Sunday, November 26, 2006

Plants like martinis, too. Are we really surprised?

Given the title of my blog, I must take special note of this post on Garden Design Online. Amazing! Replacing the water in a container of paperwhites with a 7-1 water-gin solution (once the roots have begun to grow) will stunt their growth enough to keep them from getting too floppy and top heavy. Learn more at the original post; I won't repeat the whole thing, but it's backed up by a Cornell study.

I have a couple caveats. One of the reasons I mail order special cultivars from Brent and Becky's (who are the GDO favorites as well) is that I actually like the height of tall paperwhites, and use deep glass containers to supply the support they need. Nonetheless, I think I'm going to try this with one of my current crop of paperwhite starts.

My other caveat is that I must seriously demur with GDO about it not being the season for G&Ts. It's ALWAYS G&T season. In fact, I was just enjoying a few Tanqueray and tonics at a party last night. Martinis are trendier, but you can drink more G&Ts, and you get the benefits of the quinine.

He's got balls

This is why we don't bother to do much holiday decorating. Not because we think it's tacky, or care about the waste of energy, or deplore the commercialization of Christmas—none of those reasonable objections pertain.

No, it's because we have a neighbor who has set the bar so high anything we did would look paltry. (Of course, he sets it for himself as well.) Unfortunately, I don't think I can capture the red lights too well, but those are strung lavishly around his steel B, and fall in a curtain over the side bay windows. The balls around the door are an annual feature, and this year some imposing, um, icicles (?) have been added. It looks best at night. (I just don't think I can get the shot.)

I think Martin demonstrates that holiday decorations can be fun, creative, and cool.

Oh well! Guess we'll put our little candles and icicle lights (so passé) in the windows again.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Madness and mayhem

When I heard there was a full line-up of book signings for the Garden Walk book, I was pleased. When I realized that the first signing would take place at the Galleria Mall the day after Thanksgiving? Not so much.

This was at Waldenbooks; over the next two weeks we will be doing signings at Barnes and Nobles, Borders, and some local outlets. I think most of the shoppers were a bit too crazed to pause for a signing today, but we did a few. I also don't know that it's a book that people really need signed, exactly—and my handwriting is so grotesque. Too bad I can't do calligraphy like my friend Cheryl (who did the DVD). (The ability to write legibly would probably suffice.)

The place was thronged, of course, and the usual ugliness was going on over parking spots. Oh, yes, and there's construction too. But they do run some pretty good promotions, I got an illustrated boxed set of Chronicles of Narnia for free with a purchase from the book store. Now I have to find a kid who doesn't have it.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Strange fruit

Above, in what I can proudly say is one of my crappiest photographs EVER, you can see the rare flowers of the common dracaena fragrans (corn plant), a nondescript cultivar normally used for office fodder. Nonetheless, I sort of like it, and I always get excited when, once every three years or so, it blooms. The flowers aren't great looking but once they get going, the fragrance fills the entire upstairs. We have two but only the one in my husband's study ever blooms.

There's something strange and exotic about seeing plants we take for granted suddenly take on these strange forms. I expect the cyclamen, African violets, and Christmas cactuses to perform, but this is a plant that is just supposed to sit there and stay green. Like I said, the flowers aren't much. It's late November, though, so we'll take them.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Trees—they're on it

Amidst all my lamenting about the losses to Western New York’s urban and suburban tree canopy, I neglected to mention that there are many groups and individuals very active here in the reforesting effort. A Re-Tree WNY group is joining the existing Olmsted Conservancy and Green Fund efforts to advocate for the replacement of thousands of lost trees.

A Re-Tree Now Sprouting article in today’s Buffalo News details some imaginative initiatives, including one that asks local artists to create sculptures from large felled trunks that could then be auctioned off for the cause.

Here are some excerpts:

Pizza Plant in Amherst has offered to pick a menu item that, when ordered, would generate a donation to the reforestation effort, and a local confectionery is interested in designing and selling tree-shaped cookies that would benefit the cause.

And Therese Forton-Barnes' plan to turn felled trees and stumps into art that would benefit the cause is also taking shape.

Forton-Barnes said she has secured 35 to 40 large tree trunks for the project, which would mimic the "Herd About Buffalo" campaign of several years ago.

She said there is another component as well. Inspired by a similar effort that followed a storm in Truro, Nova Scotia, Forton-Barnes said she would like to save some of the stumps of the larger trees so that artists can carve them into the faces of local historical figures.

"We'd like to be able to start that next week," she said, adding that Frederick Law Olmsted would be an obvious choice as a subject for one of the wood statues.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Beautification with a huge B

This evening, at a pleasant gathering of the community organization whose board I am rejoining, I warned them all that my first crusade would be to bring back hanging baskets to our neighborhood. Last summer, it seemed many other block clubs and business groups were able to maintain beautiful baskets all summer long. So I just don't see why we can't. "But we have to keep them watered," they said. "Yes," I replied. "I think it can be done."

To be honest, it is a big pain in the ass to maintain baskets, but I think it's worthwhile. And to be fair, there are a few other beautification chores we usually don't have—such as reforesting Allen Street and the adjacent green spaces. We also have a little pocket park we started and never finished. Nonetheless, it will be fun doing neighborhood beautification again.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Fun with flowers

Tomorrow I am providing the flower arrangements for a benefit dinner we're organizing (as well as cooking a good part of the food, but I won't get into that) and one of my fellow board members read somewhere about using gerberas in little shot glasses of varying heights, I guess about five to a table. The lowness of it sounds right. And I love gerberas at this time of year; their warmth is very welcome, and there's no scent to interfere with the food.

I'll report back on how it turns out. Boy, those suckers are kinda expensive, even with a discount, but I refuse to work with mums or carnations. Though—I've heard from a event designer friend that amazing things are being done with carnations these days. Towering constructions of carnations and baby's breath are apparently all the rage.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Note to self—landscapers to avoid in the highly unlikely event I move to Texas

Here's the letter:

I am appreciative of your time on the phone today and glad you contacted us.
I need to tell you that we cannot meet with you because we choose not to work for homosexuals.

Best of luck in finding someone else to fill your landscaping needs.

All my best,


Todd and Sabrina Farber
Owners, Garden Guy, Inc.
visit us at:

Member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers

Creating beautiful landscaping for Houston homeowners since 1991!

Phone 281-208-4400
Fax 1+801-365-9353

UPDATE: I've been asked to document this. It's actually old news—it was reported (from Houston) in the Los Angeles Times on Monday, by writer Lianne Hart. Here's an excerpt:

The co-owner of a landscaping company here called Garden Guy turned down a job last month by sending an e-mail to a man who had requested an estimate for work on his yard:

...[see above]

Floored, the recipient of the e-mail, Michael Lord, and his partner forwarded the message to dozens of friends. Within days the e-mail had spread across the Internet in blogs, websites and gardening forums from Seattle to Washington, D.C.

Farber and her husband, Todd, who've owned the landscaping company since 1991, were bombarded with profane phone calls and e-mails. Their online forum flooded with outraged posts.

"It blackens my mind to think that an alternative version of the KKK is alive & kicking in the USA," read one of the milder comments.

The Farbers, declining interviews, released a statement saying they "do not hate homosexuals" and "did not refuse service with malicious intent.... We meant to uphold our right as small business owners to choose who our clients are. We are humbly sorry for the hurt that it has caused."

And that's all I'll quote, as I dislike violating other people's copyright. But the simplest of googles will yield a rich harvest of commentary on this issue.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Why I always buy cut flowers

I sincerely wanted to take this poll, mainly because polls are fun, but couldn't participate. For me this is one of those "When are you going to stop beating your wife?" situations.

I really, really love buying flowers at all times. Even when the garden is producing cut flowers (never enough) I usually find myself supplementing them, particularly for special occasions.

But there doesn't have to be an occasion. Here it is, an ordinary Monday, and I'm looking across the room at a vase of white roses and some ornamental berries, while in other rooms there are a variety of arrangements. When the bulbs get going, I'll have less room, but I actually look forward to winter for one reason—there is every excuse to buy flowers. Not that I need any.

Friday, November 03, 2006

A treescape forever altered

These crabapples in Johnson Park were among the survivors.

Many of you will smile at my ignorance—and I truly am ignorant about trees; I can barely tell them apart—but I learned a lot of disturbing and eye-opening facts about Western New York tree damage during a talk with a certified arborist yesterday.

It was interesting to hear him assert that previous lack of trimming had nothing to do with how the branches fell. He said some of his most regularly pruned trees were destroyed by the storm, and maintained that the amount of leaves on the trees and their positioning (east of a building being the worst) were the most crucial factors.

He says he’s most worried not about next spring (because the leaves gave up their nutrients before the storm hit) but about the following springs, when less branches and leaves on the trees will mean less food going to the roots, making them vulnerable to insects and disease.

To some degree he took a conservative position on the possible unnecessary removal of many trees, asserting that it does look much different when you’re in the bucket than from the ground. But I did get him to agree that the company most at fault had originally been hired to remove branches from power lines and had minimal professional standing as arborists. That’s pretty much what most of us think already, of course.

I feel like I want to learn more about trees. I’m certainly appreciating the ones left standing a lot more.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Viewing the Garden Walk DVD while intoxicated

Nobody’s asking, but nonetheless I’m here to report that our first glimpse of the Garden Walk Buffalo publication was a great success. Sure, there are some minor glitches (Jim, I found the typo and a couple other very small ouches in the text), but overall it looks great. The photography is very nearly perfect, and I think the choices show off neighborhoods, architecture, and Olmsted as well as gardens.

So, anyway, we started out with champagne then kind of devolved into whatever bottles were open or could be opened. The most enjoyable part of the evening for me was the DVD, which I had not seen in its final form. They lucked into some gypsy-jazz musicians playing in a restaurant patio during the Walk and were able to use this for the DVD soundtrack. And there are so many cool quotes. I wish I had an excerpt I could show here—hopefully, soon.

The interviews have a great casual feel—my friend Deb chatting to the interviewer in her doorway, kid noises from within; me, face hidden by huge shades, mumbling about god-knows-what; Tom, lounging by his pool, pronouncing that, without soil amendment, “it’s not gonna happen, people!” They used the music and the moving feet of the walkers very effectively as transitions.

Well, you’d have to be there. Maybe I can grab some stills.