30 July 2008

roof garden

A little background: Alan is one of B’s and my best friends. He’s also an incredibly talented gardener. Over the past ten years or so, he has lugged countless bags of soil up to the roof of his apartment building in the Village, bought or rescued or grown from seed hundreds of plants, and spent thousands of hours snaking a hose from pot to pot to pot late at night after he gets home from work. I’ve posted about his garden before. But this year, it’s even more beautiful. What that guy can do with a plant in a pot is pretty wonderful.

And he’d be embarrassed to hear me praising him so much.

But look for yourself. Lavender, phlox, roses, gaillardia (“Oranges & Lemons”: I’m envious . . . want me some of that), lisianthus, plumbago, jasmine. His fruits and vegetables this year: tomatoes, cucumbers, melons (“Charentais”), watermelons (“Ali Baba” and “Moon & Stars”), raspberries, grapes (for crying out loud!), and, in the shade of the grape arbor, ferns and heuchera. It’s paradise on a tar roof.

I love my garden in all of its weedy glory and for the overall effect of plant on plant on plant, but I also love Alan’s rooftop plants in pots because I can really get to know them up close and personal.

So here we go, from the top: The grape arbor and some ripening Concord grapes; a rooftop gardener’s potting shed; a long view over to the north side of the roof; lavender, roses, and phlox (and the gardener peeking out from behind the grape arbor). Alan is particularly taken these days with Phlox paniculata “David.” He has six pots of it already (with more to come when he divides them), and the sight and scent of all those flowers glowing in the evening is intoxicating.

Here’s a David Austin rose whose name I do not know. Alan splurged this spring and bought three David Austin bushes from Jackson and Perkins. The bare-root sticks he planted in May are blooming now.

Who doesn’t love plumbago? Well, no one I know. What a flower: Powdery and pure sky-blue and very unusual. Currently this guy is tucked in a dark-blue glazed pot, which you think would be a great effect with the light blue of the flowers, but actually Alan thinks the blue would pop more if the plant were in a plain, old terra cotta pot. I agree.

Nearby is a pot of lisianthus. Alan bought a pack of these plants at Clear Brook Farm in Shaftsbury, Vermont, this spring when he visited us one weekend. I’ve tried growing lisianthus out in my garden, but I think I like the look of it better growing in a pot.

And the gaillardia “Oranges & Lemons” is a knockout. I ordered it this spring from Bluestone Perennials for Alan, but I kind of wish I’d been selfish and kept it for myself. OH well. Heh heh. The bumblebees love it, too.

Finally, some tomatoes and basil (with a privet standing guard at the rear). Most of the tomatoes are “Brandywine,” Alan’s favorite, but there are a few other heirlooms there, too. The plants look especially nice this year because they’re being grown in brand-new soil, which makes a real difference. Alan is finding he has to water the tomatoes and the other water-drinking fruits, the melons, twice a day these days. It gets really hot on the roof!

The leaf closeup is of “Ali Baba.” Alan tells me that the watermelon growing on that plant is already as big as a football. He made a special growing platform for it so that it doesn’t have to rest on the hot tar roof.

And his “Charentais” is also starting to set fruit. Last year he let this melon plant cascade down a wall, and the one melon it produced hung like a pendant from the vine. This year he decided to try letting it grow onto a picket fence. It has really taken off, as you can see. And Alan tells me that he has something like six melons ripening.

Pickling cucumbers are starting to come in, as are Alan’s Concord grapes (see at the very top of this post). Last fall he made grape jelly from the grape harvest. This year he’s planning on making some pickles, too (from the cucumbers, of course).

And where there are grapes there must be just enough shade underneath for some ostrich ferns and dark-leaved heuchera.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my gosh, how wonderful! Pass along my admiration to your friend...I'm so impressed!