The Lucky Gardener


Winter Sights
November 21, 2011, 20:42
Filed under: Uncategorized

It took a few decades of designing gardens for me to appreciate how sculptures and garden art can add another level of interest to the plants and hard-scape structures I’ve always included. Having seen gardens with way too many examples of ‘art’ littered around the property, I proceeded cautiously incorporating pieces into my designs and my own gardens. I have a few pieces I am fond of, two of which were made by a friend, Gil Hawkins, a New Jersey-based sculptor. On loan (perhaps permanent at this point, eh Gil?) is a brushed aluminum piece entitled, “Hudson Highlands”. It has been installed in my gardens with the Hudson River as backdrop. and a detail…   In celebration of my son’s Blessing Day, Gil presented us with a mobile. The two piece construction featured a ginkgo leaf and ginkgo nut suspended in a vertical plane. I have known Gil since 1980 and he in my life at the genesis of my garden design company, G. biloba Gardens. The Ginkgo has always been my favorite tree and Gil captured my object of my affection with the simple  and touching gift. I move it around the gardens occasionally, to see how its movements change with different exposures.     Another piece is special to me as well. It is an early 20th century stone pedestal carved from red sandstone. It reminds me of the building fragments scattered about the grounds of the Roman Forum…yet even better that is it hand-carved from slabs of my favorite local stone. The final garden art in my gardens is a creation from a collection of weather vanes known as ” Wind Leaves”. I purchased this in the early 1980s, from its creator, Bart Kister. This one, a dogwood leaf, is solid copper and has turned effortlessly in the gardens of every house I’ve ever owned. I also bought a Ginkgo leaf ‘vane, but time claimed it a while ago.   Of course, I have to admit, there’s something about a giant frog greeting you at the end of a day…



Seasons Changin’…
November 18, 2011, 12:48
Filed under: garden design, House Plants, Indoor plants

…just like that. It’s colder outside and darker earlier. House heat comes on – drying out the air. No more hosing down the plants to water them. Delicate pouring is the only way to keep the plants alive and not ruin the floor.

I hope these make it through to Spring.



Transplanting A Giant
November 9, 2011, 12:12
Filed under: fallen trees, inspiration, storm damage

In my landscape design/build firm, refurbishing a client’s landscape occasionally involves removing well-established specimen trees. Frequently, the client will offer us the tree in exchange for what they imagine will be a huge discount off of the job price. Invariably, they’d heard wildly exaggerated stories of the value of the tree and images of 4-figure savings dance around their heads. Ninety-nine and seven-eighths percent of the time, we can’t move, or aren’t interested in, the tree. When we were offered the Japanese Split-leaf Maple pictured below, however, it was too good to pass up – especially when we knew exactly where to put it… OUR garden!

Always a risky venture, the decision was made to commit the time and resources required to move the mature specimen.

Early one morning, four men set out to begin the transplanting process – equipped with truck, excavator  machine, trailer, shovels, burlap, baling string, hoisting straps, peat moss and fertilizer.

Extracting the fifteen-foot wide tree from the ground required every tool they brought to the site, including the horticultural knowledge and delicate maneuvering skills each man had acquired through years of experience.

Once successfully separated from its native soil and loaded on the trailer, the operation shifted to prepare the spot where the tree would spend the rest of its (hopefully) long life. The following slideshow and video chronicle the final phase of the project.

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Día de los muertos…de las plantas: A Pre-Halloween Trick

In most parts of the United States, our days leading up to Halloween can be busy hanging ghoulish decorations, carving pumpkins and perfecting costumes. This year, though, if you live anywhere in the Northeastern US, such plans were set askew by a freakish snowstorm that blasted its way up the Atlantic Coast just two days before ‘tricksters’ were to swindle ‘treaters’ out of their candy.

Nearly one foot of snow fell here in Nyack. The weather event came so early in the autumn season that most trees had yet to complete their end of year leaf-drop. As a result, gravity’s pressure on increasingly snow-laden leaves began to quickly and violently detach limbs from trees and trees from soil.

Looking out at the tops of trees swaying in the strong winds, I heard dozens of loud cracks, followed by ‘smoke-like’ puffs of snow, then finally definitive crashes of wood hitting the ground.

Magnolia, Bradford Pear, Purple Plum and Tulip trees seemed to be the most affected, though no species was uniformly spared.

Many old-growth trees and established landscapes were destroyed – a loss of plant life much worse than had resulted from any hurricane or ice storm I can remember.

The aftermath looked like a tornado. A Bradford Pear, about thirty feet tall, was felled in perfect symmetry, as the following pictures show.

In many countries, Halloween is not so much about candy, but rather for remembering family and friends that have died. Certainly, the massive loss of trees caused by this storm qualifies a new type of celebration for El Dia de Los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.