Sunset 8:45PM

It was the craziest sky I had ever seen, with puffy clouds like gigantic kernels of popcorn all aflame. It was a consolation for having had to cancel our picnic by the river because of the storm.


Another grey day

It was yet another grey, damp and melancholic morning. The plants bent over under the weight of rain from the night before. The benches were still wet in the pavilion of the Japanese garden at the BBG. I lingered here thinking how much my father would have loved this place, especially on a day like this, when the place is silent and empty of tourists. 

Everyone I know has been waiting in vain for summer to appear, and yet, in the garden, summer has been quietly settling in. The summer flowers have come in full force, including these massive clumps of the tiniest delicate blooms, Sorbaria kirlowii, their color white, so pristine and striking against the dark foliage. They cheered me up.


New York

New York Places and Pleasures by Kate Simon, fifth printing 1960, cover design by Elaine Lustig and Jay Maisel. 
I really like the graphic of this cover.  After having lived here on and off for almost 20 years, I am finally learning about the city and appreciating it from many different perspectives. As Shakespeare wrote, "what is the city but its people?" (Coriolanus), my experience of New York has until now been shaped mostly by the people I've come into contact with here. But lately, I am learning to look at the city in its actual physical elements and learning about what makes it one of the greatest cities in the world. 


Garden Tour in Garrison

Our Backyards

Sunday, June 28, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Garrison, New York

The Garden Conservancy invites friends and neighbors to Our Backyards — a special one-day tour showcasing the passion and very personal, relaxed style of our region's gardeners — a group of accomplished designers, garden writers, community activists and environmentalists working and living in the Hudson River Valley, home to Garden Conservancy headquarters.

Join us for our picnic lunch in Deborah Needleman's garden and continue on with self-guided tours of some of our favorite backyards, including the gardens ofSharon & Chris DavisGrace Kennedy & Tim D'AcquistoMarilyn Young & Eric Erickson, and Joan Turner. You'll receive directions to these and several more surprise visits upon receipt of your registration. The day will also feature "Green Tutorials" by photographer Ngoc Minh Ngo and writer Cynthia Kling and will conclude with a wine reception at the home of Bill Burback & Peter Hofmann at Garrison's Landing on the banks of the Hudon River.

For your convenience, park at the Garrision Train Station in the morning. A big yellow school bus will shuttle you to the various gardens. Directions provided upon receipt of registration.

Registration Fee: $40

Advanced tickets are required, so
Register Online
Or call (845)265-2029

I am giving a talk on garden photography this sunday, and I absolutely hate speaking in public. 



The sky seen from my window at 5:15 this morning. Despite such a promising start to the day, by 11 o'clock it was raining again. It's been a very soggy couple of weeks.


Refuges d'Art by Andy Goldsworthy

Andy Goldsworthy has started an art trail in Provence, creating his site-specific works, including a couple of shelters where visitors can stay overnight, along a 105 km walking trail around Digne-les-Bains. Just another reason for me to want to go to France.


Summer blooms

I am constantly amazed at the complexity and variety of architecture in flowers. The summer is fully on at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and today I loved seeing the Filipendula border exploding with sprays of tiny flowers. The Chinese ground orchid (Bletilla striata) and the Campanula takesimana were also wonderful to behold, each so distinctive in their forms, but all examples of the wondrous ways evolution has finessed these flowers to one single end – to encourage pollination.

Beach for Sale

This beautiful beach in Cornwall is up for sale. 71 acres of sand and 3 acres of dune. You cannot build on it. I'd take it just as it is. Je rĂªve...


Fort Greene Garden Walk

I went exploring the gardens of Fort Greene today. There were so many different styles of garden, each one a world into its own, reflecting its creator's obsessions, aspirations, and idiosyncrasies. There was a tiny classical garden with tall stiff evergreen hedges leading to a sunken hot tub; another was inspired by Hadrian villa, complete with columns forming a small terrace. More contemporary was a green wall inside a big loft. An artist named Edina Tokodi created a work using whited painted wood panels and sedum, which hung on a roof wall. The slickest garden was done by an Australian landscape designer, complete with a Balinese Buddha, birch and espaliered apple trees, a strawberries bed  and a large custom-made marble dining table under a pergola. He even had amaryllis blooming in his front window boxes. 

Lily's Piano Recital

Lily had her recital on Saturday at the Steinway Hall. She played two pieces, one of which was Schubert's Serenade, on the grand piano, one of their best model. I was most amazed at the progress she had made and the confidence she had gained since the last recital. She told me tonight that she had enjoyed playing Serenade, that she felt herself into Schubert's music. Her friends Lumi and Ivy also did very well. Ivy was completely into the music, playing with utter enthusiasm. It was so lovely to see. The best performer was one of Lena's oldest students, who will be starting high school in New Hamsphire in the fall. It was his last recital with Lena, and I certainly will miss him. He played Pachebel's Canon in D so beautifully that it brought tears to my eyes. It is one of my favorite pieces of baroque music, and I had never heard it performed on the piano, but it brought back so many memories of my college years.


Deadheading roses

A fine misty rain drizzled quietly throughout the early morning while I deadheaded the roses at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Visitors kept away while all the horticulturalists went to a lecture so I was alone in the garden for a good part of the morning. The rain wrapped the whole place in a languid softness, leaving shimmering droplets of water on the leaves and petals. In quiet solitude, I went through the rows of rose bushes, cutting off dead blooms that only a week ago had been objects of much admiration. They had inspired countless photographs by visitors to the garden. Their fragrance had beguiled passers by.  Now they lay lifeless in my bucket, their petals faded and torn, their beauty all spent. Such is the fate of all living things. I thought about my father, who is nowhere and everywhere in my head, heart and soul. All that's left of him are the precious memory traces that he forged in those he loved.


The High Line

The first part of the High Line opened officially yesterday.  I loved the lounge chairs on the rail track, positioned just so one can get a good view of the Hudson River. Elsewhere, there are  also nice views of old and new architecture of the city, as represented by the Empire State Building and the Frank Gehry-designed Barry Diller IAC Building. What I liked best of all, however, is the planting design by Piet Oudolf, which manages to retain a certain wildness that was so much a part of the original High Line. It will be even more interesting as the trees–mostly birch and a few oaks–mature in the years to come.


Summer in our garden

Now that summer is here, the Hydrangea macrophylla normalis and Filipendula purpurea are poised to bloom any day now. We also have the first few cherry tomatoes of the season, still green but promising. I added a white Astilbe arendsii to mix in with the pink and red ones and can't wait to see them bloom.



Aurore sent me some pictures of her recent work. She paints little tableaux of daily life, much the same way I photograph the things around me in my own life, but I find her work so much more interesting. These paintings made me realize that we've already left spring behind. Summer is here in full force. We've had the most pleasant summer weekend. The weather was perfect, and it seemed that everyone in New York City was outside the last couple of days. Soon it will be all too humid and we will retreat inside air-conditioned walls, but for now, we are relishing the  hours spent outside. Yesterday, we had a lovely picnic in Central Park with Nelson, Melissa and Milo. As we wound our way out of the park in the fading evening light, we came upon  couples of all ages dancing the tango under a grove of trees. It was so lovely to watch them moving elegantly in step to the music from a scratchy old record–a fitting end to a beautiful evening.


Roses in bloom

The Cranford Rose Garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is at its peak. I was completely dazzled by the prodigious blooms that greeted me in the gentle early light this morning. The richness of forms, patterns and colors on display was almost overwhelming, not to mention the subtle varieties of scents. I am reminded of Michael Pollan's thoughts on the subject of flowers: "There are flowers, and then there are flowers: flowers, I mean, around which whole cultures have sprung up, flowers with an empire's worth of history behind them, flowers whose form and color and scent, whose very genes carry reflections of people's ideas and desires through time like great books. It's a lot to ask of a plant, that it take on the changing colors of human dreams, and this may explain why only a small handful of them have proven themselves supple and willing enough for the task. The rose, obviously, is one such flower; the peony, particularly in the East, is another." The rose has always been the most regal of flowers in our gardens, a real classic, or to quote Pollan again, one of "our canonical flowers, the Shakespeares, Miltons, and Tolstoys of the plant world, voluminous and protean, the select company of flowers that have survived the vicissitudes of fashion to make themselves sovereign and unignorable."

No, you simply cannot ignore a beautiful rose–an old rose with its fragrance intact, not one that has been hybridized to be the size of dinner plates and scentless. Looking at these roses, I can't help but be reminded of time, of the future that will come much too soon and wither these petals. But the ephemeral nature of the rose whose blooms come fleetingly once a year to claim our admiration only adds to its beauty. It's a flower that can break my heart, its presence reminding me of the brevity of my own passage on this earth.

My father planted many roses in his garden, including a whole bed of them outside the window of the room where he spent his last days. From his bed, he had a clear view of these rose bushes, as well as the herb and vegetable patch and a small white fence on which he had planted a yellow rose climber. Every day while I was not taking my turn to stay in the room with him, I would go out to tend this part of the garden. The weeds had gone wild in the unplanted vegetable patch, but the rose bushes were laden with buds. I kept hoping that they would bloom before he died, just so he could glimpse their beauty once more. In the end, it was the climber on the fence that bloomed first, and he duly noted the tiny blossoms the day before he took his last breath.