NYC Rooftop Gardner big photo

NYC Rooftop Gardner big photo
September, 2013

Tuesday, March 18, 2014



The tobacco plant is native to the Americas and has been used by indigenous peoples in ceremony and as medicine since before the Christian Era.  It was used for toothaches, and for dressing wounds. When burned in a pipe for prayer ceremonies, the smoke is not inhaled into the lungs.  Native people would offer tobacco leaves as a gift to European settlers when they first arrived.  It was used as a bartering item and was often considered “as good as gold.”  Columbus brought it back to Europe as a plant known for it’s medicinal and insecticidal properties. During the Colonial era smoking cigars and pipes became popular.  It’s addictive properties did not become apparent until people who smoked regularly tried to stop and realized how hard it was.  The chemical nicotine was identified in 1828 when a German scientist classified it as a poison.  During the Civil War smoking became more widespread to ward off hunger, and then later during the 1900’s cigarettes gained popularity.  During the World Wars cigarette use among soldiers became even more common.  The way tobacco is cured has a direct effect on the level of nicotine.  If leaves are simply pulled or cut off the stalk and dried in the sun, they do not have as much nicotine as when they are dried slowly using gradual heat.

This particular tobacco has a wonderful perfume scent that is stronger in the evening.  It is an incredibly hardy plant that grows well in a container and takes the rooftop heat, although it also attracted aphids and green caterpillars.  Symbolically, because of it’s ceremonial use, I am happy to have tobacco growing on my roof.



Sunday, March 16, 2014

Love Lies Bleeding - Amaranth

Love-Lies-Bleeding-1Amaranth is a highly nutritious food dating back to the Aztecs and 0LoveLiesBleeding talllooks pretty cool on the roof.  It’s a self-sowing annual that is native to Central America, and found in India and Asia as well.  The leaves might not look like much, but the blossoms are fun to watch.  They can get quite quite long – up to 24 inches.  They tolerate the heat although they don’t thrive it in.  It takes a lot of fertilizer to keep the leaves looking nice.  Otherwise, it’s a nice long-lasting addition of low-maintenance color – red blossoms starting in July, and reaching their ultimate splendor in September.  When the tassels get really long, they need to be staked.  Amaranth doesn’t need dead-heading to continue blooming.  Sometimes the Rose of Sharon, Hibiscus and Morning Glories can wear me out with endless dead-heading to keep them blooming.

NUTRITIONAL VALUE:  All parts of this plant are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).  The roots will tonify the spleen.  The leaves are highly nutritious, similar to spinach.  The seeds are high in protein and minerals and can be cooked, popped, or ground into flour.  They contain high levels of L-Lysine, which might be why I like them.  They also  contain high levels of calcium, phosphorus, iron, potassium, zinc, vitamin E and B complex.


I love the way the long tassels touch other plants – they start off at the top of their own leafy stalk, but as they hang down, they will pass by other flowers along the way – as if they are coming to visit.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Euphoria Marginata–Snow on the Mountain



This is a beautiful, self-sowing annual that grows well on the roof.  The plants that self-sow grow taller and bloom for longer periods than the seeds that I tenderly plant and then transplant.  The hardiest plants came up between the cracks of the roof tiles.  It makes a great fill-in the spaces between taller shrubs and border annuals.

I fell in love with this plant at the Brooklyn Botanical garden and was happy to find seeds online.  It blooms from August through September and takes the heat pretty well.