Saturday, July 10, 2010


The stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia) flowers are similar to the Franklin tree blooms or, as the species name indicates, camellias: white petals with orange anthers.

The growing flower buds look like pin cushions.

This native of Japan is a three-season tree: beautiful summer blossoms, excellent fall color, and exfoliating bark (for winter interest).

These trees do not establish easily. Green-Wood has several young stewartias that I hope will survive the drought.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Brooklyn Underground

Many Green-Woods collided at the Artful Conspirator's preview last month of "Brooklyn Underground: Theatrical Stories from the Green-Wood Cemetery." The performance opened with a clash of opinion which wasn't about liking or disliking the historic Brooklyn cemetery; each character agreed that it was wonderful. It was the "why" that was the point to be argued. A referee came out to make sure the debate was carried out in an orderly fashion. There was the tree constituent, who argued that the finest part is the landscape, the history buff, who brought to attention the famous people who are buried there, and the monument faction. These are all current, present-time voices, however, and we all know that there is more to Green-Wood than the living. The cemetery's past was evoked with selections from a book of regulations from 1853, some that surely have evolved in a straight line from then to now, such as those concerning plot sizes, and others that are humorously archaic (with mentions of riding on horseback and speed limits of four miles per hour). But what does make Green-Wood so special to its neighbors? It might not have to do with the past or the present, but a superimposition of one on the other: the imagined stories and lives of any of the 560,000 permanent residents. The theater group segued into this imagined Green-Wood with an interpretation of the family dynamics that might have led to the placement of two 19th-century family members at the opposite ends of a plot. Aaron Fisher provided the music, including a rendition of a song that DeWitt Clinton might sing if he had today's rap music at his disposal. The show was reminiscent of Spike Jonze's film Adaptation in which the audience is taken through the process of discovery and witnesses the resulting creation. There couldn't be a more fitting way to convey what Green-Wood is. Although the show might morph into another animal by the end of August, if the Artful Conspirators bring the same talent, heart, and humor that they brought to the preview, it's going to be a pure delight.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


In spring, sections of the lawn were covered with purple, and I thought to myself how delightful it was. I read about these little violets and to my surprise found out that they are largely considered a weed. But what is a weed, I wondered.

There is no definitive list of which plants are weeds: weedness is in the eye of the beholder. We (in the U.S.) have been conditioned to think that lawns must be free of any plant that isn't the fine-blade grass we now worship. It hasn't always been like this, as Michael Weishan points out:

        The first lawns were just mown pasture; whatever flowers or
        “weeds” existed were let be. Later in the 1800s, nurseries
        began to sell specialized seed mixtures. The lovers of the
        monotone lawn that modern chemicals produce would no
        doubt wince at the mixture for a perfect lawn given by
        Frank Scott in 1876:

          12 quarts Rhode Island bent grass

          4 quarts creeping bent grass

          10 quarts red top

          3 quarts sweet vernal grass

          2 quarts Kentucky blue grass

          1 quart white clover

In Green-Wood, we tend to let these violets live.

And I saw these trumpet-shaped flowers the other day dotting the lawn near 9th Ave. I think it's field bindweed. I hope it's one of those that gets to survive as well.

I love these weeds.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Kousa Dogwood

The kousas bloom about a month later than the flowering dogwoods.

On May 12th, the bracts on the kousa dogwoods had just started to grow...

They kept growing...

until the flowers finally bloomed. This was taken on June 4th.

But the show wasn't over: before the bracts fell off, they turned pink! From start to finish, the bracts last for about 5 or 6 weeks (which makes for a very long "flowering" time).

Here's a kousa in winter. You can see the vibrant fall color and exfoliating bark in the previous kousa post.