NYC Rooftop Gardner big photo

NYC Rooftop Gardner big photo
September, 2013

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Mockingbird


I have been trying to grow Telekia Speciosa for a very long time.  It took me two whole years to identify the plant as I had seen it up at Innisfree in the summer of 2012.  Then I purchased seeds from two separate organic farms online and nothing came up from either batch, a total of 4 plantings, plus one set of stratified seeds.  I was getting annoyed as I'd been wanting this plant for a long time.  Then one day a whole bunch of seedlings emerged and I was ecstatic.  Finally, it looked like a BIG BOUNTY of yellow and brown flowers would be blooming later in the summer.  The shoots grew vigorously and in such abundance I could just imagine a beautiful stand of this exotic daisy-like flower.  Within a month they were nearly 3 feet tall.  I transplanted them to a few choice spots.  When the flower buds formed, they were little white specs that sort-of resembled tomatoes.  Hmm, definitely not the large Rudbekia-like blossoms I was expecting.  Soon enough, clusters of small green berries appeared.  I took photos and posted them on All About for identification.  At first I was told they were Deadly Nightshade which is poisonous.  A few posts later I was informed that it was Black Nightshade, and they were edible.  I tried a few and they were tasty;  not as sweet as blueberries, but similar.  By now, they were taking over the container with my baby Gingko tree, and the 2 other pots where I had planted them.  The leaves were infested with mites and looked totally moth-eaten.  I was ready to  pull them all out as soon as I had a free morning.


Next time I was up in the garden reading a book and relaxing when a grayish-brown bird with a white belly landed on a pole and started squawking.  For years, we’ve had a continuous flow of Mourning doves and Catbirds, but I had never seen this bird before. 


I watched it turn in each of the 4 cardinal directions, perched on that black exhaust pipe, announcing something to each direction.  I knew not what the special message was, or who it was meant for.  But I was intrigued by the new visitor and watched curiously.  With a flap of it’s wings, it hopped from the pipe onto the Gingko, and then dove into the Nightshade. It hopped back to the black pipe with a berry in it’s beak.  With a swift jerking motion, it tilted it's head back, opened it's beak, and down rolled the berry.  Then it flew up to the railing above the elevator shaft and wiped it's bill on the cloth rope that was holding the outdoor lighting in place.  After a few more chirps, it flew back down to the black pipe, squawked to the 4 directions and dove into the bush again, repeated the ritual.


At that point I decided that I would not be pulling out theMockingbird2   Nightshade.  Until that moment, it had not occurred to me that other creatures were feasting on what I thought was an invasive plant.  The Mockingbird came to eat berries every day for several weeks until I became inspired to harvest some for myself.  My husband declared they were delicious and ate them on his granola every morning.  Message from the universe:  Consider the bigger picture before making decisions.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Honeysuckle Dreams


The Song of the Honeysuckle Fairy

The lane is deep, the bank is steep,
The tangled hedge is high; 
And clinging, twisting, up I creep,
And climb towards the sky.
O Honeysuckle, mounting high!
Woodbine, climbing to the sky!

The people in the lane below
Look up and see me there,
Where I my honey-trumpets blow,
Whose sweetness fills the air.
O Honeysuckle, waving there!
0 Woodbine, scenting all the air!

-By Cicely Mary Barker, 1925

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Wondering about Wisteria

I wish I knew why I got so excited and heart-filled-to-bursting whenever I see Wisteria blossoms hanging down from arbors in the spring.  Perhaps it dates back to my earliest Wisteria memory.  I had recently learned how to ride a two-wheel bike and had earned the privilege of riding alone beyond the safety of our block.  It was springtime and I ran home from school and got on that red bike.  I pedaled all around the somewhat hilly neighborhood called “Wooded Estates” that bordered our flat street.  It was dusk and I was trying to remember the way home when I came to a double dip hill.  Before I knew it, I was speeding straight into a patch of sand and the bike spun out of control.  I hit the pavement with shock, indignity and a skinned knee.  I pulled my bike out of the road and sat down to collect myself.  Big girls don’t cry.  There, right next to me was a beautiful stand of wisteria along a fence.  I had never seen anything like it, and the fragrance pulled me out of my panic-stricken pain mode into a world of wonder.  I just sat on the grass smelling that almost grape-like-lavender smell and feeling the cool freshness of the blossoms.  AAH, the healing power of Wisteria.  Plant Medicine.  Her spirit was working on me and I didn’t even know it.  Soon the owner came out and asked me if I was OK, and by then I really was OK and recovered enough to get back on the bike and go home.  From then on I changed my route walking home from school so that I could pass by and smell the Wisteria.  It became something I looked forward to every Spring.


I bought this wisteria vine at the farmer’s market 4 summer’s ago - locally grown, 3-4 years old. I didn’t know much about wisteria and assumed it would grow and bloom profusely since that’s the impression I’ve had when I admire it in public gardens. Our roof has tall railings and beams around the water tower that would look nice covered in purple blossoms. I had no clue that this would be a long-term realization, as it is still not very tall.
Last year it bloomed for the first time with 8 clusters. Then it became infested with aphids and caught a virus that made the leaves mottled and wilty. I read online that this can’t be treated and the plant would likely die.  In a panic, I cut it way back – all the unsightly areas got snipped off and it recovered. The winter was so harsh but I wrapped the pot in foam packaging and this spring it has about 20 blossoms. WOW. The fragrance is divine. And the mullein fills up the bottom of the pot beautifully like a gentle soothing anchor. I love Mullein for it’s medicinal properties, clearing the lungs, lubricating joints and moisturizing our internal organs.  Perhaps the Mullein helped the Wisteria heal from it’s virus.