NYC Rooftop Gardner big photo

NYC Rooftop Gardner big photo
September, 2013

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Holidays Greetings -- December 2013


Holiday Greetings and a Joyous New Year!

As the darkness of winter descends, we reflect inward and share highlights from 2013. Our homeschooling days are coming to an end; Ariela passed the GED test and received an official NYS diploma. For the moment, she is working part time at the trendy clothing store, Urban Outfitters, and learning about fashion, retail, consumer behavior and the working world.


Nancy is eagerly awaiting her retirement pension after 13 years of homeschooling!! During this transition time she is breathing deep and looking inside to nurture the seeds that will sprout into the new person she wants to become. She and Ariela continue to study spirituality, healing, and primitive skills at the Tracker School and beyond. She still runs the Coyote Tracks program in Central Park where Ariela has joined the staff as an assistant instructor. Herbal wisdom and deeper connections to the earth drive our family towards sustainable, healthy living that includes home cooked, mostly organic, gluten free foods, juicing and wild foraging.


Gary became a senior citizen in April. While figuring out how to file for Medicare, we felt the weight and anxiety that our society carries about what retirement means. In this economy, with health insurance premiums taking up more and more of our income, retirement is not a consideration. So far, the biggest perk of being 65 has been riding the subway for 1/2 price! In October he took his quartet, The Good Pennyworths, to Texas and back singing 17 concerts in 18 days. The music was wonderful and it was a treat to meet appreciative audiences in many parts of our vast country. In the coming years, Garald plans to spend more time sharing the music he loves.


This year marked the 12th bi-annual campout with our NYCHEA homeschool friends. Besides practicing fire by friction and survival activities, we delved into tanning rabbit hides procured from a local farmer. Ariela reports that she learned… courage to face the reality of life and death; deeper connection to our food sources; to challenge herself to step out of a comfort zone and further understand where our meat comes from; patience to see it through and show others how to do it; gratefulness to the rabbits for being there and to the farmer for providing them; respect for all animals and the gifts they provide; acceptance of the circle of life--that in order for humans to eat, living things must die; awareness that not all animals raised for food are killed with as much respect; and lastly appreciation for the beauty of their fur. Perhaps most importantly, we learned that no matter how prepared and enthusiastic we were, it is impossible to predict other people’s reactions. It was a deep growing experience for the whole community. We still have a few hides in the freezer if you want to give it shot.

And for most of the summer and into the Fall, all of us spent many enjoyable hours planting flowers and relaxing in our rooftop garden here on West 98th St. It is a welcome retreat in this fast paced NYC environment. All of the flower photos on our card were taken up there.

Be at peace in the coming year!

Gary, Nancy, Ariela & Mary (the cat)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Celosia Spicata from Sunnyside

We will probably never know whether or not this Celosia Spicata was growing in the gardens of Sunnyside when Washington Irving wrote The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, but I like the thought of having that type of connection.  While studying the Hudson River School and Early American Literature we took a field trip up the Hudson and stopped at Sunnyside.  It was the end of the season and most of the garden had gone to seed.  We collected a few dead heads and this is one of them.  It turned out to be fantastic in the summer heat and was one of the last blossoms in October.  They lasted for 4-6 weeks until a storm snapped the stalks.
P1030546 P1030069P1030543P1030073

Monday, September 2, 2013

Sunset Mallow a.k.a. Abelmoschus manihot

Mallow-Pod-118kbSome herbalists and Native American healers Mallow-pod-seeds-118kb

say that plants will show up in your garden or property for a reason.  They come to find you when you need them. So there I was walking in the Conservatory Gardens in Central Park when I found these interesting-looking seed pods in a pile of brush. I took a few home to plant. They grew vigorously and by August were up to 9 feet tall. Although they looked like a hibiscus, I didn’t know what they were so posted photos online and discovered the name, Abelmoschus manihot.  It turns out that this plant is widely used in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) and relates directly to my own health issues. WOW, they were meant for me!  They were initially classified in the hibiscus family, but are now considered in the Malva family. The blossoms reach up to 10” across, and bloom only for one day. They catch the light beautifully and remind me that each day is filled with it’s own excitement.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sunny Sunflowers



WOW the sunflowers were just amazing this year.  They are such reliable, quick growers it is nice to watch their progress daily.  This year they grew to 15 feet tall.  I had two varieties – one was Mexican, and the other was something sunny.  They looked stunning against the dark metal wall of the stairwell.  And the blossoms lasted for several days and attracted a lot of bees. 



Monday, July 15, 2013

The Reliable Rose of Sharon



The Rose of Sharon is like a reliable and steady friend blooming throughout most of the summer and into the fall.  Although the flowers only last a day, they are a constant source of color and beauty.  These medium sized shrubs do well in containers and bloom when the garden is used the most - mid-summer.  This makes them a great choice for the rooftop. 


I started using the blossoms as a point of focus during my morning Tai Chi exercise and noticed that bees get drunk on the pollen and fall down inside.  What a way to start the day, drunk on flower nectar.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Early Summer 2013

It’s always so exiting to come up to the roof in the Spring and see what survived and what needs to be replaced.  The winter wasn’t too harsh and most things survived.  We lost our tall grasses, an echinacea, and some coreopsis.

Some of the perennials are three years old now and coming into their own.  The Honeysuckle still doesn't grow like it does down on the High Line, but we had some lovely blooms early in the season.  The Wisteria bloomed for the first time this year, which was awesome!  We have had it for three years now.  They say that a vine has to be 7 years old or more before it will bloom, so I am glad that we got blossoms after three.  In the mid-summer the leaves were looking wilted and shriveled on the edges.  This turned out to be a virus they can get from aphids.  According to the internet, we could lose the whole plant.  So I cut back all the branches that looked infected and it grew forth quite vigorously.  I am sometimes impatient with both of these vines.  I envision them twining around the water tower blooming profusely throughout the summer, but so far, they don’t grow that much in one season.  Despite the fact that I see honeysuckle growing along train tracks in harsh conditions, mine succumbs to the heat of the roof and powdery mildew by mid-July and I spend a lot of time tending the diseased areas.  I still love them both and hope they survive this winter.Wisteria first bloom-3 yrs old   2013 Honeysuckle 3

Monday, July 1, 2013

Who we are.

Our Co-op building has been creating a rooftop garden for the past 4 years.  We are located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in a 10-story, 100 year old pre-war building.  This garden has become a tranquil respite from the crazy pace of New York City, and has created a peaceful sense of community for all who use it.  It has been a labor of love for those of us who make it happen.  You’d be surprised how difficult it is to find dirt on the Upper West Side, not to mention large planters and garden hoses.  But the effort becomes worthwhile during those balmy summer evenings when the sunset clouds are reflecting off the skyscrapers and you can lean back and feel a breeze off the river while catching a few stars in Orion's belt.