Monday, December 20, 2010

Iceland In December

Recently, on a flight from NYC to Paris, we took a three day layover in Iceland. I feel compelled to share my experience on this underpopulated moonlike island and describe the amazing landscapes we saw. The sun comes up around noon and ducks back down around 4. But really the sun never comes up very far. It stays pretty close to the horizon casting a slanted light onto the land and a sense of sunrise or sunset throughout the day. The history of Iceland is marked with several volcanic explosions which have destroyed much of the old buildings we would have liked to see. Apparently, the island used to be lush with birch trees but now there were hardly any to speak of. Erosion is a serious problem and establishing new trees is challenging with such thin soil. But a layer of moss covered up much of the rocky black earth intermixed with low growing heather, saxifrage, and alpine flowers and grasses. One tall plant which caught my attention is the Angelica Herb that grows indigenously throughout the island. Even though the plant had gone dormant long ago, it's attractive seed head and tall stalk was left to silhouette against the sky and decorate the landscape.

But now to our adventure. Firstly, we stopped at a spa called The Blue Lagoon. This is a naturally occurring bay of blue geothermally warmed water. The mud on the bottom of the lake is white with Silica, which you can put on your face and body for 10 minutes and after words come out like a movie star! Or so they say. But one thing is for sure, the lagoon is one of the most relaxing experiences I have ever had. The temperature of the water is around 90 deg. F and the air is about 30. The water did feel healing and the experience is pretty magical and looks a bit apocalyptic.

The second day we explored Reykjavik, which turned out to be pretty dull, except for the fishing docks and the view of the mountains one could see from there. Also, of interest is the National Museum, which was fascinating, and we got to try on viking outfits!

We ate an excellent meal of fishy things and then traveled in the dark afternoon onto ├×ingvellir National Park and stayed in a hotel where we were the only occupants. The sky was completely clear and that evening and the air was freezing. The hotel had an outdoor hot tub which was a dramatic change from the air. We enjoyed "Gull" the Icelandic beer and saw a shooting star! The next day we explored what's called "The Golden Circle". This consists of a beautiful valley where the first Icelanders met to create a Parliament, a Geyser, and waterfalls (Gullfuss). The parliament valley is very picturesque and I could easily imagine viking-like men wearing fur vests on horseback galloping between the fjords.

The geyser we saw was very active-it erupted three times in a row for us! The waterfalls are huge and partly frozen and the chasm they fall through seemed to have no bottom.

After that we headed back towards the airport, and enjoyed the last hours of sunlight from the car. We saw fields full of small horses that huddled together in the cold, and a rare house here and there. After three days we really felt like we had seen a lot, but one thing is for sure, we're going to come back in summer!

(didn't take horse picture!)

Search ResultsReykjavik

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Wildflower Center

Hello everyone! It has been incredibly busy and our postings have been skim. But it's time to share with you some of the cool things we have been up to.

A couple of weekends ago I was down in Austin, Texas. With just 30 minutes to spare I very speedily ran through the grounds of the Wildflower Center. The Muhlenbergia capillaris was in full bloom and yes the photo with the butterflies is real! Also in prime season was the Callicarpa americana. This was stunning in person. The great thing about the Wildflower Center is that everywhere is a demonstration garden, showcasing plants and how to use them. And take note of the interesting ways to collect water by actually revealing the water's path from source to container. Great educational tool!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


At long last we'll be giving a green roof workshop for all of you to cheap or broke :) to hire us and want to go it alone. So please sign up for this guaranteed fun event Saturday September 11 at the President St. Community Garden at 222 5th Ave in Park Slope, Brooklyn 1pm- 4pm.

We'll be installing a small green roof for the community garden in collaboration with GrowNYC using a mixture of edibles, wildflowers, and succulents. We'll also discuss safety concerns, waterproofing, and general costs. Beware there is a tax deductible fee of $50 which is going to the community garden and all the good causes GrowNYC pursues
(think farmer's markets y'all...yumm).

I hope to see you there!!

Register by Contacting:

President Street Community Garden:

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Caterpillar is a Picky Eater

There's a lot of talk about Butterfly Gardens and the flowering plants that provide the nectar for our flying friends, but what about caterpillars? It's not the nectar they crave but the green leaf, and not just any green leaf--caterpillars can be rather picky about their diet. Take, for example, our striped Danaus plexippus or Monarch Buttefly, it spends most of its time feeding on a singular diet of poisonous milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa. This consumption of milkweed builds up in the caterpillars system so as an adult, the Monarch is poisonous to those that eat it – its one defense against predators. Although, Asclepias tuberosa is a stunning native wildflower and the sole larval host for the Monarch Butterfly in it's pupating stage, it's rarely found in gardens, even in some "Butterfly Gardens". What is often in "Butterfly Gardens" is the ubiquitous Butterfly Bush, Buddleia, which attracts many butterflies but doesn't provide a source of food for the young Danaus and is also an invasive exotic. A female Monarch will only lay an egg where it knows it's offspring will find food, therefore Butterfly Weed is crucial to the Monarch population. Here are some images of the Danaus plexippus munching away on the Asclepias we have in our nursery on the roof as well as some of the other natives we have up there like Black Cohosh and thistles.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Coastal Plant Palette

Little Compton, Rhode Island, not to be confused with Compton, LA, is a beautiful
fairy land with swans on a salty pond, big waves, an historic lighthouse, and little cottages placed on top of rocky cliffs. Thanks to my Great Aunt Mary we're able to stay in one of these little cottages every summer for one week. What a week! The sound of the waves at night mixed with the crickets is so beautiful as are the wild roses and twisted bayberry shrubs that survive the constant breeze from the ocean. The plants that grow in this part of the world truly make me happy (except for the Japanese Honeysuckle, Russian Olive, and a few other thugs taking everything over). The birds also seemed happy to have the plants; there was a wet meadow full of blooming Joe Pye Weed and Hibiscus that teemed with birds, butterflies, and insects all day and night. Yellow Finches would perch on cattail reeds, Swallows would swoop down for an insect and then return to the sky.

Some of my favorites are the Beach Pea Lathyrus japonicus

It's amazing how it can grow in pure sand and bloom with so little water.

The Bayberry Myrica pensyvanica has crisp leaves and dense foliage. Many gardens had old Bayberries as their specimen tree in the middle of their lawn. It has lovely bark and an elegant, ghost like form.

the Shining Rose Rosa nitida (I think...)

Here are some more pictures of the landscape....