank Lloyd Wright gardens (Martin House & Graycliff) here in Buffalo are on the planning stages to be restored from their original plans. I can't see any reason why we wouldn't restore them, even though nothing of them remains today.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Big ball o' burning bush


Hard to miss the big red ball in the front garden this time of year. The Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus) gets a good trimming a few times in the summer into its ball shape. I've not trimmed it in months. After being away for a week, came back to find it had morphed into a great big red clown nose dropped in front of the house.

Here it is, back in September. As a green ball, it blends in with everything else and you can barely tell it's there.

There's a more detailed post on Burning Bush and its invasive tendencies to be found at May Dreams Gardens. I don't have to worry so much about it being invasive in this setting.

It is one of the few plants that was here when we moved into the house. It covers up a good chunk of the ugly concrete porch & stairs. Eventually, I'd like to design a front porch that would complement the 1897 gambrel-roofed Dutch Colonial Revival house. I don't think the concrete, cinder block and black wrought iron fence are too historically accurate. Or good looking.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Oh, to be a geranium salesman in Colmar, France...


When I retire, and want to make some REAL money, I may settle in the city of Colmar just south of Strasbourg, France, and sell geraniums. Seems every window box and rail planter in the entire city has geraniums. Tens of thousands of them. Reminded me of our trips to Switzerland and their ever-present, window-box-trapped geraniums on medieval half-timbered houses.

If not for the canals, lock houses, and medieval villages, the terrain and trees look like parts of New York State at this time of year. The paved path to the right follows the canals and was great for walking, biking (and for my wife to run). It was cool all week, starting off in the 50s and getting down to below 32 at night.

This area of France, being just the other side of the German border has influence from both their German & Swiss neighbors, architecturally, culturally, and agriculturally. Their history reads something like this:
12 BC - Roman
1200s - Free city
1400s - Free Republic
1697 French
1700-1800s German
1918 - French
1940s - German occupation
After WWII - French once more

Colmar was a beautiful town that was just one of our side trips while cruising the canals on a barge for the week. If you are ever in need of a unique vacation I highly suggest a Barge Canal Cruise in Europe. This barge, the Lorraine, sleeps 22 max (there were only 17 the week we were on board, mostly American, a few Australians) and has a crew of seven (captain, deckhand, two stewards, a tour guide, one manager and a chef).

Our home for the week. Cruising through France at walking pace for six days. A slow pace you just can't find anyplace else.


The chef made gourmet meals for us, including homemade foie gras, a local Alsatian specialty. The meals were nothing less than spectacular, made with local produce bought in the towns we visited along the canal, highlighted with local specialties, two area wines introduced with each meal, and two French cheeses (they take their cheeses VERY seriously) introduced after the meal, before dessert.

Another favorite basket planting was sweet potato vine, but curiously only in its familiar chartreuse form. The darker sweet potato vines were not to be seen.


The barge travels at about 4mpg for the week. You can easily get off at any lock (there are many) and walk or ride a bike up to the next lock or two or three or four. You walk faster than the barge. A bus driven by the tour guide meets us at each stop and takes us on a tour or two each day - a crystal glass factory, medieval towns, a brewery beer tasting, a wine tasting, a Chagall stained glass window, a museum, a Strasbourg tour, and a covered (touristy) boat tour of Strasbourg.

The owners of the Boat, Ed and Ona, were on board. They've just purchased another boat that needs refurbishing before it settles its life on a Burgundy itinerary. The Lorraine may be hosting a "French cooking school" theme week next year.

As much as the flowers add color, so do the colors of the Alsatian half-timbered houses. Did you know the plaster between the timbers is made of clay, straw and fur?


He's also got lots of ideas for other "theme" cruises - including breast & prostate cancer weeks (they've both had bouts with them) complete with knowledgeable medical doctors on board to meet and ask any question. This week, it was filled with retired pilots, getting the rest they so well deserve and don't necessarily get on the job.



























Thursday, October 22, 2009

A four day garden tour? Good grief!


After a week of barge canal cruising through the Alsace-Lorraine area of France - along the German border (posts to come), I come home to this.

It's a letter to the editor of the Buffalo News suggesting Garden Walk Buffalo be extended to four days. And to also do an event in Spring. And the Fall. Made me laugh. You can read the full text here.

It's not as though the Garden Walk committee hasn't had these thoughts in the past, it's just that it's a lot of work to put on the event for two days already. From selecting art for & designing posters; soliciting corporate sponsors; lugging water bottles; schlepping merchandise around; dragging displays; counting money; doling out yard signs; heaving piles of maps from location to location; mailing shirts; answering the same questions over 10,000 times; managing databases; inputting donor info; planning gardener parties; doing bookkeeping and accounting; manning booths; figuring out how to distribute Beautification Grants; coordinating 20-some committee members, 75 weekend volunteers, and 340 gardeners–what we do as a group is already a large undertaking. As a garden group - you can see we do little gardening. As president of the group, my head reels at the thought of how much this group of twenty-some committee members already accomplished each year.

Not to mention all the work it takes to get your garden ready for 50,000 visitors. And what gardener would have an extra two days to take off work to standing their garden? Most of us work (when we're not canal cruising in France).

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Buffalonians "...drunkenly sharpening their Felcos..."



In this month's issue of Fine Gardening Magazine, (December 09), the editor's asked garden writers and professionals from different areas of the country to list their "Three Garden Wishes." The California representative, Amy Stewart, wishes for "Heat" (she lives by the air-conditioning ocean), "Salvias" (she doesn't have enough) and "Neighbors with better gardens than mine." And about neighbors gardening, she writes:

"I want to be surrounded by gardeners with more imagination than I can conjure up. I need motivation–and company. It was not until I experienced the extraordinary Garden Walk held in Buffalo, New York, that I realized that some people live in neighborhoods in which everyone gardens. Plants get traded over the fence, and there are garden parties that last long into the evening, with gardeners drunkenly sharpening their Felcos and stumbling into the perennial border, cocktails in hand, to finish the weekend's work. It sounds dangerous but thrilling."

Methinks she's spent a fair amount of time in the Gardening While Intoxicated garden. But in a city where the bars don't close till 4 a.m. each night, it's inevitable we'd have a reputation for drinking and gardening.

You'll have to pick up this copy of Fine Gardening magazine (available at fine magazine retailers near you) to see what the other garden "gurus" from around the country each wish for. There's also some great bits on pros & cons of different types of composting, unique fall plant suggestions, sustainably-oriented garden design, conifers for shade, and an article on grasses with some great photos. Oh, and a quick interview with Paul James.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

More Canandaigua Lake "cozy cottages" & gardens...


Not quite the little cozy cottage, but this three-car garage behemoth is among the newer cottages along Seneca Point Road. Can you imagine having this as your SECOND home?

Last weekend we were in Canadaigua, NY - the fourth largest of the 11 Finger Lakes and home to our state wineries and grape pies. Canandiagua Lake is the second-most expensive lake property in the country (according to tax-cost-per-foot for lake frontage) after Lake Tahoe. The cottages here are not quite the quaint image of a little place on the lake. But I'd kill to own one of them just the same. As long as I didn't have the tax bill to go along with them.

The Weather Channel recently named the Finger Lakes region the No. 1 Lakeside Retreat in the world. We took a short walk along Seneca Point Road, probably the most exclusive, toniest part of the lake. Here are some of the "cottages" and their front gardens/landscapes.


The natural-look yard - no cost, no mowing, no chemicals.


The not so natural yard, costs, mowing, and chemicals.


Nice landscaping. Pretty place. Its site setting and breaking of the mass of the building belies its size.


The water side of this place must be spectacular.


One of my favorites on the lake.


It gets hilly fast along the roadside. Many have found unique ways to deal with hills, plantings and architecture.


This place always reminded me of a New Orleans vernacular.


This is a 1,180 sq. ft. garage with a one bedroom, one bath unit on top. This was built, and a matching boathouse across the street on the lake was constructed. It is for sale, along with the architectural plans for the not-yet-built matching house. It can be yours for $1,009,900.


Another favorite. Used to be a factory of some sort. In past years, it's been rentable.


This one belongs to folks we know, another flight attendant that works with my wife, commuting to Newark from Rochester. It's a home passed down through her husband's family, now shared by his siblings and their families.


The bear sits (stands?) in front of the house at the very top of this post. It's carved from a tree cut down to build the house.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Off to Wegman's... the cottage, not the store...


One of the Wegman's cottages on Canandiagua Lake.

Last weekend we were taking a walk along Seneca Point Road on the west side of Canandaigua Lake as we often do when we're visiting my wife's parents. This time I had my camera.

I've always admired these "pot holders" they set out each year. But in my neighborhood, I'd have to set them in concrete and find a way to lock the pot in the stand and still hope no none steals them. They, repeated, like in the photo below, are quite impressive.

Here are some shots of the Wegman's place on the Lake. This is the cottage of Mr. Wegman, the founder of the Wegmans grocery store chain. He passed away a few years ago. His widow currently spends her summers here. Each spring you can find an army of gardeners out working on the property getting it in tip-top shape for the season. Many others in the Wegman family own other places on Canandaigua Lake as well. This home is large, but understated, with many Frank Lloyd Wright qualities about it -- low to the ground, in natural materials and wide eaves, helping mask its size.

Wegmans is our local powerhouse of a grocery store. It's based in Rochester and has a reach throughout most of New York State, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia. It's constantly in the top five of the best places to work, according to J.D. Power and Associates.

Sorry, no shots from the front of the house -- could only take photos from the road.


Along the roadside, the "pot holders" serve double-duty as they stop cars from pulling over onto the grass.


Masses of Fall colors -- plantings are changed throughout the year. I always thought these lightposts look like the same ones you'd find in a Wegmans parking lot, just shorter.


It's a downright park-like setting.



Even the mailbox has a hanging basket.


Coleus are the main source of color in these gardens.

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