Garden, Year Two

July 1st, 2012 | Posted by Jill in garden | home - (2 Comments)

It feels like forever since I’ve done a proper garden update, and that’s probably because I’ve spent more time getting my hands dirty out in the front yard than inside writing and editing pictures. This time of year, it’s a serious undertaking to get the garden watered sufficiently while temperatures blaze into the upper echelons of bearable. We’re the only ones on my block without a shade tree, and even though I’ve chosen lots of drought-tolerant plants, even one hot day without water can scorch and kill a lovely plant.

Last weekend at the Mermaid Parade, Joel joked that I’m a little obsessed with my garden, and he is absolutely right. I love it. Even when it’s a million degrees outside, it feels so gratifying to experiment in our tiny little front yard. I’ll never get over that child-like wonder of watching things sprout and grow, and I already know I’ll be gardening until I’m old and grey.

Anyway! On to the pictures. This past week after tweet-promising a proper update, I went back into the garden archive to see the photos from when we first planned the garden last year. I had forgotten how awful it was. HIDEOUS! And then the garden looked like this on July 7th of last year. I was so proud at the time:

And today, here she is:

garden overview

So, yeah. I’d say she’s filled out just a tad over the past year! Of course, the extra-warm winter didn’t hurt, and all the rain we got this spring really kick-started everything into high gear. I’ve already had to cut back our oregano by half – and the butterfly bush that grew to three feet last year is TOWERING over the garden at more than eight feet tall already! It’s starting to flop over and go to seed, so I’ll probably have to prune it soon as well.

A few things have changed in the garden as you can see in the overhead photo below. Zach and I got real irritated with the chrysanthemums last fall when an errant snowstorm came and crushed them. They were originally planted by the previous owners’ estate to cover a huge stump in the front yard when the house went on the market, and they grew out of control last year. We dug all of them up except one, and now they live in pots with all my neighbors. In their place, I decided to plant some annual heathers, which should hopefully fill in the bare spots in the center of the garden rather quickly.

garden overview

We’re also aiming for a lot more flowers in the garden this year. I enjoyed growing zinnia so much last year that I found a company online – Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds – which offers loads of heirloom varieties, including zinnias. I ordered several and they’re starting to grow all around the garden. Really excited to see the colors start to appear, especially the acid green one I ordered!

Besides the zinnia, my clematis bloomed for the first time this year – and it was stunning. The yarrow has burst into tiny flowers everywhere, my several varieties of salvia are going through their second round of blooming, and tiny white flowers on the calamintha bring legions of butterflies and happy bees to the garden, which in turn are making the tomato plants really productive. The garden is really starting to achieve the wild look I was going for, and now I think it’s going to be a delicate balance to keep it under control. Instead of, you know, turning into THAT NEIGHBOR.

the clematis! it blooms!butterfly bush
hot pink yarrow
hot pink butterfly bush spikesgettin' wild and crazy

This year, we also decided to plant new window boxes, which I filled with petunias, vines, and other trailing flowers whose name I can’t remember off the top of my head. Next year, I’ll probably try and plan the window boxes a little better instead of grabbing whatever catches my attention on a trip to Home Depot (lame, I know).

In the center window box, I also planted a bunch of freesia bulbs that have begun to sprout — we’ll see how that works out because it’s been kind of a chore to keep all the boxes from frying in the heat. It seems like all our neighbors with shadier front yards have an easier time keeping their window boxes full and beautiful, but in the meantime I’ll just enjoy the color they bring.

new window boxes!

A late addition to the garden last year in early October, I planted two rhododendron that were on sale for cheap and needed a home. And who am I to say no?

Fortunately, they got established before the freeze and made it through the winter as small plants. Early this spring, both plants bloomed quite a fuchsia display and completely justified my decision. I was a bit worried about them since we had a freeze after they’d begun to bloom, but they bounced back and put out new growth quickly. I’d love for them grow tall enough to become a hedge in the back of the garden one day, filling the spring garden with pink blooms!

rhododendron, new growth

And last, but certainly not least, all the sedum are doing exceptionally well in the heat of my front yard. Sedum are close to my heart because my grandmother has many kinds planted in her midwestern garden, and I remember being fascinated by all the different kinds as a child. Every time I see them, I think of her.

Anyhow, we have several varieties planted in pots and in the yard, including hispanicum Blue Carpet, Platycladus, spurium Red Carpet, Sieboldi, spectibile Brilliant, and Angelina. The sedum in pots do exceptionally well, and the Angelina are becoming exactly the funky, textured groundcover I had hoped they would be in the front of the garden. I just want to pet it.
sedum starting to bud

So there you have it! A garden update almost exactly one year later. This week I’ll write a bit more about the edibles and herbs we’re growing. Are you growing a garden this year? If so, link me in the comments! I’d love to see what you’re up to outside this summer.

Most stereotypes of the Mermaid Parade are heavy on the gawking and light on clothing. And while it’s no secret that you can expect to see a whole lot of boobage every year at the parade, I have some serious admiration for those who dare to venture to the dark side. As with the hugely-creative mermen, I must pay my respects to all those who who bring the imaginative, the dangerous, the post-apocalyptic, the goth, and the death-defying feats every year to Coney Island.

Some of my most favorite costumes this year fell into this camp, including the group of brave souls who hauled heavy Blade Runner-esque android junk the entire length of the parade. The sharks were hugely memorable, too — what make-up artistry and attitude! Check out some wonderful shots below of the Mermaid Parade’s mysterious underworld.

“Bite,” by Travis Keyes:

Untitled, by Stan Raffes and “#132 on Surf Ave,” by Pat Merino:
Coney Island mermaid parade 071#132 on Surf Ave

“Vampire Pirate,” by Scott Lynch:
Coney Island Mermaid Parade 2012: Vampire Pirate

“Coney Island Mermaid Parade 2012,” by Scott Lynch and Untitled, by Taras Hnatyshyn:
Coney Island Mermaid Parade 20122012-06-23 at 15-13-45

“Shark,” by Scott Lynch:
Coney Island Mermaid Parade 2012: Shark

“Slither,” by Travis Keyes and Untitled by Rob Feiner:
SlitherConey Island Mermaid Parade 6-23-12

Untitled, by Taras Hnatyshyn:
2012-06-23 at 14-56-18

“Sea Zombie,” by Travis Keyes and Untitled, by Oscar Rivera:
Sea ZombieDSC_3336

Men of the Mermaid Parade

June 25th, 2012 | Posted by Jill in coney island - (3 Comments)

It’s not coincidental that the men of the Mermaid Parade get overlooked every year. There are no pole-dancing dudes (correction: according to Paul in the comments, there were!), no scandalous body-painted Greek god specimens for photographers to swarm and obsess over. Sure, some guys proudly wear pasties or cross-dress to much success. They bust out the big guns and tote barbells, haul post-apocalyptic space trash down the parade route, and scare the living daylights out of kids on the boardwalk. But they just don’t get the same treatment as their scantily-clad counterparts, and that has got to change.

Every year I am so impressed by the creativity of the mer-men. This year, let’s hear it for the boys!

Untitled, by Oscar Rivera:

Untitled portraits, by Silvia Saponaro:

“Coney Island Mermaid Parade 2012,” by Vivienne Gucwa:
Coney Island Mermaid Parade 2012, Brooklyn, New York City 15

“Mermaid Parade,” by Mika Sato and Untitled by Rob Feiner:
Mermaid paradeConey Island Mermaid Parade 6-23-12

Untitled, by Mike Ratliff:

Untitled Portraits, by Oscar Rivera:

“Smoking Crab,” by Travis Keyes:
Smoking Crab

“Mermaid Parade 2012,” by Paul Ker:
Mermaid Parade 2012Mermaid Parade 2012

“Coney Island Mermaid Parade 2012,” by Scott Lynch:
Coney Island Mermaid Parade 2012

Mermaid Parade portraits, by Joe Alfano:
Mermaid Parade - Coney Island, NY - 2012Mermaid Parade - Coney Island, NY - 2012

Two Years

June 24th, 2012 | Posted by Jill in home | instagram | limestone renovation - (2 Comments)

When you buy an old house, there’s really no advice in the world that can prepare you. It tests your patience, your will, your wallet, and your relationship. And if you’re planning any amount of DIY, well let me warn you first-hand. There may be loads of glossy magazines and well-curated design blogs with great tips on refinishing floors, choosing the perfect paint color, and planning the renovation of your dreams. But last I checked, there aren’t many helpful tutorials on coping with lowered expectations, disappearing motivation, and letting go of perfectionism. Those are things you have to learn for yourself. And it’s not easy. Seriously. It’s not easy.

But for those of you afflicted with hopeless romanticism and a love of historic architecture, there is good news. Renovating an old house can also be one of the most beautiful experiences, once you get over yourself. Today marks my two-year anniversary of being a homeowner — and I’ve learned so much. Looking back on this past year, I see so many projects that haven’t quite made it out of my head and into my home yet. But through photographs, I do see that we’ve made lots of progress and for that I am thankful. Some weeks, it’s just enough to get the house cleaned and the laundry ready before a marathon of work or travel. Quite frankly, it took a hurricane to slow me down enough to paint a wall in my dining room.

Fortunately, my house is wayyyy more patient than I am.

I’m hoping this summer will change things. This is the summer of lists, and of getting things done. I will pick up a paintbrush and I will finish projects. I’m looking at you, master bedroom and kitchen. You are so going down (and getting pretty). I have PLANS and I am STICKING TO THEM.

This is the summer we will finally have a closet suitable for clothes storage, instead of pathetic hanging hooks everywhere. This is the summer we finally install door hardware on the bathroom door so our guests don’t think we’re lunatics. This is the summer that we cut down our backyard jungle.

Get ready, House. Year Three is coming.