Home & Garden

The miracle of life in a dead garden

With all my travel, my fire escape garden has been sorely neglected. In fact, nearly everything out there is dead. Most stuff did not survive last summer/fall, and what managed to hang on died this spring. Everything that is except my pinks, which are growing well and on the verge of exploding with blossoms.

So yesterday I leaned out the window to clean some dried dead stuff out of the container (old dried pinks from last summer) and as I did so, I moved a dead rose plant out of the way. All of the sudden, there was a huge fluttering of wings and lots of cooing, and right there, nestled between two containers was a momma dove and her nest of eggs!! I hadn't noticed the nest because it wasn't visible from my window, but there it was once I moved a pot. I quickly replaced it, and momma dove settled back onto her nest.

Now I just need to figure out a way to view the nest and watch the family's progress without disturbing them. Perhaps a small camera mounted on the railing of the fire escape? Last spring a dove family created a home in my neighbor's window box. I wonder if it's the same family, this time relocated to have a nest with more of a view? I can't wait to watch and see when the babies are born!

If you live someplace snowy

I've been a Martha Stewart Living subscriber for years now, and there's always something neat in each magazine that I want to do. This month's magazine (December 2005) has a great snow pillar idea. You pack snow into a Bundt pan and make "cakes" then stack them and put a candle inside! The pictures in the magazine are better than the single one shown online, but you can get the idea. In the mag, they have several pillars lining the walkway up to a house. If I had a nice walkway to a house, I'd totally do this!

The joy of the outdoor shower

Outdoor ShowerA common feature at beach houses in New England is the outdoor shower. (It may be common at other beach houses in other places too, but I don't have experience with that.) It's supposed to keep people from getting the inside of the house all sandy after a day at the beach, make it easy for a quick rinse off of salt, etc., and probably also handle the extra bathing requirements of a house full of guests. But beach day or not, hot day or cool, I use the outdoor shower whenever I possibly can! Because there's something so pleasant about taking a shower outside -- watching the trees bend in the wind and the clouds move across the sky and listening to the birds twitter and squeak. Unlike the indoor shower, which is dark and cramped, outdoors the feeling is expansive, almost wild. I feel it lends itself to the best shower thinking and day dreaming. It's just such a nice start or end to the day. The true end of summer for me is marked by the day when I have to return to the indoor shower.

The end times are upon us

Sadly I must admit that last night in conversation, I used President Bush's wretched malapropism misunderestimate. And I wasn't kidding around.

Luscious brightly colored floors

Over at the Apartment Therapy blog, Max has a great post about How To: Paint Your Floors and Not Screw it Up. He and his wife repainted the floors in their summer house and it looks lovely. Makes me long for a place where I could do this. I've never been much of a rug person, and this seems like such an interesting alternative, if you've got the right kind of space.

Gardens cool and trendy now

"The Blog Generation Takes Up Its Trowels" is a New York Times article on young urban gardners, many of whom are artists. The article describes, "a passion that is blossoming among a certain segment of culturally plugged-in urban 20-somethings and early-30-somethings. They may not own backyards, but they are determined to make things grow." Why that sounds just like me! Alas, I found the article annoying and hipstery, but I'm happy that more people are discoverying the joys of gardening.

Also, what? "The Blog Generation"? Egad.

Garden ahoy!

The Bountiful ContainerOne bitterly cold weekend day in January, I sat on my bed with McGee & Stuckey's Bountiful Container at my side and began sketching my plans for this year's fire escape garden. The goals: everything (or nearly everything) would be edible so I could cook with it; good smelly flowers, so cuttings could be brought indoors; and hardier specimens, such as a lavender that's hardy to 0° so many plants will (hopefully) survive the winter. Yesterday, I reworked some plans and placed orders. And during a scouting expedition to the garden center, I purchased a pink primrose. It now sits on my windowsill, harkening spring.

You too can begin your garden now (where now equals planning and ordering but not necessarily planting since I don't know where you live and what you're planting!), and I cannot recommend the Bountiful Container more strongly. This book has proved so useful time and time again, and I constantly return to its pages for the handholding that I, a novice green thumb, require.

A new Nantucket perennial garden

cranesbill geranium from gardenOne of the things I did while on Nantucket was plant a new perennial garden along the edge of the lawn. My Nantucket Perennial Garden gets lots of sun, so I picked plants that would thrive with sun. I also selected plants that were relatively tough, since the soil is sandy and during the summer it can get pretty dry.

It took about three days of work to get the garden completed, and my mom helped me get all the plants into the ground. It was lots of fun, and if I had more money to buy plants, I'd keep extend the garden along the rest of that edge of the lawn. For now, what's there will suffice. And who knew I could make a stone wall? Not me.

Goodbye garden

It's pretty chilly today, 41°, and tonight's predicted lows are below freezing. So I spent the afternoon picking the last of my tomatoes (10!) and looking over recipes from September's Martha Stewart Living for green tomatoes. I cut down the plant, brought my rosemary and lavender indoors, and moved the holly and boxwood onto the windowsill, where it will remain through the winter. The fire escape garden has moved into its winter cycle, which makes me a bit sad because I miss my flowers and herbs and the joy of growing my own tomatoes. But I'm also excited and expectant, looking forward to seeing berries on my holly, and watching the snow build up on the railings in another month or two. Hello garden, phase two.

Garden woes

So for the most part, things are going along swimmingly (or should that be sunningly?) in my garden. The tomatoes are ripening, one is even now orangish! My basil is growing like mad, and following the instructions in the wonderful McGee & Stuckey's Bountiful Container, I've cut the flowering plants back so that only four leaves remain on the stem (thereby creating a "basil factory" as they say, because now it will start growing again). With all the basil, I've been making pistou, a sort of French pesto without nuts, which freezes really well and tastes delicious on the grilled pizzas I've been making (recipes soon). So yes, things are going well. Except something's eating my climbers! :(

I came home a few days ago to find a bunch of my morning glories all wilted and fearing I'd failed to water appropriately, dashed out my window with my watering can in hand. Upon inspection though, I realized they'd been bitten off at the base. By a bird? A squirrel? Also the top of one was bitten off as well, so I lost two morning glories and one cypress vine and maybe the top-bitten-off one will cease to grow too. Does anyone have any idea what could have done this? And how to protect my garden from future attacks? I fear for my luscious tomatoes! And all my other lovely plants.

Rainy garden view

fire escape garden

Using my new .5x wide-angle lens, I took a picture of my fire escape garden for those that are interested in seeing it. It contains a lot of pots of dirt still. In the foreground you can see my petunia blend (midnight, orchid, and lilac). To the right of the windowbox, you can see the basil. Hang in there basil, the sun will come some day! At the end of the basil, there are chive seeds. No sign of chives yet. Beyond that you can see my tomato plant, which has flowers! No sign of tomatoes yet. And next to it, that long box of soil contains my climbers: a mix of pink, red, and white cypress vine and a mix of azure blue, pink, white, and rose morning glory. If all goes according to plan, the climbers will grow up along the railing of the fire escape and treat me to a bounty of blossoms, "from mid-summer until the first frost." If they actually grow, I'll be amazed. Cross your fingers!

Yay! Garden awards

I'm Urban Garden of the Day. I'm so proud! And I'll try to post some more photos soon, you should see those climbers, they've sprouted already and are growing like crazy! They really enjoyed the sunshine yesterday.

Garden update

tomato plant on fire escape


seedlings of cypress vine and morning glory

Little seedlings of cypress vine and morning glory. Boy do these fellas grow fast! They were planted less than a week ago, now look at them!

Post-trip garden update

Everything's grown like crazy while I was away, like an amazing amount! The basil is huge, tomatoes are growing rapidly, and the climbers are winding themselves around the fire escape railing already!

tomato plant on fire escape basil plant on fire escape

fire escape garden viewed from far window, with wide-angle lens

Litter Pearls

If you own a cat and do one new thing this year, let it be this: switch to crystal litter pearl cat litter (the link is to one brand, there are several). It's so amazingly good. First, there is no smell. Honest to God, no smell. Ever. Smell is gone. Second, the crystals absord the pee, so when you scoop, you only scoop the poop, which is faster and easier. And there's none of that clay clump breakage you get with the clumping litters. This is what the future is about. This is progress. Only twenty years ago you had to empty an entire pan of litter and fuss with trash bags, now the miracle of science has brought us silicon dessicant and litter pearls. I [heart] the 21st century.

Greatest dog in the world

What could be better than photos of the greatest dog in the world? Photos of the greatest dog in the world frolicking in the snow. I especially love the one where his ears are flying out from the side of his head. He's got great ears.

Longing for spring

Heather Champ's pictures of the flowering trees in San Francisco never cease to amaze me. Simply lovely, and make me long for spring when our trees in New York City aren't close to blossoming yet.

This is more of a note for myself but you might like it too: my new favorite way to wile away the hours is to look at photos of Cabin Porn. What I wouldn't give for just a visit to one of these magical, remote places.