Festival of the Trees #13

Festival of the Trees #13: Putting Down Roots is up on Wrenaissance Reflections. WrenaissanceWoman subtitle her blog "Notes from a Backyard Wildlife Habitat" and it's always an interesting read. You can also find a link to it in my Gardening blogroll in the sidebar.

This is the first anniversary issue of Festival of the Trees. WW writes in her introduction:
Trees are inextricably linked to places, perhaps because it takes them so long to reach maturity and majesty. When we become very attached to a place, we liken ourselves to the trees, and say that we have put down roots. This month's Festival of the Trees looks at places where trees have taken hold, including places in our hearts.
WW has found lots of good reading, stories of trees from all over the world. Go check it out and leave her a comment about your own "trees of the heart."

I submitted a recent press release from the Parks Department about the planting of a new Tree of Hope in Harlem, on on Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard between West 131st and 132nd Streets. The stump of the original Tree of Hope, an elm, greets performers on the stage of the Apollo Theater:
The Tree of Hope came to symbolize the promise that Harlem held for so many African Americans and performers such as Ethel Waters, Fletcher Henderson and Eubie Blake were said to have visited it. But in 1934 what was then called the Boulevard of Dreams was widened and the tree was removed. Today, thanks to the suggestion of the Copasetics Connection, a new tree stands near the original site to commemorate this important piece of Harlem’s history. Although an American Elm, the original type of tree, could not be planted because it is susceptible to disease and pests, the new tree is a member of the elm family, a Zelkova.
- A New Tree of Hope Takes Root
I was surprised and pleased to see that WW also picked up one of my posts from earlier this week, the most recent addition to my Grief and Gardening series. I wrote about revisiting, for the first time in nearly 15 years, my first garden in NYC. The centerpiece of that garden is a maple tree.


News: First images of noctilucent clouds from space

A view of the North Pole. White and light blue represent noctilucent cloud structures. Black indicates areas where no data is available.
Credit: Cloud Imaging and Particle Size Experiment data processing team at the University of Colorado Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics

These are the first images of noctilucent clouds from space.
The first observations of these "night-shining" clouds by a satellite named "AIM" which means Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere, occurred above 70 degrees north latitude on May 25. People on the ground began seeing the clouds on June 6 over Northern Europe. AIM is the first satellite mission dedicated to the study of these unusual clouds.

These mystifying clouds are called Polar Mesospheric Clouds, or PMCs, when they are viewed from space and referred to as "night-shining" clouds or Noctilucent Clouds, when viewed by observers on Earth. The clouds form in an upper layer of the Earth’s atmosphere called the mesosphere during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer season which began in mid-May and extends through the end of August and are being seen by AIM’s instruments more frequently as the season progresses. They are also seen in the high latitudes during the summer months in the Southern Hemisphere.
This is basic research in earth science. One thing is already known: the clouds are changing.
Very little is known about how these clouds form over the poles, why they are being seen more frequently and at lower latitudes than ever before, or why they have been growing brighter. [emphasis added] AIM will observe two complete cloud seasons over both poles, documenting an entire life cycle of the shiny clouds for the first time.

"It is clear that these clouds are changing, a sign that a part of our atmosphere is changing and we do not understand how, why or what it means," stated AIM principal investigator James Russell III of Hampton University, Hampton, Va. "These observations suggest a connection with global change in the lower atmosphere and could represent an early warning that our Earth environment is being changed."
PMCs occur 50 miles/80 km above Earth’s surface. This is at the top of the mesosphere. It's almost at the thermopause, the boundary between the mesosphere and thermosphere. In the United States, if you travel to this height, you're considered an astronaut. Just above this is where auroras form. Far below,
at 15-35km altitude, in the stratosphere, is the famous ozone layer.

We are so screwed.

Event, Flatbush, July 1: Flatbush Avenue BID Street Fair

The Flatbush Avenue Business Improvement District (BID) will hold their annual street fair this Sunday, July 1, from 10am to 6pm. Flatbush Avenue will be closed from Parkside Avenue to Cortelyou Road for this event.

Flatbush Avenue will be closed all day along those blocks for the Festival. This will backup traffic several blocks north and south, and on all adjoining streets. Flatbush Avenue is a challenge to navigate on the best of days. It will be impassable on Sunday, so walk or take the subway!

It's a busy weekend in Flatbush, with both the Electronics Recycling and the Grand Opening of the Cortelyou Greenmarket going on as well.


News: Burglary, Trespass, Theft and Vandalism Mar a Community Garden

Bed-Stuy Blog reports on a recent theft from the Clifton Place Memorial Garden and Park:
This garden, located on the corner of Bedford and Clifton Place, is so enjoyable to me because the members there are friendly and the place is beautiful. I held a special place in my heart for this garden because it has a koi pond visible from the sidewalk. ...
- Vandals Can’t Take Garden Members’ Spirit
I don't know this garden, but it's a lovely place, judging from the photos of it.
Earlier this week I stopped by to do my routine goldfish gazing and I noticed that the pond was no longer set up and the fish were mostly gone. There was only one koi in the pond and he was gulping for air trying to survive. I thought that the members were probably in the process of moving the pond, and that someone had accidentally forgotten this little fish. I immediately emailed Melvin, who heads up their garden club, and he responded promptly. He told me that they weren’t moving the pond; the pond had been vandalized and the person or persons who did it took the pond filter and all of the goldfish except one. He assured me that they had since taken that one abandoned goldfish out of the pond and moved him (or her) to another location.
Unfortunately, theft from urban gardens is an ongoing problem. (I just couldn't bring myself to write "perennial problem ...") I've known gardeners to weave barbed wire through the branches and root balls of shrubs they plant to deter the casual snatch-and-grab. Tactics like these will impede and reduce the risk of theft, but nothing can completely deter the determined criminal.

When we moved to our new neighborhood, we heard stories of containers stolen and plants ripped from the ground. Our next-door neighbors had someone pull up on a bicycle, dig their Japanese Maple out of their front yard, and cart off with it. Stories like these made me reluctant to plant anything, let alone containers, in the front yard. I've been lucky so far.

This episode sounds like someone cased the garden before they hit it. I can imagine a visitor, welcomed into the garden, gave thanks by coming back to break into the garden, trespass, and steal from the community for their private pleasure. The vandalism was inflicted out of rage or spite when they couldn't manage to get everything they wanted, such as the pump.

I hope it's reported as a crime, and that anyone with information comes forward to return to the community what was taken from them. Has anyone noticed any new water gardens make a sudden appearance in the past few days?


Grief & Gardening #7: The Garden of Memory

Yesterday afternoon I was in the East Village. I took a chance and went to visit the first garden I worked on in New York City. I haven't seen it in nearly 15 years.

It's not visible from the street. It's behind a tenant-owned building on 1st Avenue. You'd never know it was there, like so many hidden garden treasures in the city.

The last time I had seen it was sometime shortly after I moved to Brooklyn in 1992. I went back twice. The first time, I saw that, despite neglect, the garden was holding its own. Some things had spread surprisingly well. The hardy Begonia grandis had escaped the bed and spread into the dry-stacked brick retaining walls and halfway across the brick path. By my second visit, someone had "weeded" the garden, removing all of the Begonia, not knowing what they had.

It was a little disheartening. My move to Brooklyn had been disruptive. I was not so much moving toward something as running away from and leaving behind - abandoning - much of my life. I had hoped the garden would continue without me. It seemed as if it might not.

When I went to visit it yesterday, my expectations were low. It could have been worse. I noticed the big changes first, then some details.

20 years ago, we planted a paperbark maple, Acer griseum, as the centerpiece of the garden. It was an outrageous purchase: $300 for a 6-foot tree. I was astonished that it was still there. It's now huge, probably 20' high and as wide, nearly filling the width of the backyard. I noticed some dead branches, but otherwise it seems healthy and vigorous. With a judicious pruning, it has decades ahead of it.

The holly which had graced the corner of the yard was overgrown, leaning out from both walls, racing the maple for the light. The two large Ailanthus which had shaded half the backyard were gone. Much of the garden was a rampant carpet of green, mostly Virginia creeper.

Closer inspection of the green told me not all was lost. I recognized the leaves of plants I had planted all those years ago. Epimedium, Cyrtomium, lotsa Hosta. There's now a carpet of variegated Solomon's seal. Toad lily. Climbing Hydrangea. I even saw the distinct blue-green scalloped leaves of bloodroot, growing yards from where I had planted it.

And, I was happy to see, the Begonia is still happily seeding itself around. It had not been extirpated after all.

So the garden is still there. In desperate need of weeding and shredding, but largely intact. My visions of what the garden could become, expressed through the selection and placement of plants, have drifted and blurred.

I lived in the East Village for 12 years before moving to Brooklyn. It was where I landed in New York City. Through this garden, the breakup of lovers was transmuted into friendship. New lovers courted in its embrace. I celebrated my 30th birthday there. Many of the others who helped build this garden, men who were my neighbors, died long ago. That garden holds them in my memory.


Event, Sat June 30 to Mon July 2, Flatbush: Electronics Recycling

Trash 80, corner of Cortelyou and Stratford Roads, April 2007
Trash 80

This weekend, Flatbush is having its first ever electronics waste recycling event, sponsored by Sustainable Flatbush and the Lower East Side Ecology Center, and co-sponsored by Flatbush Development Corporation.

Saturday June 30, 10am - 4pm
Sunday July 1, 10am - 4pm
Monday July 2, 4pm - 7pm

Cortelyou Road between Rugby and Argyle

Accepted: Working and Non-Working
  • Computers and Peripherals
  • TVs and VCRs
  • Fax Machines, Cell Phones and Pagers
Not Accepted: Small household appliances such as microwaves and toasters

A receipt for your tax-deductible donation of electronics will be available. Please ask for it when dropping off.

For more information:

Lower East Side Ecology Center

Sustainable Flatbush

Meta: Email address in profile

My profile now lists an email address. To keep the spam down, it's not labelled as "email." It's at the end of the "About Me" text, obfuscated in the usual dot at fashion.

My blog has become more popular. I'm regularly getting over 120 visitors a day; the average for this month is 190 visitors, skewed by some very popular posts at the beginning of the month. Only 12% are return visits. I've also been getting more involved in my community.

I'm finding that folks want to be able to contact me directly with questions and feedback. Sometimes it's that they prefer private to public communication. Maybe it's that there's no relevant post to which to attach a comment.

Regardless, I'm open to direct correspondence. I've added the email address to my little cards. I realized I should extend at least the same courtesy to my readers!


The First Brooklyn Blogade, at Vox Pop in Flatbush

Update 2010.01.03: Corrected all links to the old Gowanus Lounge domain to the new memorial domain.

Blogade at Vox Pop

I hope to see many photos, and many posts, from this event. It was great fun.

[Confidential to New York magazine: We weren't all there, and we're not all "snarky!"]

Blogade at Vox Pop
Blogade at Vox Pop
Blogade at Vox Pop

The next event will be July 22 in Greenpoint, hosted by Miss Heather, New York Shitty. Watch her blog for more information.

Miss Heather, New York Shitty
Miss Heather, New York Shitty

Anne Pope, Sustainable Flatbush, was my co-host for today's event.

Anne Pope, Sustainable Flatbush
Anne Pope, Sustainable Flatbush

Many thanks to Sander Hicks and the staff at Vox Pop for hosting today's event.

Sander Hicks, Vox Pop, sander.gnn.tv
Sander Hicks, Vox Pop

Damn Paparazzi
Damn Paparrazzi

Petra, Bed-Stuy Blog
Petra, Bed-Stuy Blog

Claude Scales, Self-Absorbed Boomer
Claude Scales, Self-Absorbed Boomer

Rob Lenihan, Luna Park Gazette
Rob Lenihan, Luna Park Gazette

Eleanor Traubman, Creative Times
Eleanor Traubman, Creative Times

Robert Guskind, Gowanus Lounge
Robert Guskind, Gowanus Lounge

Dave Kenny, Dope on the Slope
Dave Kenny, Dope on the Slope

Adrian Kinloch, Brit in Brooklyn
Adrian Kinloch, Brit in Brooklyn

Louise Crawford, Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn
Louise Crawford, Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn



Monk Parakeet Munching on Young Apples

We had two parrots visit while I was gardening this afternoon. They were, of course, in our neighbor's apple tree.

Myiopsitta monachus, Monk Parakeets, also known as Quaker Parrots, have established numerous colonies in Brooklyn. They are Brooklyn's most charismatic potentially invasive species. They have expanded to other parts of the city and New York State. They are also now established in at least a dozen other states.

Monk Parakeet Munching on Young Apples

I only got good shots of this one of the pair. The other stayed in the foliage and was difficult to see. Here's a view of both of them.

Two Parrots in Apple Tree

Unlike last year, when I saw the first parrot in June, I've been seeing parrots in the neighborhood this year for at least two months. I just haven't seen them in my backyard this year until today.

The complete set of photos is available in a Flickr set.

Related posts:
Links (in alphabetical order by title):


Brooklyn Terminal Market is NOT Closed

The Brooklyn Terminal Market is NOT closed.

Yesterday I read:
The ladies doing their thing in the garden. (Disclaimer - these pictures are a few weeks old, but the Brooklyn Terminal Market - I think now closed for a while - was a great spot to pick up a lot of nice things at decent prices.)
- More Gardening, BedStuy Reno blog on Brownstoner
After reading that, I called Brooklyn Terminal Market and left them a message. Beverly Wiseman from BTM just returned my call. She was even more surprised than I was to hear that they were closed!

The Brooklyn Terminal Market, located in Canarsie betwen Foster and Remsen Avenues from East 83rd to East 87th Street, is open all year.

Reminder: Just Two More Days to the First Brooklyn Blogade Roadshow!

Credit: Adrian Kinloch, Brit in Brooklyn
Brooklyn Blogade Flatbush Flyer (Wide & Small)

The Brooklyn Blogade Roadshow will visit a different Brooklyn neighborhood each month. The very first is happening this Sunday, 2-5pm, here in Flatbush at Vox Pop on Cortelyou Road. See the home page for this event for details and RSVP information.


Event, Brooklyn, June 27: Owner's Night, HPD Advice for Residential Owners

Homeowners, co-op owners, building owners and landlords from the Brooklyn neighborhoods Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, Bedford Stuyvesant, Sunset Park, Greenwood Heights, Gowanus, Boerum Hill, Downtown Brooklyn, Stuyvesant Heights and Ocean Hill are invited to attend a Wednesday June 27th Owners’ Night at P.S 20 organized by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). ...

The event will provide information on the availability of HPD services such as low-interest loans, correction of housing violations correction and assistance with mortgages and refinancing as well as HPD courses including building management and maintenance, expense reduction strategies and owner-tenant relations. A panel introduction will be followed by a Q&A session.
HPD’s Owner Services Program travels from borough to borough, educating residential property owners about the availability of low-interest loans, free educational classes on subjects such as lead paint, energy conservation and fair housing as well as free owner counseling. Launched in February 2001, Owners’ Nights in neighborhoods have drawn more than 10,000 property owners to events across New York City.

WHAT: Owners’ Night, a program by the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development

WHEN: Wednesday June 27th 6:00pm to 7:30pm

WHERE: Auditorium of P.S 20, 225 Adelphi St., Brooklyn, NY 11205 (entrance between Willoughby and Dekalb Ave)

DIRECTIONS: C train to Lafayette Ave. Station.


Signs of the Singularity

If there was any doubt that, as a species, we have transitioned to a technological culture from an agrarian one, here's a factoid for you:
In 2004, human beings produced more transistors than grains of rice.
This observation comes from a talk by Ed Lazowska at the most recent ACM Symposium on Theory of Computing, as reported by Scott Aronson.

How many transistors? About 10
  • 10,000 quadrillion
  • 10,000,000 trillion
  • 10,000,000,000 billion
  • 10,000,000,000,000 million
  • 10,000,000,000,000,000 thousand
  • 10,000,000,000,000,000,000
or just 1019 - a 1 followed by 19 0s - for short. I have not written Mr. Lazowska to ask for his references, on transistors or grains of rice.

The title of this post refers to the coming technological singularity. Technological - and cultural - growth is exponential, not linear. Because of this, our history is not a good predictor of the future. This has been described as "the Rapture for nerds."

I qualify as a singularitarian, since I believe the singularity will occur, for better or worse, whether I think it will be a Good Thing or not. I believe it's a matter of when, not if, it will occur. It may occur in my lifetime. I'm not sure if I want to be around for it.


News, New York: Assembly Approves Marriage Equality Bill

In an historic vote late in the evening on Tuesday, June 19, the New York State Assembly approved legislation guaranteeing marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples.

The measure was approved by a vote of 85 to 61 after a floor debate that lasted more than three hours.
- New York State Assembly Approves Gay Marriage Law, Gay City News
Approval of the measure in the Assembly, even with its overwhelming Democratic majority, marks a dramatic turnaround for the cause of marriage equality in New York, coming less than a year after the Court of Appeals, in a 4 to 2 vote, rejected the claim that the fundamental right to marry recognized in the state Constitution extends to an individual's right to marry someone of the same sex.

Prior to this week, only in California - where the Senate and Assembly passed a gay marriage bill in 2005, which was vetoed by Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger - has a legislative body in the U.S. affirmatively embraced equal civil marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples.
With Assembly passage secured, marriage equality advocates now turn their attention to the tougher task of moving the state Senate, where Republicans hold a two-seat majority and whose leader, Joe Bruno, from upstate Rensselaer County, has stated his firm opposition. Senator Tom Duane, an out gay Chelsea Democrat, sponsors a marriage bill that is nearly identical to the Spitzer-O'Donnell measure that passed the Assembly, for which he has lined up 18 co-sponsors in the 62-seat chamber.

Nobody expects that bill to make significant headway, however, as long as Bruno stays in charge of the Senate.


Resource: NYC Stewardship Mapping and Assessment Project

STEW-MAP (the Stewardship Mapping and Assessment Project) is New York City's first ever map of the more than 5,000 civic environmental groups working in our amazing city.
The first phase of STEW-MAP is a survey for organizations to self-identify themselves and their work in environmental stewardship:
If you are a gardener, a park advocate, a dog walker, a beach cleaner, a kayaker, an environmentalist, an educator, or a community organizer - we need your help in putting your group on the map! ...

Please complete [a] brief online form [ENGLISH] [ESPAÑOL] in order to be a part of this new effort.

A dozen different citywide greening groups and 20 other organizations are working together with researchers from the US Forest Service and Columbia University to develop this project.

The assessment will ask you questions about your organization's mission, size, capacity, geographic areas of interest and partner organizations. Your efforts will result in a series of publicly-accessible, citywide Stewardship Maps and will help inform the development of citywide, participatory Stewardship Roundtables.

The assessment should take approximately 15 minutes to complete. If at any time you have any questions regarding the assessment or the overall STEW-Map project please feel free to contact the project researchers, Dr. Dana R. Fisher from Columbia University's Department of Sociology and Erika S. Svendsen of the US Forest Service at the project's e-mail address: stewmap@columbia.edu.

Although the survey will ask for your name and contact information, all personal identifying information will be substituted with randomly generated identification codes once the survey is
completed. If you feel uncomfortable at any time, feel free to stop the assessment.

If you have any questions or concerns about the study you can contact Dr. Fisher at stewmap@columbia.edu or the Institutional Review Board of Columbia University at 212-870-3585 (IRB Protocol #AAAC3958).

We thank you for your organization's participation!
It's interesting to me that the Columbia Department of Sociology is involved in this effort. It would be interesting to collect the involvement and experiences of individuals engaged in local stewardship of their neighborhoods. In this regard, the "organization" language is a bit off-putting. What if I don't belong to, or speak for, an organization involved in stewardship?

[Note: Be sure to read the comment below from Lindsay Campbell, explaining their focus on groups and organizations in this stage of the project.]

I chose to answer the survey anyway, as an individual, using this blog to represent my "organization." Although I haven't used the term much, here is where I address many of the issues associated with stewardship, including:
  • Land use practices
  • Sustainability
  • Recognizing and valuing native flora, fauna, and natural areas
  • Ecological restoration
and so on. I try to enact and influence changes on my little patch of land and my neighborhood, whether in my gardens, for street trees, or open and green space. I hope that I educate and inform others both through my efforts, and by highlighting and promoting work that others are doing. I try to be a steward of the place I'm in.

via Susan Siegel, Executive Director, Flatbush Development Corporation, private correspondence

News: A Green Center for Refuge Visitors in Jamaica Bay

In the New York Daily News yesterday:
A new $3.3 million visitor center for the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge opened last week after more than five years of design and construction. ...

Once certified, the building will be the first in the National Park Service's Northeast Region to meet a stringent standard for green buildings known as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, said Carol Whipple, the project manager.

- Eco-friendly Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Opens, Rachel Monahan, New York Daily News
The 10,000 acres of the wildlife refuge provides an important stopover for migratory birds. In all, more than 330 species of birds call it home. ...

The lighting is 90% natural.

On a warm summer day, the breeze from open windows pulled upward by a wind turbine on the roof keeps the central hall plenty cool without air conditioning.

The building also maximizes the sun's rays in winter, including windows aligned for the sun's winter path and its warmth collected in a dark, heat-retaining floor. ...

Additionally, all the materials came from within 500 miles, including recycled redwood siding and easily renewable materials such as the bamboo and cork floors and the natural-fiber cabinets.

They also reused the old concrete structure on the site. The urinals are waterless, and the landscaping outside relies on native plants.


First Macro Shots

Alstroemeria flowers
My new macro lens arrived today. I would say that I was like a kid on Christmas, except that I am notorious among friends and family for carefully unwrapping any gift I receive so as to not tear the paper so I can save it.

The very, very first shot I took was of my router. Not that interesting. I deleted it. The Alstroemeria is the second macro shot I took. One of our next-door neighbors was coming home, and she had a bouquet in her arms. The other shots are from my backyard.

Itea "Little Henry"
Itea "“Little Henry”"

Ilex verticillata, Winterberry (female)
Ilex verticillata (female)

Nepeta calamintha, Catmint "Walker's Low"
Nepeta calamintha "“Walker's Low”"

Note the bonus ant in the above photo!

Hydrangea flower
Hydrangea flower

This lens will take some getting used to before I can select and frame my subjects effectively. It's a long lens, 105mm (digital, logner equivalent 35mm), so the depth-of-field is compressed. The advantage is that the combination of long focal length and closest focusing distance of 1 foot can provide 1:1 reproduction ratios: life-size images captured in the camera, which are much larger than life when enlarged. For example, here's a 1:1 photo of text from the second paragraph of this post:


Besides shallow depth-of-field, the other disadvantage of a long focal length is increased sensitivity to camera shake. This macro lens also has built-in image stabilization, which counteracts shake by a factor of 2 or more.

I'm really interested in trying out this new lens for insect photography. The lens can focus out to infinity, so I can increase the depth-of-field by shooting from a greater distance. Here's an example of that in the last shot I took today: leaves from the mystery Ligularia I bought at the Chelsea Garden Center two Saturdays ago.

Ligularia leaves
Ligularia leaves

These leaves are exceptionally ruffled. Although much of each leaf is still not in focus, the overall image accurately conveys the texture and depth of the leaves. This is my favorite of the dozen or so shots I took today with my new toy. I'm looking forward to having more play time with it.


Chelsea Garden Center, Red Hook

Shrubberies, Chelsea Garden Center
Shrubberies, Chelsea Garden Center

Last Saturday I visited the Chelsea Garden Center in Red Hook.

It was part of our day of car errands. While the roof was getting replaced, the driveway was in use as a warehouse and shop; the car stayed in the garage for three weeks. That may have contributed to our car problems later in the day.

I'd built up a shopping list of outdoor tools and supplies to acquire. We visited Lowes first. They did not have plain cedar mulch, only the "decorator" varieties. They also didn't have any large bags of Holly-Tone. I passed on the smaller bags, thinking I could get a large bag at Chelsea. I regretted this decision later; Chelsea only had the smaller bags as well, and their prices are much higher than Lowes.

Chelsea's strength is in woody plants. They had a wide variety of choice shrubs, trees and vines. All were in excellent condition. They were also artfully displayed, as you can soon from the photos.

I didn't buy any woodies. I bought some unusual shade perennials: an unidentified Ligularia, a beautiful silvery Pulmonaria, and a bright white-variegated Liriope. These will go along the shady path on the north side of the house.

I also picked up some annuals. My preference is to go to one of the larger Greenmarkets for annuals. But I wanted to plant our window boxes before the Victorian Flatbush House Tour the next day. I had also hoped to plant the hell strip between the sidewalk and the street with some drought-tolerant annuals. I bought 18 plants for these two projects. Again, pricier than they would have been at a Greenmarket; only one, maybe two, of the six different species I chose would not have been available there.

So overall, Chelsea is certainly a pleasant visit. Staff was helpful, if a bit stressed by the business they were getting; it felt like they were still getting into their weekend groove. Noone was able to identify the species, let alone variety, of the sole specimen of Ligularia I found. If you have an eye for them, they have a few unusual perennials. I didn't take but a cursory look at their woody stock, but that seems to be a specialty of theirs, just based on the quantity, variety, and staging.

PS: When you see a car stalled in the non-shoulder area of the Prospect Expressway, honking at them does not help. They already know they are stalled in a dangerous location. And trust me, they want to be there even less than you want them there.

Chelsea Garden Center, Red Hook

Chelsea Garden Center, Red Hook

Chelsea Garden Center, Red Hook

Chelsea Garden Center, Red Hook

Chelsea Garden Center, Red Hook

Chelsea Garden Center, Red Hook

Teak Window Boxes, Chelsea Garden Center

Perennials for Sun, Chelsea Garden Center

Shrubberies, Chelsea Garden Center

Shrubberies, Chelsea Garden Center

Sustainable Flatbush #3: Urban Permaculture

Left to right: Anne Pope, Wilton Duckworth, and Joan Ewing.
Anne Pope (left), Wilton Duckworth (center) and Joan Ewing (right)

I attended last night's Sustainable Flatbush event at Vox Pop. The theme was Urban Permaculture.

I'll come back and write up my review later. I've got to get out and do some gardening today! Meanwhile, you can view my photos from the event.


Reminder: First Brooklyn Blogade Roadshow on Sunday, June 24

Brooklyn Blogade Flatbush Flyer (Wide & Small)
Adrian Kinloch, Brit in Brooklyn, came up with these great banners and flyers to promote the inaugural Brooklyn Blogade Roadshow.

To continue the networking which began at the Brooklyn Blogfest in May, Brooklyn bloggers are taking on the road to a different neighborhood each month. The first event is in June, the neighborhood is Flatbush, the location is Vox Pop on Cortelyou Road.

Please read the announcement post for full details, including how to RSVP for this event. That post will be kept up-to-date with any changes and additions as we learn about them.


News: Brooklyn Heights Fights for Botanical Accuracy

An assortment of caryopses. Credit: Fir0002

From Monday's New York Times, in an article about the slow season in New York State's legislature:
Earlier this year, Senator Michael F. Nozzolio, an upstate Republican, introduced legislation that would make sweet corn the state vegetable. ...

But when the bill came up for debate in the Senate on Tuesday, it quickly earned the disapproval of Senator Martin Connor, a Brooklyn Democrat.

“As everyone knows, corn is a grain,” he said. “And I would propose that we make sweet corn the New York State official grain.” ...

- As Legislative Session Wanes, So Does Leaders’ Momentum
“The criteria is whether it comes from the reproductive part of a plant or the vegetative part of the plant,” Dr. [Marvin P.] Pritts said. “If it comes from the reproductive part of the plant, it’s a fruit. If it comes from the vegetative part of the plant, it’s a vegetable.”

Botanically speaking, corn is a caryopsis, or dry fruit — popularly known as a grain.

Dr. Pritts allowed that corn, like a tomato, is eaten like a vegetable, “so to a normal, everyday person, it’s a vegetable.”
So what makes a grain, anyway?
In botany, a caryopsis is a type of simple dry fruit — one that is monocarpelate (formed from a single carpel) and indehiscent (not opening at maturity) and resembles an achene, except that in a caryopsis the pericarp is fused with the thin seed coat.

The caryopsis is popularly called a grain and is the fruit typical of the family Poaceae (or Gramineae), such as wheat, rice, and corn.

The term grain is also used in a more general sense as synonymous with cereal (as in "cereal grains", which include some non-Gramineae). Considering that the fruit wall and the seed are intimately fused into a single unit, and the caryopsis or grain is a dry fruit, it is not surprising that in general usage little concern is given to technically separating the terms "fruit" and "seed" in these plant structures. In many grains, the "hulls" to be separated before processing are actually flower bracts.

- Caryopsis, Wikipedia
Glad we cleared that up!

via Brooklyn Heights Blog

Meta: Events on the Sidebar

I just changed the page layout to include a list of upcoming events at the top of the sidebar on the right side of the page. I'll keep the focus on local events. In fact, right now, all four events listed are hyper-local, on Cortelyou Road, right down the block from my home:
This is an experiment. Updating it is a manual process, requiring me to change that section of the layout whenever I want to remove an expired event or add a new upcoming one. So, at least for now, I'm only going to include events in which I'm involved, which I'm helping to promote, which I hope to attend, or which I would attend if I could.


First Firefly!

Blog Widow John and I saw our first firefly of the year as we were coming home just after sunset this evening. Seemed to be only the one. I looked for others up and down the street and didn't see any.

It's summer.

Here's a photo I took of the first one I saw last year. I found it on my hose reel. The date last year was June 17, so they're right on time or a little ahead this year.


Yeah, it's blurry and out-of-focus. I'll get some better shots this year. I'm saving up for a good macro lens.
Lampyridae is a family in the beetle order Coleoptera, members of which are commonly called fireflies, lightning bugs, or glow worms due to their conspicuous nocturnal (or, more accurately, crepuscular) use of bioluminescence to attract mates or prey. The firefly is capable of producing a "cold light" containing no ultra violet rays, with a wavelength from 510 to 670 nanometers, pale yellowish or reddish green in color, with a lighting efficiency of 96%.

There are more than 2000 species of firefly, found in temperate and tropical environments around the world. Many species can be found in marshes or in wet, wooded areas where their larvae have more abundant sources of food.
- Firefly article on Wikipedia
I don't know what species we have in our area. Let's see what we can figure out. At first glance, my little guy (or gal) above looks similar to the photo of Photuris lucicrescens accompanying the Wikipedia article:

but there are also some noticeable differences:
  • The eyes of my beetle are not hidden beneath the pronotum.
  • The yellow margin on the prontoum is different.
  • My beetle doesn't have the center stripes down the elytra.
It's possible that there are more than one species here in Brooklyn. BugGuide has a photo of a firefly identified as Photinus pyralis that looks exactly like my guy. I'm gonna go with that, for now, at least until I can get some better photos of the fireflies in my yard.

News: Creating Wildlife Habitat in Windsor Terrace

In the New York Daily News today:
In the densely populated strip of land between Prospect Park and Green-Wood Cemetery, [Jennifer] Hopkins and fellow gardeners are creating oases of green for butterflies and birds.

The goal of the Greenway Project is to link two of Brooklyn's largest habitats - at least for airborne species.
- Oases of green for butterflies and birds, New York Daily News, June 12

For the birds, Hopkins plants berry bushes, has a cherry tree and keeps her birdbath full. One neighbor has followed in her footsteps and put up a humming bird feeder. Another has a bush where a family of cardinals is nesting. The nearby Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church is also on board and is set to plant a garden this summer, she said.
The article never mentions the name of the neighborhood "between Prospect Park and Green-Wood Cemetery." It's Windsor Terrace.

I know of a "Greenway Project" in Brooklyn, but the one mentioned in the article seems to be a different effort. Jennifer, if you read this, please let us know more.

Whatever the name, it's important to educate and engage private landowners in maintaining and developing wildlife habitat by preserving and planting trees and other non-lawn plants on their properties.

I've shown this map on this blog before. It shows the landcover classification for central Brooklyn.
Brooklyn City Council District 40: Classified Landcover

Windsor Terrace forms a corridor between two refuges: Greenwood Cemetery and Prospect Park. Victorian Flatbush forms a corridor extending south from Prospect Park, pointing toward the bays, beaches, and Atlantic Ocean. I recently saw an ovenbird in my backyard, "rare in the city" according to Hopkins as cited in the article.

Most of the tree canopy in Brooklyn is in private hands. It's unprotected and vulnerable. If New York City is going to have a million more trees in the next ten years, we need to value and find ways to preserve and protect the ones we already have, including those on private property.


Event, June 15, Sustainable Flatbush: Urban Permaculture

Flyer for Sustainable Flatbush #3: Urban Permaculture
The subject of June's Sustainable Flatbush event is "Permaculture and its Applications in an Urban Environment”:
Featured speakers Joan Ewing and Wilton Duckworth are former Flatbush residents now living in upstate New York, where they host permaculture workshops, including a recent design intensive with Geoff Lawton of Permaculture Research Institute of Australia and Ethan Roland of Appleseed Permaculture.
After screening Lawton's film "Greening the Desert", which documents the transformation of a salty, arid expanse of sand into an abundant food forest, Wilton and Joan will discuss how permaculture concepts can be applied to NYC's unique challenges and possibilities.
Before and after the talk we will enjoy music from resident DJ Drummerman, visuals by Keka, Vox Pop’s lovely assortment of food and drinks, and scintillating conversation with smart, charming people.

Event Details

Sustainable Flatbush Event #3
Friday, June 15th, 8pm until midnight
at Vox Pop Cafe/Bookstore
1022 Cortelyou Road, Flatbush, Brooklyn
Q train to Cortelyou Road, walk 5 blocks west to Stratford

Note: Vox Pop is also the location for the first Brooklyn Blogade Roadshow meetup on June 24.


2007 Victorian Flatbush House Tour

317 Rugby Road, Beverley Square West

This was the third year in a row I've gone on the house tour. This year was actually one of the best overall. There was variety in the houses shown, largely because nearly every neighborhood of Victorian Flatbush was represented on the tour. I was surprised, pleased and proud to see that three of my neighbors in Beverley Square West were showing their houses this year.

This year I felt bold enough to ask at each stop whether or not interior photos were permitted. At most of the houses this was allowed. In many cases the volunteers directed me to ask the owners themselves, and so I got to meet more of my neighbors than I would have otherwise.

So I have many more photos than if I had only been allowed to shoot exteriors. Still, there are only 182 photos from this trip. The battery on my camera gave out about 2/3 of the way through. There would have been 100 more. This is not the first time my battery has died in the middle of a shoot. I've learned my lesson. I'm going to buy a backup battery, and an AA battery adapter so I can use regular NiMH rechargables.

In the interest of time and timeliness, I'm just including highlights in this post. You can see all 182 photos in the Flickr set from my trip. Not all the photos are of houses on the tour. Many are of other houses, gardens and other sights along the way.

Midwood Park and Fiske Terrace, both of which had a house on the tour this year, are calendared to be landmarked as a single area by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Even with that, only five of the 11 neighborhoods of Victorian Flatbush will have been landmarked. 7 of the 12 houses on this year's tour are in neighborhoods with no protection: Beverley Square West, Beverley Square East, Ditmas Park West, and South Midwood. Two of the four neighborhoods which did not show houses this year are also unprotected: Caton Park and West Midwood. Many of the houses in Victorian Flatbush are also at risk from inappropriate zoning: blocks with detached, single-family Victorian homes Zoned R6 for dense, townhouse development.

Stop #2: 1306 Albemarle Road, Prospect Park South


Stop #3: 85 Westminster Road, Prospect Park South


Stop #4: 209 Westminster Road, Beverley Square West


Stop #5: 317 Rugby Road, Beverley Square West


Stop #6: 352 Marlborough Road, Beverley Square West


Stop #8: 498 Rugby Road, Ditmas Park West


I have no interior shots of 498 Rugby. The owner wanted to show everyone through the house. This made it impossible to get any photographs of the interior, since it was always crowded with people. I could have gotten some shots if I had lagged behind the tour crowd, but I hate crowds so I was feeling a bit cranky.

Stop #9: 500 Marlborough Road, Ditmas Park West


Stop #10: 654 East 17th Street, Midwood Park


Interior photography was not allowed in this house.

The tour book incorrectly places 654 East 17th in Fiske Terrace. It's in Midwood Park.