Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

Houseplants are the guests that never leave shoe marks on the floor or dirty dishes in the sink. In return for their invitation, plants offer mental and physical relief from the chaos of daily life. I’ve written before how gardening is therapy, and working with interior plants is no exception.  With a winter as blustery and dreary as this one, there is no better way to “think spring” than getting a beautiful houseplant for your home.

Interior Plant Display

Plant a couple small foliage plants together in one container to create a mini garden.This display includes Asplenium nidum (Bird’s Nest Fern), Codiaeum variegatum ‘Pictum’ (Garden Croton) and Begonia sp. If you are adventurous add some natural decorations like feathers, branches or pebbles to give it a unique look. Remember DO NOT OVERWATER. The soil should dry out between waterings. Stick your finger an inch into the soil to feel the moisture level. If you water too frequently you will encourage root rot making your plant susceptible to a host of diseases and pests.

Some of my favorite low maintenance interior plants include:

1. Monstera deliciosa (Split-Leaf Philodendron)http://houseplants-care.blogspot.com/2006/05/caring-for-split-leafed-philodendron.html

2. Ficus Lyrata (Fiddle Leaf Fig) http://tree-species.blogspot.com/2009/03/indoor-fiddle-leaf-fig-care-tips.html

3. Sansevieria trifasciata (Snake Plant)http://www.desert-tropicals.com/Plants/Agavaceae/Sansevieria_trifasciata.html


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Seed Pod of Cytisus Scoparius

There is more to gardening than showy Geraniums and pink Petunias. Daylilies have their spotlight too, but someone needs to tell them to get off the stage. My favorite part of gardening is that you can eventually look past the showstopping floriferous spectacles and see the smaller details of plants that are often overlooked. Sometimes these details are the way the veins are colored in a leaf, or the presence of inconspicuous flower structures on evergreen shrubs. This seed pod appeared about 4 weeks ago on some Scotch Broom (Cytisus scoparius) on a rooftop. It is a small fuzzy seed pod with a beautiful bluish tinge. When I saw it, I realized I have never noticed the pod on this plant before. I also saw these all over Fire Island last weekend.  The shape of it reveals it is in the Leguminosae family. That’s right, this plant is in them same nitrogen fixating family of plants along with peas and beans.  Tomorrow morning when you are sipping your coffee on the terrace, take an extra minute to find something new.


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Coronilla varia L.

Crown Vetch starting to overtake a planter

 Somewhere along the way we have been led to believe it is possible to plant a garden that will take care of itself. With ploys of xeriscaping, automatic irrigation systems, and plants cultivated specifically to be slow growing, disease proof, and pest resistant, we have convinced ourselves that we can set it and forget it. As a horticulturist of over 12 years, I can tell you that such a garden simply does not exist. To put it in perspective, think about your family pet- perhaps it’s a Chihuahua that gets a bath 3 times a week, dresses up in leopard print with chiffon ruffles, and eats out of a glass goblet. Well, plants are living things too, and though they may not wag their tail and bark, they want just as much care and attention.

Even on rooftops in Manhattan maintenance is a critical component of the long term success of a garden. With container gardening, maintenance becomes even more important. Not only are the effects of the surrounding environment exaggerated to plants growing in planters, but containerized plants really stand out like art on a pedestal. In New York City, where space is nonexistent and weight limits are restricted, every plant we put in a garden must perform at its best. Regular pruning, fertilizing, soil replacement, and pest management are the fundamentals of rooftop garden maintenance. 

Weeding should not be forgotten either. I have come across more Coronilla varia L. (Crown Vetch) than I care to see in the past few weeks. I have never seen this weed on rooftops before this season, but it seems to be cropping up everywhere. If you see this in your garden get out the shovel and some gloves. You’ve got to pull out every last root of this invasive intruder to ensure the success of your other plants. The bottom line is if you don’t have a gardener, you should find one to consult with even if you don’t want to commit to a routine care program. Jeffrey Erb Landscape Design offers gardening consultations and flexible garden maintenance programs for rooftop and terrace gardens in Manhattan. http://www.jeffreyerb.com/services.html


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I often say that gardening is the best kind of therapy. It is cheap, and plants always listen. There is no prognosis, diagnosis, or prescription at the end of a day of gardening, and the mixture of aesthetic bliss mixed in with the honest sweat on your brow goes beyond the feeling of satisfaction.  

I  find that I take the most joy out of gardening by noticing the small details. When I worked on my gardens in Pennsylvania, my cat was my garden companion, and I was in such a relaxed state when I was pulling the thistles out of my perennial borders with my delightfully obese orange tabby by my side. In New York, my garden is now in the shape of a 50 square foot terrace, limited to several containers with room for a small grill and cafe seating for two.

While cleaning up the annuals for fall, I pulled out the Ipomoea batatas (Sweet Potato Vine) to find little sweet potato tubers growing in my containers. Of course I have had this happen in planting beds in the country, but I didn’t expect to find so many growing in my limited container space. I have never heard of anyone eating the tubers of the ornamental sweet potato vines, and don’t recommend it as these plants have been cultivated for their showy qualities as opposed to their agrarian counterparts. Regardless, it is fun to find these little surprises in the garden. Perhaps this spring I will try some actual veggies on the terrace in addition to my herbs.


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Fall is a tricky time for gardening. With cooler evenings, and more frequent rain, gardens tend to prepare themselves for winter while their owners continue tramping around in their sandals fearful to unpack their cool season sweaters. I see this every day walking around New York City; impatiens linger in forlorn planters while hardier vines fill in spots now left empty from earlier summer spectacles.  

The first day of that crisp autumn air always sets off my annual alarm that says it’s time for apple cider, spiced chai lattes, pumpkins, squash, and all things accompanied by the refreshing seasonal changes. Fall is also time to refresh you garden, and a few changes can add just enough zing to last your landscape through frost.

Try these simple tips:

  1. Add Lights for Evening. Temporary luminaries are terrific for outdoor events, while solar lights are a more environmentally friendly long term option.
  2. Have fun! Don’t take the garden so seriously. Enjoy the harvest and all things bountiful, mix it up a little and add color or seasonal interest where you may not do so for the rest of the season.
  3. Look for contrasting foliage instead of short lived blooms as a backdrop for the garden (leave the mums behind)
  4. Paint a snow scene without using the white paint. Can you paint a fall scene without the typical hues of yellow orange and red? Consider an alternative pallette with rich burgundy, brown and olive. Or how about pink and lime green. Think of ways to translate this into your plantings, and outdoor accessories. 
  5. Skip the flowers and go straight for the berries. Callicarpa americana (Beautyberry) is a personal favorite, and is readily accessible garden centers.


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