Sunday, January 31, 2016

Recommendations for Combating the Mid-Winter Blues!

Dear Gardening Friends,
     In bleak mid-winter, (now, in other words), it isn’t just a lack of vitamin D, caused by insufficient sunshine, with its attendant risk of weakened bones that one must take measures to rectify. Another seasonal debilitating ailment, is one I refer to as a vitamin “G” (as in “G”arden) deficiency, wherein a lack of greenery and the absence of color, among other things, induces a sense of spiritual lethargy manifested by indifference to ones surroundings, disdain for the political process and a weakening of ones ability to resist bad TV. The urban dweller and the suburbanite are both equally vulnerable to this condition. If a visit to tropical climes isn’t on ones agenda, one might be tempted to despair. But, fear not! Effective remedies are at hand, and accessible to every budget.
     For a lucky few, from January 22cnd until the 31st, at the Park Avenue Armory in New York, the 62cnd annual Winter Antiques Show, A Benefit for Eastside House Settlement, is underway. There, seventy vetted dealers have scoured the globe to present the most rare and beautiful antiques, art and decorative furnishings one can imagine. Among them, Barbara Israel has once again assembled an inspiring selection of garden furnishings to suit every landscape, grand or intimate. I did hear one visitor complain as she left, that “Years ago, it was possible for a middle-class person (like me) to actually afford to buy something.” “Now,” she continued, “these are all museum pieces.”

     A favorite remedy for the Winter Blues, also sometimes referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder, that is so simple as to seem obvious, is a bouquet of fresh flowers. These days, even the neighborhood grocery is likely to have a supply of flowers on hand.  In these parts, along Broadway on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, we are fortunate to have vendors whose open-air displays of flowers are by themselves, a tonic for the neighborhood. Just to view them as one walks past has an edifying effect on ones psyche.  For just twelve dollars – less than the price of a packet of cigarettes, and infinitely better for ones health – one can acquire a bouquet of twenty roses in the color of ones choice, from pure white to the deepest red, and nearly every hue in between. I encourage those with a slightly larger budget to visit the newest iteration of Surroundings, flowers and event planners, recently opened at 2675 Broadway at 102cnd street, on the southwest corner. There, Stephen Buchwald and the friendly staff, monitored by canine companion Katie, the Bischon Frise, bring their years of experience to creating delightful floral arrangements for every occasion – or, no occasion at all. They pride themselves on having one of the largest selections of cut flowers to be found anywhere in town, and welcome browsers, no purchase required.

     There is more. Chances are, if you live in the country, you already have a birdfeeder. If not, I urge you to consider investing in one. The dividend will be untold hours of entertainment by your local avian community - as long as you keep the feeder filled! Especially when the ground is snow-covered, and other sources of food are unavailable, a feeder is a lifeline to the birds, just as their aerial acrobatics will be an endless source of fascination for you. What is more, if they learn to associate you with food now, the birds will continue to return in the Spring and Summer when their songs will be the soundtrack of your landscape, and their presence can be an aid in pollination. Even urbanites can undertake to support a birdfeeder, though you may find that the birds must compete with other, undesirable creatures for the seed!
     If there is anyone who still needs to consult a seed catalogue, here are links to a few of the dozens of catalogues and online sites that I enjoy:

Keep gardening!

( All photographs copyright Everett H. Scott, 2016. All rights reserved. No image may be used or reproduced without express written permisssion from Everett H. Scott.)

Monday, January 18, 2016

What's On Your 2016 Gardening Agenda?

     So, Gardening Friends, what is on your gardening agenda for 2016? Although we have only just passed the middle of January, already I can sense the increasing minutes of sunlight that will eventually fuel the coming seasons growth. Though there is snow and cold ahead of us, it isn’t too soon to begin planning for the coming gardening season, however you choose to engage with it.
     Perhaps you are perusing the seed catalogues that have begun to arrive, in search of the varieties of vegetables and/or flowers you want to grow? Will you select old favorites or opt for new, untried varieties? Perhaps you are planning a visit to some admired garden(s), that you want to experience in person, first-hand? Will this be a “Day trip,” or are overnight accommodations required? Be mindful of any change in growing zones, if you want to bring home ideas that you pick up on the road.  If Santa didn’t arrange it, perhaps you want to put getting a copy of the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days guide to public and private gardens on your “to do” list?
     When not browsing through seed catalogues, I have been enjoying reading Andrea Wulf’s engaging book, Founding Gardeners, The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation, published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2011. She writes of the relationship that Washington, Jefferson, Madison and (John) Adams had to their surrounding landscapes in the newly independent United States, and the impact of that relationship on their ideas about government and politics. Especially in this, an election year, this book has made for particularly interesting, informative reading. Also, one of the frequently mentioned locations in the book, Bartram’s garden in Philadelphia, Americas oldest botanical garden, which supplied many of the native plants these men cultivated, is now on my list as a “must-see” garden destination.
One of our Fall garden activities the results of which will extend into the Spring, was the Wrapping-of-the-Fig-Tree, (a Vern’s Brown Turkey variety), now about five years old. For the first three years of its life, it was grown in a large cast stone pot. It was brought into the basement “Limonaia” for the Winter, where it grew well enough, but never produced much fruit. Then, encouraged by stories of them surviving the local (zone 7a) Winters, I un-potted it, and planted it in the ground on the south side of the house, where I hoped that the combination of the southern exposure and radiant heat from the bricks would help it to survive. Last Spring, as the garden began to “green up,” we watched each day for some indication of the fig returning to life. And we watched. And we watched. And we watched some more. When nearly everything else had begun to produce fresh growth, there was still no sign of life from the fig.
     I had about given up on it, and was preparing to dig out the stump, when, brushing away leaves from the very center of the tree at ground level, I finally discovered a tender new green leaf, right at the heart of the plant! Over the course of the season, the tree did indeed thrive, doubling in size AND producing fruit, despite having endured one of the coldest, snowiest Winters on record. But, could we avoid almost losing the tree again? I remember, as a child, watching over our back fence in the Fall, as our Sicilian neighbor Charlie, would bend his fig tree over until it was prone with the ground, then mound it over with soil and tar paper, effectively burying the tree. It was always miraculous to me, when in the Spring, the tree was uncovered and filled with budding green leaves. I wondered if now, I could devise an alternative way to protect our tree?
     Last Fall, we decided to take no chances this Winter, and came up with a plan for increasing the trees protection.  Four eight-foot metal stakes were driven into the ground close to the tree’s roots to form a rectangle. We opened the bottom of a thick-sided cardboard box and pulled it over the trees stalks, down to ground level, then, using the four stakes as support, pulled another open-bottomed box over the upper portion of the tree stalks. We used straw as insulation, to fill in the open space between the trees branches and the cardboard boxes. Then, we used two heavy-duty black plastic trash bags, one with its bottom cut open so that it could be pulled down to the ground over the stakes, to enclose the straw-filled boxes. The other plastic bag fit over the top of the stakes and covered the exposed upper portion of the tree, providing a wrapping for the tree. The black plastic trash bags overlap, allowing air to circulate, but the tree is protected from the worst of the chill winds, ice and snow. Come Spring this year, we will see if our efforts to protect the tree are successful.
     Keep gardening!


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Presenting the Potager at Penrose Bungalow 2016 Calendar!

Greetings gardening friends! I hope the excitement that accompanies the beginning of the year will be yours throughout all twelve months. To aid in reaching this goal, once again I present the Potager at Penrose Bungalow (2016) calendar. In it, are depicted a series of images of the garden at Penrose Bungalow, throughout the seasons, with broad views and close-ups, showing a range of the edible plants as well as the ornamentals that together make for a "little slice of heaven." I hope these images will whet your appetites for digging in the dirt, no matter what you grow. Anyone interested in having their own hard copy of the calendar is encouraged to write to me through the comments section of this blog, or at  Click on the link below to view the calendar, and give the pictures a minute to upload. Good luck with your garden this year, wherever it is!