Archive for the ‘Spring 2010’ Category

Modern Brooklyn Stoop Container Garden

Cool stoop top container garden, right? The container and the contemporary topiary bush are a great pair — and very different from what shows up on most Brooklyn stoops.

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Trying to Save Our Sempervivum: Succulent Garden

There were amazing sempervivums and sedums at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden plant sale. I decided I could create one a succulent dish gardens inspired by a Deborah Lee Baldwin’s new book: Succulent Container Gardens.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have any of the other items I needed when I bought the plants.  It took me two weeks to get a  low terra cotta bowl, fast-draining succulent potting soil, and a bag of little rocks.

I went to put the stunning Sempervivum ‘Baronesse’ (hens and chicks), grown by Glover Perennials in Cutchogue, NY,  into the pot and I saw a few little flies and smelled rot. Oh no! This perfect plant with cobweb rosettes and red highlights was rotting from underneath! It was too wet and not getting enough light. I feel guilty for not being a better parent to these perfect plants.

I removed the rotting leaves, popped it in the pot with some spindly sedum (also in need of more hot sun!) and placed it a sunny and isolated spot on our roof. I don’t want the few flies to spread to my other pots! I hope a few days baking in the sun can nurse this plant back. I’d like to use it as the centerpiece for the patio table on our roof garden.

Creating a Full-Sun Hanging Basket for Our Brooklyn Roof Garden

The hanging basket on our roof garden faces some big challenges. The hanging basket has to be able to withstand strong gusts of wind and direct, drying sunlight for most of the day. Last summer we went through three different hanging baskets. The lantana performed the best, so we knew we’d make lantna the center of this summer’s hanging basket.

I ordered the three plants from White Flower Farm for our hanging basket last night, working from the thriller, filler, spiller model.

For the thriller I chose Phlox intensia in white. We try to put white flowers in almost every pot, since white flowers are visible late into the night, when we often visit our roof garden. “Even when the heat made other plants start to flag, this Phlox performed admirably. Lovely in window boxes against a dark background,” say the pros at White Flower Farm.

I don’t think the Lantana is precisely a filler; last summer our Lantana was thrilling with the flowers blazing, unwilling in the sun and wind while attracting butterflies. Still, I am counting on the Lantan to fill up this pot all summer long; so let’s call it a filler. I’ve usually seen yellow Lantana, often called “ham and eggs”, sold locally. I decided to try something a bit less common – this purple and white Lantana montevidensis Lavender Swirl. Lantna is one of the best roof garden plants we’ve tried.

Finally, the spiller. Our hanging basket is hung high up on an air vent pole, so I wanted a spiller that would thrive in full sun and grow Rapunzel style to hide the ugly pole. I picked Dichondra argentea Silver Falls because it grows fast and it “[e]njoys sun and drought. Unique.” I don’t think portulaca would trail this long.

We’re planting this in a self-watering hanging basket.

What do you think? Will this hanging basket survive the summer on our roof?

Images: White Flower Farm

Roof Garden: Vines By Design

Our big goal for the roof garden this summer is to make it more lush and enclosed feeling. Less pots on a tarmac, more slice of drough-tolerant Eden in Brooklyn — something like that.

At the start of the season, we added three small trees for structure. Today’s project is to add some vines, inspired by how O2B’s Brooklyn roof garden uses vines to create a sense of abundance and energy.

We’re experimenting with two different vine projects:

#1 We’re planting Old Spice Sweet Peas (Lathrus odoratus), a sweet smelling Mediterranean native, and Black Eyes Susan vine a.k.a. Lemon Star (Thunbergia alata) in a small terra cotta window box. We hope it will grow up a trellis we bought online from Terrain.

#2 We were admiring a huge moon vine at the Phillips Farms stands at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket this morning. Just as I was asking R* if he thought it could endure the heat of the roof, a woman walked by and said she had grown it on her roof garden. She loved seeing the large white flowers at night. We decided to spring for the $15 plant and try to run it up the ugly pole at the front of our garden. The vision is big white flowers obscuring an ugly plumbing pole, framing our Manhattan view. We shall see. (This great description of a fragrant twilight roof garden with moon vine gives us hope.)

Neither of these vine projects were too expensive. So for about $25, we’re testing out three vines. Let’s see what we learn. Any advice as we get started?

Re-charging the Soil In Our Containers

I’ve meet a couple of roof gardeners who throw out all of their soil every spring. They start the new season with almost all new dirt. We’re so not doing that! We were not up for carrying all that mess down the stairs and then where would we put the spent once we got downstairs? It’s not like we have a yard to pile up old potting soil. And then we’d have to drag a bunch of expensive new soil back up there and re-pot all those plants. Nope, not for us.

Instead, we’re going to try out Vermont Compost‘s Container Booster Mix. This mix is supposed to replace the nutrients last year’s plants sucked down. I wanted to steer clear of synthetic fertilizer like Miracle-Gro or Osmocote.

We ordered ours from Gardener’s Supply Co. Fingers crosses that it arrives today since we want to feed our hungry plants this weekend.

The Melodrama of the Basil and the Roses

We’ve had our first casualty of the season: the basil I planted on April 17 looks dead, see it in the lower center of this photo. I was eager to get roof-grown basil back in my kitchen, but seems like mid-April was just too early for annual herbs.

But then check out our heirloom rosebushes, which I planted for R*’s birthday present last June. I love that both of these special tiny rose slips the winter and one of the plants already shot up  two big buds.

A little death and a whole lot of new life on our roof garden. Tune in next week when we’ll see if that last tiny green sprout on the base of the basil seedling will turn into anything. Or, will I decide to declare the basil dead and start over. Will the oregano’s relentless domination of the pot continue? And just when will that heirloom rose bloom?

Reminder: Brooklyn Botantic Garden Plant Sale Kicks Off Tomorrow

I’m looking forward to the plant sale preview. I’m hoping to race there after work tomorrow night. Maybe I’ll see you there?

I’ve never been before so I’m not sure what to expect, but I’m hoping to find: lantana for a hanging basket, some succulents, Thai and bush basil.

Visit the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s site for all details about the 2010 plant sale.