Garden Diary - November 2013

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Tuesday, 5 November 2013
A Visit to Wave Hill

Having spent a pleasant morning at The Cloisters, Ann, Carol, and I needed somewhere to have our lunch (being as the Trie Cafe is closed for the season.) And I, as driver, wanted a simple means of accessing the southbound Henry Hudson Parkway for our journey home (which is not a direct possibility from The Cloisters.) I proposed that we continue northward to Wave Hill for lunch, a garden visit, and then home. All agreed, it's into the car and make the short drive northward.

As I mentioned, we're just a few miles upriver, with more magnificent views of the Palisades, across the Hudson River in New Jersey.

Wave Hill is a wonderful public garden. There are specimen trees such as aged beech , weeping beech, and linden. An aside: another common name for linden is lime. At The Cloisters there are several wonderful figures carved from lime. This puzzled Ann, who connected that name with the citrus tree. So I was glad to show her a venerable Tillia tomentosa and clear things up.

Walking from the parking lot there's a flower garden with an Adirondack style rustic cedar fence fronting a conservatory. Behind the conservatory, sheltered by the stone foundation of a once-upon-a-time greenhouse is the Herb Garden. Just beyond that, similarly nestled in a stone foundation is the Dry Garden. And up a few steps is the Alpine House, its side window still removed until really cold weather arrives. Off to the right of these three gardens and glass house is the wild garden. There are other gardens too. We'll get there, promise. But first it's time for lunch. (I had tomato soup, a salad of local rye berries with parsnip and delicata squash. And a bottle of Clifton premium dry cider. Yum!)

One thing I enjoy at Wave Hill is their innovative use of plants that might not otherwise appear in an ornamental garden. Keep in mind that when tomatoes were thought to be poisonous they were grown as ornamentals. Now that we especially appreciate the fresh from the garden appeal of a sun warmed summer tomato - is there anyone out there growing tomatoes as ornamentals?

Today I spy a pretty foliage plant with savoy foliage. What's this? Why, none other than savoy cabbage. According to Wikipedia it pairs well with red wine, apples, spices, horseradish and meat. And also with euphorbia and pulmonaria.


In the hillside Wild Garden summer's exuberance is winding down. Plants once in flower are now going to seed - and self-sown plants are part of the planted by nature, did this on their own ambiance. Far from a weedy tangle, there are plants to admire, every day of the year. Think you that crocus are an end of winter segueing into spring event? Think again, and enjoy this thriving patch of Crocus speciosus abundantly in bloom.

Then compare it to the lush pot of Crocus tournefortii up in the Alpine House.

Another seasonally topsy-turvy bulb in bloom in the alpine house is Narcissus serotinus.

Continue up the not-very-steep hillside away from the river. There's a long pergola with enticing benches on which to sit and contemplate the gardens and their plants. It separates the more formal aquatic garden with its geometry of a pool that's still a welcoming home for fish and - in seas0n - frogs and dragonflies. Turn right at the pergola's far end, and back into the Wild Garden.

A gazebo offers yet another place to sit and enjoy the garden overlook, a glimpse of the river, and the farther shore. Stone pillars support a cedar shake roof that shelters a semi-circular rustic cedar bench. The "pavement" is made of tree sections, larger and smaller. I think they might be locust, which is a very rot-resistant wood. The three of us sit, and chat, and fall silent, peacefully enjoying our afternoon.

The last roses, not of summer since that's long gone, but of autumn. 'The Fairy', a polyanthus rose is still happily opening its clusters of dainty pink flowers.

Down the steps from the Wild Garden, along the back of the Conservatory, then turn left and go along the brick walk past the gray border, a mass of tints and shades and textures that harmonize so beautifully with the stone of the wall behind it. There are two wings to the glasshouse. On the right are cacti and succulents, on the left are begonias and tropical plants. The stately center room with its high glass roof is used for change displays of interesting plants, everything from tender shrubs and vines, perennials, and bulbs.

Today my attention focuses on this beautiful dusty rose pink Veltheimia, a pretty South African bulb.

The conservatory fronts on the Flower Garden, two sets of four beds on either side of the dividing path. The rustic, country casual fence of cedar logs is given more weight with a matching pair of . . . . now, what to call them - a pergola with a bench, an arbor with a seat? No matter. In summer they are both festooned with climbing roses. Today I'm curious about that large purple whatever-it-is to the left.

Interesting! It is a purple Brussels sprout. The label names it as 'Rubine' but William tells me it's 'Falstaff'. He ate a couple, but said they weren't anything special. They might be better after a frost or two, as cole crops often do improve with some cold.

Kale, for example. Here's my favorite, 'Nero di Tuscano' with its wrinkled, savoyed leaves. I use it in ribollita, a hearty Tuscan bean and vegetable soup that's thickened with a bread panade. Lovely in the kitchen, and beautiful in the garden.


Always something to enjoy at Wave Hill. Lovely in winter with traceries of snow, lush with summer's burgeoning growth. And always something new. Bags of bulbs, about to be planted to embellish the garden next Spring. But now we should leave. Ann and I stroll across the lawn to where Carol is comfortable ensconced in one of the several Adirondack style chairs.

A farewell look at the pergola overlook and its view of the Palisades. Time to go home.

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