A Visit to the Connecticut College Arboretum

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This place is deceptive. It’s advertised as a native plant garden, and you expect to see unusual, colorful plants. At first you think that there’s nothing much here. Then you look closely, and among the dappled light and shade, small treasures announce themselves.

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And then the view opens up to large vistas where families are playing, people are walking their dogs and picnicking.

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Close up study of the trees reveals some interesting and rare specimens, including weeping pines and collections of deciduous azaleas.

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Like so many off-the-beaten track places, there’s a wealth of beauty and knowledge to discover at the Connecticut College Arboretum, New London. A fine place to spend a summer afternoon.

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A Friend at Hampton Court

Garden Club of Irvington horticulture co-chair Renee Shamosh is traveling in England and France. A few days ago, she visited the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, in East Molesey, Surrey, about 30 minutes south of London. Renee sends her greetings and the following photos of the gold-medal-winning exhibits. Who says the British have no sense of humor?

England Table



Wild Rover

Best Rose Exhibit

Posted in Flower and Plant Shows, Flower Arranging and Decor, Horticulture | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Mi Casa Es Su Casa

CasaAzulPhoto taken a few years ago with iPhone 1 at Casa Azul, Coyoacán, México, DF.

NYBG Frida2Photo taken the other day with iPhone5 at the Frida show at the New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY.Cactus PyramidIf you love succulents and containers, don’t miss this show.

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”Blue” Entry Wins Blue Ribbon

Part of the joy of being a member of a garden club is growing plants and creating mixed plantings for horticulture competitions. With Renee Shamosh, I’m a horticulture co-chair of the Garden Club of Irvington-on-Hudson, NY (GCI), which in turn is a member of the Garden Club of America (GCA). Every year, the GCA hosts an annual meeting in a different U.S. city, where delegates attend workshops and visit local botanical gardens. A highlight of the meeting is the flower show, a competition of displays of flower arrangements, potted plants, and cut stems that are judged by horticultural experts.

Ready to GoThis year’s annual meeting was held in Rochester, NY from May 16-18, and the theme was “Kaleidoscope.” Every garden club in New York State was required to design and enter a container planting with a specific color scheme — either yellow-orange, pink-red, or blue-purple — presented in a 14-inch terra-cotta-colored pot filled with plants owned for club members for no less than three months, i.e, no going to the garden center and buying perfect plants a few days before the show.

BuildingItGCI chose blue-purple. Beginning last fall, Renee and I approached the competition as a club project, with members rooting cuttings and planting bulbs. Over the last few weeks, all of us combed our gardens for blue-flowering plants. The harsh winter and late spring added to the challenge.

The planting was designed by Renee, Donghai Zhen, and me. Thirteen club members grew and contributed plants including amsonia, blue chalk fingers, Cape primrose, comfrey, dwarf blue cypress, evolvulus, forget-me-nots, phlox, streptocarpus, ‘super blue’ pericallis, and wood hyacinths. Club president Susan Weisenberg contributed the bearded irises, the centerpiece of the arrangement.

In Rochester, NY, horticulture co-chair Renee Shamosh and former club president Anne Myers with the winning entry

In Rochester, NY, horticulture co-chair Renee Shamosh and former club president Anne Myers with the winning entry

The judges awarded our entry a first-place blue ribbon as well as the Rosie Jones Horticulture Award for: “An entry of exceptional visual appeal that reflects the spirit of growing with joy and enthusiasm and inspires others to propagate, grow, show and share horticulture.”

The entry was accompanied by a “key card,” which lists the botanical and common names of the plants and indicating their relative position in the container.

GCI BlueContainerKeyCard

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A Walk Down the Road

There are still patches of snow on our lawn. Yesterday, I woke up to a fresh coating of white all over everything. Around here, in the New York City suburbs, everybody wants to know when winter will be over. Many have escaped to warmer climates for spring break. Our spring break was a few weeks ago, in Northern California. We rented an AirBNB house in Sebastopol, a town about 50 miles north of San Francisco. As I recover from my strained muscles from shoveling snow, I’ve been enjoying browse images from a morning walk.

Spring had  arrived and everything was bursting into bloom. The woman who owns the house keeps chickens, and it seems everyone on the road has farm animals—and/or a vineyard. I learned that llamas like to eat apple cores and peels.

Sebastopol House

Spring  Road-Vineyard



Farm Animals


And then it was on to a day at the beach at Bodega Bay, watching the Pacific break over the rocks, and a picnic.

What is surprising about all these scenes is that California is in the midst of the drought crisis. California looked green driving all the way to Los Angeles. I’ve seen it much browner  along Highway 101. Today, Governor Jerry Brown imposed water restrictions on homeowners and farms and other businesses. We shall see what the summer and fall, the growing and harvest seasons, bring.

Pray for rain. Lots of it.


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It’s Spring! (in Northern California)

The snow is falling again in the Northeast, and I look out at the fading light in my garden, which is two colors: the gray of the tree trunks and branches and the white of the snow.

In San Francisco, however, though the air is chilly, spring is popping out all over. Last week, I spent a peaceful afternoon in the San Francisco Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park. Besides the California poppies, every kind of spring-flowering tree and bulb is in bloom. The Garden is divided into collections, including the Southeast Asian Cloud Forest, Moon Viewing Garden, and Garden of Fragrance (aah, jasmines!) I loved the giant succulents, vines, and tropicals, and the little wildflowers peeking out. Here are a few of my favorite shots:



Passion Vine


At the garden shop, I was particularly taken with this mountain lilac or Ceanothus ‘Ray Hartman’ for sale for $9. The tag said: “20 ft height and width, upright habit, very fast grower, sun, tolerates any soil; low-no water; hardy to 14-20 degrees F, 20-25-year life, light-med blue flowers 6″ spikes.” So what’s not to love about this plant? Must look for it here in Westchester nurseries. Oh-oh, tag also says: “Deer love new growth; do not plant in high deer areas; no fertilizing, soil disturbance, soil amendments. In other words, leave it to be happy in the California deserts.


Monterey Cypress

Monterey Cypress




VW Bus

Another genus and species (almost) native to California. This VW bus is the home office of a cartoonist who outfitted it with computer, sound systen, wi-fi. He parks it around San Francisco and enjoys the view while he works and sends emails.


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Julia Child’s Kitchen

On a recent visit to Washington, DC, there was nothing I wanted to do more than visit Julia’s kitchen at the new Smithsonian National Museum of American History on the Capitol Mall.

The museum has the vibe of the office building it once was, but Julia’s home kitchen is authentically Cambridge, Massachusetts circa 1970s. It contains the tools and equipment from the time Julia began working on her first cookbook through to 2001, when she donated it and all its accouterments to the Smithsonian Institution.

Visitors are greeted with videos of Julia’s famous PBS series, “The French Chef” — even though some critics liked to proclaim that she was neither French nor a chef. Okay, more accurately, Julia Child (1912-2004) was “The American Author and Cook Who Brought French Cooking to America.”


Julia on TV

TV Chefs

And there’s a wall of images of other TV chefs. Look, there’s the Galloping Gourmet and Mario with Martha Stewart. Oh, well.

Of the kitchen itself, I was a little disappointed that visitors can’t walk inside. But even through the plexiglas walls, it was a delight to see and experience. It was real and made for cooking, not for show. No granite countertops, no open plan with center island and all the other bells and whistles people want to today. Just good, solid, sturdy appliances and the kind of pots and pans and utensils you can really cook with.






I learned to cook by cooking my way through Julia’s books, and was happy to see that she had the same beat-up, food-stained cookbooks as I.


Here are some of my favorite pages, with helpful illustrations from “Mastering The Art of French Cooking.”

3 Julia Asparagus 3 Julia Mushroom 1

A few years after I moved to New York and (temporarily) got a bit disillusioned with the graphic design business, I wrote Julia a letter and asked her if she needed an assistant. She wrote a lovely note thanking me and advising me to “plunge right into all the food opportunities in New York.” I so wish I’d saved that letter. I would frame it and treasure it… or maybe I would send it to the Smithsonian.

After Julia’s kitchen, there’s a whole food floor of American-food-themed exhibits with everything from TV dinners to BBQ aprons, and then floors of fascinating Americana including various First Ladies’ inauguration gowns.

Too bad the food in the cafeteria is so dismal. They didn’t learn anything from Julia, even how to master the art of the tuna sandwich.

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