Thursday, September 23, 2010

Interesting Event: Rare Vegetable Auction at Sotheby's in New York City

I just came across this short news item on the website of the German newspaper Die Zeit:

Sotheby´s versteigert Gemüseschätze

Thanks to the link in that article, I also found another article In English about the same event from The Wall Street Journal:

Sotheby's Puts Veggies on the Block

Apparently, vegetables belonging to rare heirloom varieties are being auctioned off as a benefit for The New Farmer Development Project (NFDP), an initiative that helps immigrants with a farming background to work as farmers in the New York area. You can also find more information about that program at their website. I for one think it is a very interesting concept, all the more so if it helps preserve yummy old varieties that might otherwise disappear due to market pressures that have to do with everything but flavor.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Summer Travels 2010 - Part 13: The Nek Chand Rock Garden in Chandigarh, India

Probably Chandigarh's most well-known attraction, the Nek Chand Rock Garden, is a fantastical labyrinth of sculptures, pavilions, water falls, valleys, squares, and tunnels, all constructed from various discarded materials such as broken tiles and pottery as well as copious amount of concrete. The whole creation is the brain child of Nek Chand Saini, a roads inspector who began collecting materials from construction and demolition sites around the newly developed city in the late 1950s. He began assembling them into his own "kingdom" on forested public land in the north of the city which had been barred from development. By the time his activities were discovered in 1975, his fanciful garden had grown substantially and there was considerable public support for the preservation of the site. The garden became a public park in 1976, and Mr. Saini was given a salary and a workforce to continue its development.

One of the many passages, this one covered in white tile fragments and decorated with sculptures of animals - I am not sure what kind they are supposed to be - humans

A sprawling set of steps in one of the courtyards

Mangrove-like tree trunks made from concrete

A waterfall descending beneath an airy pavilion

A large open square with multiple levels
Another large waterfall
Some very colorful peacock sculptures

The park is open daily and the entrance fee is very small, though I forget what the exact ticket price was. If you want to find out more you can also visit the website of  The Nek Chand Foundation, though I think some of the information might not be entirely up-to-date.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Day Out in Boston

Originally my friend Amanda and I were supposed to go to the New England Dessert Showcase in Boston yesterday but when we got there we found the line snaking from the hotel through the adjacent mall and around the block. We stood in line for about 45 minutes until we were told that they were well over capacity and we could try to come back later but they could not guarantee that we would be able to get in then or alternatively we could simply give up and request a refund on our tickets. We opted for the latter and decided to get our dessert in one of the Italian pastry shops in the North End instead and since the weather was nice we chose to walk. That decision, in turn, is what really led to this post because on the way - as well as during further post-dessert wanderings - we saw plenty in the way of flowers, parks, and gardens. The first space that caught my eye was the small but exuberant garden that has been planted in front of the Old South Church on Copley Square.

The sign in front of the church explaining the garden

One of the sections of the garden filled with dramatic tropical flowers and foliage from plants such as purple-leafed taro (Colocasia esculenta), canna lilies (Canna indica) and coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides)

An orange-flowered impatiens (Impatiens sp.)

Another section with more delicate plantings

Another sign identifying the flowers used in the garden

The next place of horticultural interest that we passed was the Boston Public Garden. While its tea roses, clipped yews and impressive bedding schemes were beautiful as always we did not linger for long because the garden was also incredibly crowded.

View towards the western edge of the Public Garden

A bed of a dwarf variety of  Hibiscus moscheutos edged with Tradescantia discolor

View across the central portion of the garden

Red hybrid tea roses (Rosa sp.) in the rose bed near the western entrance of the garden

View across the lake in the middle of the Public Garden

After reaching the North End and eating some delicious cannolis and other such things, I saw a beautiful stand of four o'clock flowers (Mirabilis jalapa) in a tree pit there. I am very fond of these and though they often seem to grow in fairly difficult spots and with little care, I have never had much luck with them. Fortunately other people do not appear to have that problem, though.

Four o'clocks (Mirabilis jalapa) in the North End

From the North End we decided to wander on towards Chinatown, since that is where we were going to have dinner anyway. To get there, we walked along the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, a long, narrow band of relatively new public parks that arc from the edge of the North End southward to Chinatown. These parks occupy most of the land that was won when Boston's massive Big Dig project put a big tangle of roads underground. While I had seen parts of the Greenway before, I had never walked along its whole length. The different sections of the park land vary quite a bit in style, which made this an all the more wonderful walk since there was a new surprise every couple of feet.

Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) in Christopher Columbus Park

The small rose garden in Christopher Columbus Park

A white hybrid tea rose (Rosa sp.) in the rose garden

A section of the Greenway in the Wharf District

Another view of the park in the Wharf District

A group of crape myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica), which I had never before seen used in public plantings around here

Another view from the Wharf District

Pink and white double Japanese anemones (Anemone hupehensis var. japonica)

A bed of blue geranium (Geranium 'Rozanne')

Bigleaf hydrangea, presumably Hydrangea macrophylla 'Endless Summer'

A flower bed in the Dewey Square section of the Greenway

A map showing the entire extent of the Greenway

At the entrance to Mary Soo Hoo Park, which forms the Chinatown end of the Greenway

Water feature in Mary Soo Hoo Park

My wonderful friend Amanda modeling the delicious jasmine honey iced tea we bought on the way

We concluded our adventures with a meal of Malaysian food in Chinatown. On the whole, it ended up being a wonderful day - great company, yummy food, and lots flowers and interesting landscaping. If you want to know more about the Rose Fitzgerad Kennedy Greenway you can visit the website of The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Conservancy.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Article on Landscape Architecture from The Harvard Crimson

A friend alerted me to this interesting recent article from The Harvard Crimson, Harvard's college newspaper:

Architects of the Outdoors

I think the article does a surprisingly good job at drawing attention to various aspects of landscape architecture and maintenance that might not necessarily be on most people's minds and that too in an institutional context that does not exactly scream "horticulture".

Some More New Plants

Plant shopping in the area immediately surrounding my college campus is rather limited; there are a few small flower shops, one of which is pretty great as far as florist shops go but none of them has a particularly big selection of potted plants. Without an alternative source of plants, however, my little indoor garden remained dependent on whatever affordable potted plants they happened to get in throughout the past three school years. Imagine my surprise when I found out that there is an actual garden center about a 15 minute walk away in the neighboring town! With much empty space still left on my window sill, I decided to check it out. As far as garden centers go the place is relatively small, crammed as it is in a more or less urban space.The selection of plants was not huge with the exception of spring bulbs, of which there were more species and varieties than I have ever seen at a comparable place in Michigan. What they did have, however, was an interesting mixture of the typical and the rare, with sedums and hydrangeas next to hardy cacti and orchids. The house plants on offer were not quite what I had expected - I had really hoped for a small parlor palm (Chamaedorea elegans) - but I nevertheless ended up coming home with a box full of new plants.

 Philodendron hederaceum

After only finding Philodendron hederaceum micans at Home Depot I did get the normal species that I have had for years back in Michigan and which I hope will do well in our bedroom window here. Other foliage plants I ended up buying include a cultivar of rex begonia (Begonia rex-cultorum) with leaves patterned in dark green, silver, and brownish red. These appear to be quite problematic for a lot of people; they even warned me about them at the garden center! However, the one I had last year which is now in Michigan with my parents did fine when and where virtually nothing else would so I have little reason to complain. Furthermore, I bought a purple velvet plant (Gynura aurantiaca) and an asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus 'Sprengeri'). I do not have any previous experience with either of these, so we will see how things go.

Begonia rex-cultorum cultivar

Purple velvet plant (Gynura aurantiaca)

Asparagus densiflorus 'Sprengeri'

I also got some succulents. One is a young red-flowered crown-of-thorns (Euphorbia milii), the other a small Agave from the Proven Winner brand of plants, which sells them as annuals for bedding out during the summer. Unfortunately it was not tagged and the pictures on the company's website are not entirely conclusive, so I am not sure which of the thirteen varieties of Agave in their series I picked up. As for the Euphorbia milii, I decided to get it since I have never had one before and this year I have a window that gets a lot of sunlight and should thus be able to accommodate such plants. Hopefully it will do well; it appears to be one of those plants that can take a lot of neglect and still grow and flower happily. I remember there being an old but continuously flowering crown-of-thorns in the otherwise bare window of the dry cleaning store that we used to go to when I was a little kid in Germany and just a few weeks a go I saw one flowering happily in almost no soil in a restaurant window that was not even very sunny. We will see if mine will be a similar success story.

Agave sp.

Crown-of-thorns (Euphorbia milii) - I know the picture is quite bad but on the upper right you can just make out a new inflorescence emerging; the flowers have since turned red

Finally, I bought two young spike plants (Cordyline australis) which had been left over from the spring annuals and were on sale. While they are nice enough in themselves, the real reason I bought them consists of the impatiens seedlings (Impatiens walleriana) which were growing in the same pots. Young impatiens potted up in the fall made excellent winter house plants during my high school years in Michigan, so I hope these will do similarly well.

One of the impatiens, with the Cordyline australis visible in between

There are three separate impatiens seedlings overall. One has salmon-colored flowers and one white ones with a dark purple mark at the center. The third one, however, has not yet flowered, so I am excited to see what color it turn out to be.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Summer Travels 2010 - Part 12: Some More Parks in Chandigarh, India

I realize I have written several rather lengthy posts on Chandigarh's parks already and I promise I will move on to other sites - such as the famous Nek Chand Rock Garden - very soon. However, since I still have a ton of decent pictures of a number of beautiful parks in the city, I decided to do one last post, covering parks I did not mention in my previous posts about Chandigarh. One such park is Leisure Valley, a large park of undulating lawns and groves of trees and bamboo interspersed with more formal flower beds. Despite the oppressive July heat and the fact that the monsoon had just set in a few days before, this garden offered plenty of beautiful flowers.

 View into Leisure Valley from one of the gates

A group of cypresses (Cupressus sempervirens) with a field of pink rain lilies (Zephyranthes grandiflora)

Yellow oleander (Thevetia peruviana)

Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides)

A path lined with spider lilies (Hymenocallis littoralis)

Caesalpinia pulcherrima

A large block of orange cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus)

A little bridge over the creek that runs through the park, half hidden behind large stands of bamboo
Coxcomb (Celosia cristata)

Tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa)

This appears to be some species of Brunfelsia, though I am not exactly certain which

Chinese trumpet vine (Campsis grandiflora)

Other parks I enjoyed while in Chandigarh include the Garden of Fragrance, the Bougainvillea Garden, and many small neighborhood parks, so here are just a few more pictures from some of those:

The entrance to a neighborhood park

A bed of clipped foliage plants in the same park

The main path in the Garden of Fragrance

A large flowering fish tail palm (Caryota urens)

A very interesting flowering shrub with a long, dangling inflorescence. I have not been able to figure out what this is, so if any of you can identify it, please let me know!

A blossom of Magnolia grandiflora

Lagerstroemia speciosa, the bigger cousin of the common crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)

I hope you like the pictures and I will be back soon with more posts. Have a great weekend!