Sunday, June 27, 2010

Hummingbird Moths

The garden is teeming with hummingbird moths (aka sphinx moths) right now. They love the summer blooming perennials (echinacea, buddleia, monarda, etc.). They are the funniest looking things: part bee, part moth, part bird, part lobster (the tail!) in appearance. Such a treat to watch them feed on nectar!

Blue Mouse Ears

Blue Mouse Ears Hosta is just as cute as can be. Very slow growing and maxing out at about 6", this blue-green little guy (introduced in 2000) is now being grown in Long Island and is available at local nurseries. I popped the second pic at Crest Garden Center yesterday. My favorite hosta this year!

Cutest Street Tree Edging I've Ever Seen

Spotted on Clinton Street in Cobble Hill...handmade Brooklyn Bridge tree pit edging!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Pit Trampolines in Landscape Design

I'm bound and determined to find a client willing to let me install a pit trampoline in the their yard. They were a huge part of my child hood. The swim club that we went to almost every day each summer had them. We even took lessons!
I'm imagining really artistically designed trampolines with interesting colors and shapes, surrounded by plant material. Ellipses that look almost like
"pools" maybe??

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

BBG Bluebell Wood

Okay this is a little late, but I just located the photographs I took of the Brooklyn Botanical Garden's Bluebell Wood last month. It was one of the highlights of my May and I just wanted to share it. 45,000 Hyacinthoides hispanica 'Excelsior' massed beneath a mature stand of trees. It's positively magical! Don't miss it next year!
For more info, check out the BBG's website writeup:

NY Times Terrarium Article

I love terrariums and am so happy that they're making a comeback (and thus becoming more readily available).

Take a look at these key chain terrariums!

Check out last week's New York Times article:

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Artful Handiwork of the Leaf Cutter Bee

This week, I've noticed an abundance of leaf cutter bee damage in the gardens I work on. Every year in June, dozens of concerned gardeners bring baggies of leaves bearing perfect semi-circular holes to the nursery. This is the mark of the Leaf Cutter Bee and there isn't much to be done short of a cheese cloth wrap (I know I know, hot pepper my experience, fail!).

I've always loved the patterns that the bees chew out of the leaves. The perfect holes can lend even a very dense tree or shrub an lacy, airy look. They seem to love cercis, roses, and azaleas/small-leaved rhodies

Leaf cutter bees are important pollinators and are native! They don't eat the leaf fragments but rather cut them out and use them to form net cells. Usually, there is no permanent damage to the host plant. They just look funny for awhile. Just one of those things...

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Visit to Croton Dam

Wednesday, my design studio class visited the Croton Dam in Croton-on-Hudson. Because we received over 11" of rain in March, the dam was running incredibly fast and high!
The dam was built at the turn of the century, each stone placed by hand (2400' wide, 216' thick at the base). It was quite a site to behold!

For more information about the history of the dam:

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Seed Bomb Recipe

I've gotten a couple of requests from my classmates, asking that I share the seed bomb recipe that I used last year. This is a modified recipe, based on the original Green Guerrilla/Liz Christy model, but better for the environment (no Christmas ornaments or condoms here). Happy Guerrilla Gardening!

Sarah's Seed Bomb Recipe

-Combine 2 parts mixed seeds with 3 parts compost or potting soil.
-Stir in 5 parts powdered red or brown clay (you can get this at a craft store or online)
-Moisten with water until mixture is damp enough to mold into balls.
-Pinch off a penny-sized piece of the mixture and roll it between the palms of your hands in to a tight ball (maybe 1 inch in diameter).
-Set the balls on newspaper and allow to dry for 48 hours. Store in a cool, dry place until you're ready to throw them.
-Toss em over the fence!

Pothole Gardens

I'm really excited about British artist Pete Dungey's pothole gardens. Particularly wonderful is the fact that he is inviting participation. I'm scoping out the perfect pothole in Bushwick. Stay tuned for photos.

More pics and Pete's email address for sending photos of your own at

Monday, March 15, 2010

NYC Bees in the NY Times...

An interesting article by Mireya Navarro from today's NY Times. It is a dream of mind to one day have bees (and chickens). I follow the politics pretty closely. We NEED to make room for bees!

Kathleen Boyer suspects the mailman.

She said she could not think of anyone else in her neighborhood who would have complained about the two beehives she kept under a pine tree in her front yard in Flatbush, Brooklyn, leading the city’s health department to fine her $2,000 last fall.

“I was kind of surprised,” said Mrs. Boyer, an art director with a media company. “People see us in our bee suit and they’d bring their kids to watch us and ask us questions.”

New York City is among the few jurisdictions in the country that deem beekeeping illegal, lumping the honeybee together with hyenas, tarantulas, cobras, dingoes and other animals considered too dangerous or venomous for city life. But the honeybee’s bad rap — and the days of urban beekeepers being outlaws — may soon be over.

On Tuesday, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s board will take up the issue of amending the health code to allow residents to keep hives of Apis mellifera, the common, nonaggressive honeybee. Health department officials said the change was being considered after research showed that the reports of bee stings in the city were minimal and that honeybees did not pose a public health threat.

The officials were also prodded by beekeepers who, in a petition and at a public hearing last month, argued that their hives promoted sustainable agriculture in the city.

A ban, of course, has not deterred many New Yorkers from setting up hives on rooftops and in yards and community gardens, doing it as a hobby, to pollinate their plants or to earn extra income from honey. Although the exact number of beekeepers in the city is unknown, many openly flout the law. They have their own association, hold beekeeping workshops, sell their honey at farmers’ markets and tend to their hives as unapologetically as others might jaywalk, blaming their legal predicament on people’s ignorance of bees.

“People fear that if there’s a beehive on their rooftop, they’ll be stung,” said Andrew Coté, president of the New York City Beekeepers Association, which was formed two years ago and has 220 members.

“Honeybees are interested in water, pollen and nectar,” he said. “The real danger is the skewed public perception of the danger of honeybees.”

Still, some beekeepers say their renegade status causes headaches.

Sam Elchert, 22, a Columbia University student who is majoring in writing and philosophy, said it took him months to find a suitable home for his hives, which resemble short wood filing cabinets with movable frames inside. His building’s management turned him down, fearing legal problems because of the hives, he said. A community garden in Brooklyn welcomed the hives, but wanted them tucked away in the bushes where they would not get the sunlight they needed.

A friend of Mr. Elchert’s, who owned a brownstone in Manhattan complete with a backyard, declined to house the hives because his father was a lawyer, Mr. Elchert said. So did Columbia, where officials in charge of dining services and some green roofs said no, though they were supportive.

A teacher hosted the bees on her farm in Connecticut for a couple of months while Mr. Elchert kept up his search for a home for his hives. Finally, in June, a community garden in Harlem agreed, and Mr. Elchert goes there every other week to tend to the hives. He said that an article he read last year about beekeeping introduced him to the hobby, which he finds “oddly relaxing,” he said. He said he had also read about declines in the bee population and wanted to do his part to nurture the insects.

“It is a good cause, and there’s some sense of morality, even if we’re not on the right side of the law,” he said.

But Mr. Elchert admits that so far he has found his hobby more “nerve-racking” than relaxing, and inspects the garden only on weekdays to avoid weekend crowds.

“What if somebody, some cop, sees me?” he said. “It’d cost me $2,000. It’d really ruin my day.”

Busted beekeepers, as it turns out, are not exactly common. In 2009, 53 inspections were conducted in response to calls related to the harboring of bees and wasps, health officials said, and 13 resulted in notices of violation and fines of $200 to $2,000. In 2008, 48 inspections were made and 7 citations were issued.

Beekeepers say that beekeeping is a relatively low-maintenance and inexpensive endeavor — Mr. Elchert said he spent $500 on hives, equipment and about 20,000 bees to start.

Recently, 70 people filled a room in Lower Manhattan for an “Urban Beekeeping 101” workshop held by the New York City Beekeepers Association.

The class seemed more concerned about the challenges of keeping hives in tight, tall spaces than with the legality of beekeeping, asking questions like: “How high should the hives be?” (About five stories.) And “How much space is needed around the hives so that the bees can fly out to pollinate?” (At least 10 feet.)

But some students were worried about their liability should someone be stung, a hazard that leads most beekeepers to wear protective gear when they tend their hives.

“I’m not even allowed on the roof of my building,” said Matt Griffin, 33, a cook from Queens who said he would probably wait for the law to change and figure out “a few issues” before setting up his hives.

Katrinka Moore, 56, a poet and book editor in the financial district, said that if the law changed, she would ask neighboring churches to host her bees.

That would mean an end to life on the run for Mrs. Boyer’s two hives. They are now lodged with a friend — Mrs. Boyer would not say where — but she plans to retrieve them once they are legal.

Mrs. Boyer said that she and her husband, Chico, took up beekeeping last year so that they could teach workshops in Haiti, where Mr. Boyer was born.

The earthquake has delayed the couple’s plans, but their hives are thriving with 80,000 bees that have yielded more than 100 pounds of honey.

“We gave it to friends for Christmas,” Mrs. Boyer said. “They love it. Everybody is asking for more.”

Ms. Moore said that after working in advocacy against gas drilling in upstate New York, she looked to beekeeping for some relief.

She said: “You get honey. You’re also pollinating gardens. It’s such a positive, happy thing to do.”

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Though I live in New York City, a big chunk of my heart will always belong to Michigan, my home state. As even non-Michiganders know, the state is in big trouble. Massive unemployment and unprecedented numbers of foreclosures are forcing people to leave the state. Detroit, where I last lived before my Brooklyn move, is in need of special help. When I left in 2006, there were glimmers of progress. Housing developments, new independent businesses, and young people were all moving downtown. When I visited my old haunts in the summer of 2009, most of the new improvements that surrounded my block were boarded up.

I just wanted to share 2 links that I follow, with regard to Michigan.

1. Time magazine has been doing a year-long column on Detroit, maybe the hardest-hit of all cities in the US. It's called Assignment Detroit and is very well done.

2. A group called "Let's Save Michigan" is hosting a WPA-style poster contest based on ideas for improving the state. The submissions to far as excellent and I'm thinking of submitting something myself.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The joy of working with ever-changing medium

(Top) Andy Goldsworthy's "Maple Leave Arrangement". As soon as the wind blows and the water moves, the leaves will re-arrange themselves and the moment will be ended.

(Bottom) A Tibetan Buddhist monk creates a Mandala out of colored sand. A sand mandala is ritualistically destroyed once it has been completed and its accompanying ceremonies and viewing are finished to symbolize the Buddhist doctrinal belief in the transitory nature of material life.

There is no "The End" to be written, neither can you,
like an architect, engrave in stone the day the garden
was finished; a painter can frame his picture, a composer
notate his coda, but a garden is always on the move.
- Mirabel Osler

Thursday, February 11, 2010


I must admit, I have been in a major creative slump this week. Design work, writing, communication: it all feels like pulling teeth. Perhaps it has something to do with the winter weather and the stop-and-start nature of freelance winter work, but I just can't seem to get my head in the game. Anyhow, this isn't a journal...I just mean to say that this feeling of "blockage" has made me think about the concept of "Flow", as defined by the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. This is the stuff that really cooks my noodle in relationship to my education and profession in the realm of creativity with a deadline. I thought it worth sharing some of my research on the topic.

Csikszentmihalyi describes "Flow" as the "psychology of optimal experience". Athletes might call it being "in the zone". You could think of it as being "in the groove" or being "on the ball". "Flow" describes peak performance in any field, the experience of losing one's self entirely in what one is doing. Csikszentmihalyi describes it this way. "Flow is the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity”.
I've also heard it described as the point where "your challenges meet your skills". According to Csíkszentmihályi, flow is this state achievable in work or play, characterized by the following seven requisites:

1. One is completely involved in the task; you are both concentrated and focused.
2. They feel a sense of ecstasy, in the sense of the original Greek meaning of the word; to feel ‘outside of reality’.
3. ‘Great Inner Clarity‘ – you know firstly what needs to be done, and secondly, how well you’re doing in achieving what needs to be done.
4. Knowing your skills are adequate for the job; that the job is doable.
5. Serenity – no worries of oneself; a perspective transcending the boundaries of ego.
6. Timelessness – time flies by as one is caught in the moment, a total focus on the present.
7. Intrinsic Motivation – whatever activity produces flow; becomes its own reward.

When have you experienced "Flow"? What helps you get "in the groove"?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

My first post...with moss graffiti

I've had the blog name "A Tree Grows in Bushwick" picked out and reserved for about a year. Inspired by my teacher at Columbia, who is positively dutiful about garden blogging, I'm finally going to get this thing started.

I am a garden designer/maker/maintainer living and working in New York City. After many years of "fake it til you make it", piecemeal, on-the-job learning, I'm now about 3 weeks in to my second semester of graduate school in Landscape Design at Columbia University. I think that I want to use this blog to share some sources of inspiration and to flesh out some of my thoughts on urban gardening. I'm not an expert, but I'm a passionate devotee! I'm also interested in Brooklyn culture, indy crafts, food politics, Detroit, feminist theory, music, books, and art. Maybe we can talk about some of that stuff too!

So tonight I'll sign off with something I think is exceptionally cool, from a website that I like called "It Was Me" ( It's a recipe for "Moss Graffiti". I'm going to try it as soon as the weather warms up. What a beautiful idea! (Just be mindful about where you take your starter moss from).


1 can of beer
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Several clumps garden moss
You will also need a plastic container (with lid),
a blender
and a paintbrush

To begin the recipe, first of all gather together several clumps of moss (moss can usually be found in moist, shady places) and crumble them into a blender. Then add the beer and sugar and blend just long enough to create a smooth, creamy consistency. Now pour the mixture into a plastic container.

Find a suitable damp and shady wall on to which you can apply your moss milkshake. Paint your chosen design onto the wall (either free-hand or using a stencil). If possible try to return to the area over the following weeks to ensure that the mixture is kept moist. Soon the bits of blended moss should begin to re-couperate into a whole rooted plant - maintaining your chosen design before eventually colonising the whole area.