Archive for the ‘Summer 2011’ Category

A Bowlful of Succulents

A guy on the roof next door shouted: “Nice plants. What’s your secret?”

“You have to water every day,” RP boomed back.

Yes, you totally need to water a roof garden every day in these hottest days. Even when it rains, we try to check and make sure all the pots got wet — remembering not to over-water the fussy geraniums.

Besides watering, we we do have one other way to keep our gardening going in the heat: succulents! Sempervivum (hens ‘n chicks), Portulaca grandiflora (moss rose) like a dry heat, so we sure have a spot for them right between our two Adirondack chairs on a small table right in the sun. I am surprised how few NYC gardeners plant sepmervivum and portulaca. Maybe that’s because these plants don’t look very fun in the garden center, when compared to annuals already in bloom.

Most of our plants are in plastic pots, which help to retain moisture, but we grow our succulents in low terra cotta bowls. This gives them the drainage they need and lets us highlight them on the tops of tables.

Last summer, my succulents sucked. This year I am having more luck. I figured out I could use portulaca, a faster growing annual, to fill in around my sempervivums (Hard-core gardening types call them “semps.”) The portulaca flowers add color too, but the flowers are only open during the day, so we don’t get to see them too often.



Colorful Modern Garden Trellis from, a new design-minded flash sale site, is wowing me with their modern garden items. First I fell for these planters and now this trellis from Terra Trellis. Would you put a sculpture-trellis in your garden? (Isn’t trellis a really strage sounding, ugly looking word. Especially if you say it over and over: trellis, trellis, trellises)

Would you harbor this big pink arbor? Now I’m hoping that Fab starts selling gardening tools, maybe a minimal fountain?

What’s The Story, Morning Glory?

It’s time to talk about Garden Lady. She plants ground cover in other people’s tree pits. She pounces off her stoop down the street to rescue mostly dead plants from trash cans. And she loves forwarding deals on bone meal to the block association email list. She wouldn’t give me any of the block association’s daffodil bulbs because she felt I didn’t dig deep enough trenches in our tree pit.

In early June, I caught Garden Lady kneeling in front of our tree pits. All day I wondered what she was up to. I was surprised when I got home that night and didn’t notice anything different in our tree pits. I couldn’t figure out what she did. Duh! Garden Lady slipped some seeds in there. Now we have morning glory vines climbing up the tree pit cage. They haven’t flowered yet. I’ve had to snap off some of their tendrils in valiant defense of my purple petunias and Autumn Joy sedum.

I was re-considering Garden Lady’s crimes this morning when I passed these morning glories and Black eyed Susan vines (Thunbergia) down the street. I wonder if Garden Lady planted these too? The Morning Glory stands for “love in vain” and is the flower for 11th anniversaries. I’m not so good on dates, but weirdly  I think this is my 11th summer in my apartment.

All of Garden Lady’s crimes seem so banal now, but at the time I was really ticked. July’s calmed my tree pit turf war. Now we’re hand-watering the tree pits almost every night and I’ve started rooting for her morning glories to bloom. All along it was the Tree Branch Breaker I should have been looking out for.

Black eyed susan vine Thunbergia

Why do people leave price tags on their plants?

This is the gardening equivalent of guys leaving the brand name tags on their suit jacket sleeves.

This tiny juniper is going all Minnie Pearl on us.

Four NYC Roof Gardener “Warriors” in Today’s Times

Thanks to Penelope Green for her honest, gracious look at New York City’s roof gardens in today’s New York Times. She doesn’t go gaga high-end gardens tended by a staff. Photographer Tony Cenicola doesn’t completely crop away the rough edges of roof gardens: rusting ventilation systems, mis-matched pots, and chain link fences. Instead, the Time’s celebrates the highs and lows of four “doughty survivors.” (I didn’t know the definition of ‘doughty’ and had to look it up. It means “marked by fearless resolution,” “like a warrior”).

The article ends with a look at Michael Goldstein’s extraordinary Soho garden. I visited there last summer and posted photos here.
Image: NY Times

Simple Petunias on a Brownstone Stoop



Love these brownstone steps. Doesn’t using real terra cotta pots and saucers make all the difference here?

Gardening snobs might shudder to see simple annuals repeated like this, but I dig it. Why doesn’t every brownstone in Brooklyn invest $100 and two hours to have something this great, eh?


Another Bummer of a Hanging Basket

Our quest for a hanging basket began when we started our roof garden in the spring of 2009. Our first attempt fried before the Fourth of July. We bought three or four more beautiful hanging baskets that summer, but none of them lasted more than a few weeks.

Last summer, I was determined to do much better. I sunk some serious money into a special self-watering hanging basket and even special self-watering planter soil (sheesh, I was such a sucker!). I bought some expensive mail order plants — including purple lantana — to grow in the basket. Well, that basket was a fail too. The lantana never really took off. The Dichondra argentea Silver Falls looked like strands of dirty paper towel whipping in the wind.

Never shying away from a roof gardening challenge, we’re trying it again. This year, it’s an ivy geranium from Lowe’s. I read they are supposed to be especially suited for hanging baskets. I re-potted it into our special self-watering planter. But as you can see in this picture, so far it isn’t thriving. What do you think? Should we abandon the the hanging basket vision? But without a hanging basket, how else can we camouflage this ugly pole?