No trip to New York City is complete without walking the . At least not for a plant geek and nature lover. I must say, I wasn?t really looking forward to visiting New York at first?the big city is generally not for me and I?d usually rather travel somewhere rural and quiet. But New York City turned out to win my heart because of urban green projects like this one. The High Line is a green space created along the 1.45-mile-long out-of-use railroad on the west side of Manhattan. It was designed to reference the self-seeded landscape that grew where rail cars no longer traveled.
While it looks effortless and wild, the plantings have been meticulously chosen for hardiness and sustainability. The mix of grasses, perennials, shrubs, and trees shows a textural and color variation that changes throughout the seasons.
I have looked at many photos of the High Line and did not see any that looked even remotely like what it looked like in late September when the early fall flowers were bursting open and most of everything else had gone to seed.
Vivienne Gucwa of was my tour guide for the day. Vivienne is a world-renowned photographer who lives in Manhattan and views the city as no one else does. She had the opportunity to photograph the final section of the High Line to be developed before its transformation. She beautifully captured the untouched railroad tracks as you can see .
The railroad is now completely developed with plants and art, with a backdrop of both old and new buildings, some of which you may recognize.
The High Line is a natural and sustainable space that offsets the concrete jungle that dominates Manhattan. It functions as a green roof that provides habitat and food for urban wildlife.
and could be seen enjoying the space,
as could a bunch of other critters like these bugs. Update: it?s always fun to discover new insects and thank you to everyone who helped me to identify these as milkweed bugs. They look very similar to boxelder bugs, but since these are on flower pods, my best guess is milkweed bugs.
The pathways recycle water by allowing it to drain into adjacent planting beds. I saw parts of the garden being watered, but the native plants are established and I would guess they don?t need much additional irrigation. Although there was a little splash fountain to cool off.
The High Line was just packed with people enjoying a coffee and some fresh air. It is clearly a very well used and well loved urban green space. I?m so glad that I had the opportunity to walk it.
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Today, anyone can get their hands on hardy mums and they seem to be for sale everywhere this time of year, from nurseries to grocery stores to big box department stores. That doesn?t mean that they are all the same, though. New varieties are constantly being bred for performance and color. Crayon-box bright colors are no longer the only options. Deeper hues of bronze, copper, rust, peach, wine, and chocolate are a modern color pallet that can update your front porch. The newest varieties of modern mums not only look beautiful, but they are easy to care for in the garden.
The History of Chrysanthemums
Mums have a long tradition of being well loved. In the eighth century in Japan, the emperor made the chrysanthemum the symbol on his royal crest (they still appear on some Japanese coins) and in fifteenth-century China, mums were regarded as such a special plant that only members of the royal family were permitted to grow them.
Chrysanthemums were brought to Europe in the seventeenth century and about a hundred years later reached North America, where they came to symbolize honesty and long life. In the Victorian era when the symbolic meaning or ?language? of flowers became a very popular form of expression, red mums were a favorite token used to represent romantic love. You can read more about the language of flowers
Today, chrysanthemums are still beloved. They have come to represent fall and the change of seasons and are one of the most popular flowers for home gardens.
The New Color Pallet of Mums
Decorating with hardy mums is all about adding a pop of color to your garden. Mums are often paired with pumpkins and gourds in bright oranges and yellows. This year, why not ditch the candy-corn color pallet for something more subdued?
White is both classic and modern. Monochrome displays are stunning in any hue, but white makes for something that is both dramatic and simple all at once. Pair white mums with white pumpkins and some fallen leaves for a timeless fall vignette.
For a display that celebrates traditional fall orange with a modern twist, say ?see ya? to pumpkin orange and look for the more muted tones of rust, copper, and peach. Rusty orange pairs well with neutral colors, deep greens, and bright reds. Ann Drake from styled these with , greenery, and of course, some deep orange mums. I love how the vintage pots, rust, and colors work together to create something much more modern. Be sure to check out Ann?s fall porch as well!
Lavender on the outside and peach on the inside, what?s not to love? The colors have a very soft, pretty look but are unique enough that they feel new and interesting. A modern mum like this one needs no accompaniments, as it?s striking enough to stand on its own. Plant this mum in a white pumpkin or a single container. It?s a one-pot wonder that looks best when flying solo. If you must pair this mum, then something with texture like a warty pumpkin is a great choice.
If you like to have a traditional color for your fall outdoor decor, then this rich red would be a great update from the poppy-red mums you usually see. These deep red pompons take on rich purple and black hues, depending on the light that they are in. They look great with bright colors like lime green and contrasting black, so look for partner plants with attractive foliage. And skip the pumpkins for something much more refined?these rich reds are most at home in a display that exudes elegance.
When these pale lavender mums burst into bloom, they almost glow. Lavender certainly isn?t a new hue, but how you pair it could be. Imagine a lavender mum paired with other cool-toned plants like beautyberry branches and blue pumpkins. Now that?s a stunning color pallet you don?t expect in fall!
Pink pumpkins are the star of this year, so pair them up with some pink mums. I love this display by Danyelle at . The fluffy, light pink mums pair perfectly with pink and white pumpkins, creating a display that feels neutral in a fresh, new way. The prettiness of the pink mums is balanced by the rustic texture of the straw, bringing the whole look together perfectly.
Did you know that chrysanthemum petals are edible? They range greatly in flavor and have been reported to taste tangy, bitter, or peppery depending on the variety. Only the petals are edible; pluck them off the bitter flower heart and compost the leaves. Oh, and be sure to only eat flowers that are organically grown. Commercially grown flowers can be loaded with pesticides, growth inhibitors, and other chemicals you do not want to eat. You can read more about how to plant and grow hardy mums in your garden in the .
At the California Spring Trials this year, I tried some handcrafted mum chocolates while learning about the Belgian mum breeder Gediflora. They had some really beautiful chocolate-toned mums, which makes perfect sense since Belgium is known for its chocolatiers.
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Do you share gossip with your bees and avoid stepping in fairy rings? There are many garden-related superstitious practices that go back to ancient times. Whether or not you believe in these garden superstitions, at least they are interesting and fun to read about?and hey, talking to bees can?t hurt, right?
You may be surprised at what is considered lucky and unlucky when you read these quirky superstitions.
The cup-shaped leaves of lady?s mantle collect beautiful large round dewdrops, which you have probably noticed if you grow this plant. In pre-eighteenth-century Europe, people thought that the dewdrops that collect on lady?s mantle had magical properties.
The dew from lady?s mantle plants was collected and added into magic potions and people reportedly thought that they could use it to turn common metals into gold. This practice is called ?alchemy,? which is where lady?s mantle got its Latin name, Alchemilla mollis, meaning ?small alchemist.?
Telling the Bees
An ancient tradition in England and other parts of western Europe is the activity of ?Telling the Bees,? which is exactly what it sounds like: talking to
It was considered essential to honey production for to talk to their bees each day and inform them of goings on in the household including everyday activities of the family and more significant events such as births, marriages, and deaths.
If a member of the household passed away, it was thought that if you didn?t put the bees into mourning by draping their hives with black fabric then they, too, would die.
Foxglove was thought to be one source of witches? power. People believed that witches would make a balm from animal fat and foxglove which they would rub on themselves and their broomsticks in order to fly!
Foxglove is also a favorite plant of the fairy realm. Fairies love to play inside the trumpet-shaped flowers, and the speckles on the petals are thought to indicate places on the flower that a fairy has touched. Picking a foxglove and bringing it inside is thought to be bad luck because the flowers belong to the fairies and if you pick them for yourself it will annoy the fairies and they will take revenge on you.
Speaking of fairies, it is bad luck to step inside a ?fairy ring? or a circle of mushrooms. The rings are said to spring up where fairies dance in a circle, and entering the ring will enable you to see the fairies who would otherwise be invisible to human eyes. If you step inside it, the fairies can capture you there, and if you eat any of the food they offer you, you will never be able to leave the fairy ring and come back into the human world.
If you do step into a fairy ring, legend has it that if you sprinkle thyme or marjoram on the ground the aromatic herbs will intoxicate and confuse the fairies so that you can escape. Yet another good reason to
Fairy rings are created by a mycelium underground which moves outward from the center and produces above ground in a circular shape. Well, either that or fairies make them.
Giving and Receiving Plants
Have you ever given someone a plant as a gift and not gotten a ?thank you? in return? It happens more than you might expect. That is because there is a widespread superstition among gardeners that if you say ?thank you? for a plant that?s been given to you, it will not grow.
The origin of this is based on the belief that if you do something morally wrong like stealing a plant or not saying ?thank you? when one is given to you, the plant will then grow prolifically to remind you of your misdeed and make you feel guilty!
Some gardeners believe that plants will grow so much better if stolen that when they give someone a plant, they will put it down and turn their back on it so that the other person can ?steal? it.
There are a myriad of interesting and odd superstitions surrounding herbs. Some people believe that you must apologize as you so that they forgive you for taking their leaves, while others say that you need to curse at your herbs regularly to ensure that they grow well. The origin of this is hazy, but we suspect it came from some ancient garden-related frustration.
People have long believed that lends protection from bad luck and evil. Placing it at entrance ways and in windows is supposed to keep wicked forces away from the home. In Europe, basil has a history of being given as a token of love, but the origin of this is not as romantic as it might seem?basil was said to die if it was in the presence of someone impure, so giving it to a prospective romantic partner was used as a test of their worthiness.
You may have heard the . The story goes that during the fifteenth century when the Bubonic plague was rampant, a group of thieves developed a blend of herbal oils that had healing powers strong enough to ward off the plague, allowing them to rob the graves of rich people who had died from the disease. When the thieves were apprehended, they traded their secret blend of herbs for their freedom, and you can still find in stores today.
Plant Potatoes on Good Friday
Many gardeners still say that you should plant your potatoes on Good Friday?a confusing day to pick since the date changes year by year. A better rule of thumb is to plant potatoes when spring is in full swing and there is no risk of frost.
This superstition actually originated when potatoes were first introduced to Britain in the sixteenth century. Because the vegetables were unfamiliar and grew underground, the belief arose that potatoes were the Devil?s food. As a precautionary measure, gardeners would plant their potatoes on Good Friday and water them with holy water to keep any evil at bay.
Hanging fennel over the door is meant to prevent dark magic from entering. People also used to place fennel seeds inside keyholes to keep witches and demons from entering. Protecting your home with fennel is supposed to be especially important on Midsummer?s eve, when magical spirits are most active.
Fennel reportedly has quite a lot of healing qualities including boosting the immune system, so in a way it can keep negative forces away. But you need to eat it to benefit from these qualities, not just leave the seeds in your keyhole.
We?ve all heard that finding a four-leaf clover brings luck. This belief goes back to the biblical story of Adam and Eve. When Eve was cast out of the Garden of Eden, she took a four-leaf clover with her so that she would still have a little piece of paradise. It is said that each of the four leaves represents hope, faith, love, and luck.
Four-leaf clovers are now also commonly associated with St. Patrick?s Day, but the original connection was between St. Patrick and three-leaf clovers. Legend has it that he would use the three leaves of the plant as a teaching device to explain the holy trinity to others.
Be sure that you?re treating your right?apparently if you don?t show them respect, your crops will die! Scarecrows must be given hats to keep them cool in the sun, and once you have given clothing to a scarecrow a human can never wear it again or it will bring bad luck.
Different types of scarecrows have been used by various cultures all over the world, but in Europe they originated in ancient Greece from the myth of Priapus. Priapus was the son of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, but he was so ugly that everyone avoided him and even birds would not come near him. This gave ancient Greek gardeners the idea of building figures that looked like Priapus and placing them in the garden to keep birds away.
Knock on Wood
Touching or knocking on wood for luck is a superstition that exists all around the world. It is so common that many of us do it regularly without thinking about where this practice came from.
The origin is not known for sure, but one likely explanation is that knocking on the trunks of trees was thought to wake up kind fairies living inside and let them know that you were requesting help. The fairies would then grant you luck.
We wouldn?t have thought that fairies would like being woken up, but apparently they don?t mind?just don?t pick their foxgloves!
Have you heard of any other gardening superstitions? Leave a comment and let us know!
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