It’s Not Tough to Make a Trough Garden

It just takes a little patience.

The Garden Club of Irvington is having a flower and plant show next May and I’ve entered the category called “Alpine Garden Troughs or Containers: A collection of three or more of the following plants:Alpine species or cultivars, dwarf conifers. and/or succulents in a container not to exceed 18″ in any dimension. Entries must have been owned and grown by the exhibitor for a minimum of six months. Containers will be viewed from all sides.”

Time to get to work.

3-bonsaijack-amazonIn June, I took cuttings from my daughter-in-law’s rooftop succulent collection in San Francisco.


In August, I found the right container at the Laurel Group Home and Garden Shop and the right, fast-draining succulent growing medium on Amazon.

A few weeks ago, I removed all the cuttings, which by then had rooted, from the containers where they’d been growing.


I assembled them in the square container, being careful not to damage the leaves and spikes.


They’ve been at home on the deck ever since, watched over by Buddha. When I know it’s going to rain hard, like yesterday, I move the container from its sunny spot to a protected location.


Here’s what the container looks like today.


It has until the beginning of May to mature, and can be touched up on the day before the show judging, as long as I use plants that I’ve owned for six months, like one of those blue chalk fingers (Senecio vitalis “Serpents”) I’ve been propagating. I hope the donkey tail (Sedum morganianum) and string of pearls (Senecia rowleyanus) go crazy and trail down the sides. Like all plants, they have minds of their own. We shall see.

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Propagate your Plants!

This is the big clean-up season before winter sets in. We’re all raking leaves, cutting back perennials, cleaning pots and tools and putting them away until next spring, and tossing out annuals.

But wait, before you toss all the plants that won’t make it through winter’s freezes, especially certain succulents, why not take cuttings and pot them up for next spring? You can make lots of rooted cuttings from overgrown, leggy succulents.

Here’s how to do it:
Line up a bunch of small clean florists’ pots. Fill them with seed-starting mix, available at any nursery. I make my own from 50% vermiculite, 50% sifted compost from the garden, and a little perlite. It’s not sterile, but it works fine. Poke a 1″ deep hole in the center with a pencil.

Clip approximately 4″ to 6″ off the best-looking stems of your succulents. This one is blue chalk fingers (Senecio vitalis “Serpents”), which is hardy in warm climates. I bought one small plant more than five years ago and it has dozens and dozens of great-great-great grandchildren.


Remove the bottom leaves. At the bottom end, strip off about 1/2″ of the outer skin with your thumbnail and dip it in rooting hormone powder (a tiny bottle has lasted me for years). Set the end into the hole in the seed-starting mix. Tamp the mix around the stem so the cutting stands up straight. Water gently.


Keep your cuttings in a sunny spot outdoors until the temperature drops below 40 degrees (like tonight—it feels like a mini-hurricane out there). Bring them indoors to a bright windowsill and let them grow over the winter, watering once a week or when the mix feels very dry. In the spring, add the now-rooted cuttings to your mixed arrangements or pot them up into larger containers and let them shine on their own. The ones you don’t have space for make great gifts.


Above is last years crop and here are two containers I’ve filled with succulents grown from cuttings. If you like to grow Hens and Chicks, Sempervivum (which means ‘live forever’) tectorum, you can remove the baby chicks, keeping a bit of root attached, and repot them, as I’ve done in the strawberry pot. Every trip to Mexico means bringing home at least one pot in my suitcase, protected by the laundry.

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Stop and Smell the Roses

On the way back to the subway from a client meeting yesterday I tiptoed into Bloomingdale’s. I didn’t get any farther than the main entrance, where this arrangement welcomed me, knocked my briefcase and umbrella out of my hand, and got my phone out taking pictures.



The arrangement is awe-inspiringly perfect in every detail.



When I got home I tried a number of filters on Prisma, the phone app photo filter that imitates the style of famous artists. This is one of my favorites.


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The Container [and Much More] Store


When I left San Francisco last month, my daughter-in-law Yan Zhang gave me one tiny cutting from each of the succulents growing on her rooftop garden. I wrapped them in damp paper towels, stuck them in a baggie, brought them home in my carry-on, and planted them in a shallow terracotta pot. Since then, I’ve been looking in local garden centers for the stone trough that will be their permanent home. Baby Succulents

Driving east along Rte 27 in Water Mill last week, I spotted a place that promised to have just that. A quick U-turn brought me to The Laurel Group Home and Garden Shop, where I was greeted at the entrance by an inspirational collection of miniature desert landscapes in troughs. (There’s a trough category in our Garden Club’s flower show coming up next spring, and I’d love to be able to produce a respectable entry.)


Outside the shop, outdoor room settings beckon and containers of every size and shape are helpfully grouped by color.




Big, beautiful, but not what I need right now. What would await me inside?


Indoor garden rooms, furnishings and accessories… and lots and lots of pots.


LaurelGroup080416_6 (6) copy

LaurelGroupSq Trough

And there, on the floor, was exactly what I was looking for, the square trough underneath the round one. It’s made of “Fiber Cement,” a material that looks like stone but weighs 7 lbs, not the 30 lbs or more a cast concrete trough of that size would weigh.

The Laurel Group specializes in large residential and commercial landscape projects, but the manager who assisted me, Jackie Fagereng, was delightfully helpful with my one small purchase.

Next up… planting the container.

Posted in Flower Arranging and Decor, Nurseries and Garden Centers, The Hamptons | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Hamptons Show House 2016

HouseExteriorFrom the outside, this year’s Hamptons Show House looks very much like so many of the $5 to $20 million properties for sale on the East End. There are the lawns, the pool, the tennis court, the decks set up for outdoor dining and lounging.


Big Luxo

Inside, however, is a slightly different story. For me, this house is all about the details: the muted colors, black-and-cream contrasts, interesting textures, well-curated art and accessories, and use of natural materials. Unlike last year’s Showhouse, which seemed to be all about drinking, with cocktail setups in every space, this house is about relaxing in intimate spaces, to perhaps read a book, view a painting. Here are close-ups of some of my favorite spots to sit, contemplate, be inspired, or perhaps enjoy a game of backgammon or darts.






And where more color is used, especially in the hot coral sitting room by Dyfari Interiors and the hand-painted peony powder room by Steven Stolman, it’s a welcome blast among the neutrals.




And then there are the practical aspects to the house. The to-die-for kitchen, closets and bathrooms. And especially this laundry room. I mean, who wouldn’t want two washers and dryers? And another prime spot for your photography collection? (I hope the steam doesn’t ruin the emulsion on the photo paper.)


The 2016 Hampton Designer Showhouse, located on Noyak Path in Southampton, is open through September 5. The $35 admission fee benefits Southampton Hospital.

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On (and Off) Dune Road



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It was “just another” bike ride along Dune Road from Westhampton Beach to East Quogue—viewing various houses from the sublime to the ridiculous—when I spotted a path leading through the protected marshland. I got off my bike and began to follow it.
After a beautiful ten-minute walk, the view opened up onto the bay and a morning sailfish regatta. Aahh.

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A Garden Grows in The Bronx: Wave Hill

When I posted a few of these photos on Facebook, out-of-towners couldn’t believe they were shot in The Bronx.



Yes, this is leafy Riverdale, just over the Henry Hudson Bridge from upper Manhattan, a mostly bucolic section of the Bronx where apartment complexes, stately homes, schools and houses of worship exist side-by side.  And this is Wave Hill, a 28-acre public garden overlooking the Hudson River that hosts year-round programs in horticulture, education, and the arts. When I visited in the spring, above, the tulips were just bursting into bloom.


When I visited a few weeks ago, the mature perennial gardens were a source of delight and inspiration: so many interesting plants existing so harmoniously with each other and with the visitors who’d come to picnic and enjoy the sunset and the concert.





The performers at Sunset Wednesdays on July 27 were Duo Jalal, violist Kathryn Lockwood and percussionist Yousif Sheronick, who presented a virtuoso concert reflecting many musical traditions and styles: from modern Classical and jazz to Klezmer and the Beatles.


Here, Yousif is playing the bodhran, a traditional Irish frame drum… in a composition that is anything but Irish.  Check out their schedule and try to catch a concert. Duo Jalal is not to be missed.


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