This post presents an invitation to enjoy the garden (open to the public every weekend) and an interview with Anthony Longo.
Click HERE to read and listen to the Roosevelt Islander Online blog post highlighting RIGC.
This post presents an invitation to enjoy the garden (open to the public every weekend) and an interview with Anthony Longo.
"Around the garden this week" by Iliada Bass
Although we see new growth and constant transformation in our little plots week after week, month after month, come July, Mother Nature’s accelerated pace becomes awe inspiring, if a bit overwhelming. Growth seems out of control. Everything’s taller and bushier every day; you get excited about the first bud of a flower and next time you look the whole thing is in bloom; then weeds of course grow faster than everything else…. I stand there a bit stunned, moment of truth for my grand garden design from early spring: some of the new seeds barely came out, hesitantly, plants that were supposed to be 2-3 feet tall are now my height, while older plants have been reseeding themselves happily all over, popping up wherever they please: cosmos and lupines everywhere, strawberry shoots in the middle of plant clusters. I have a hard time saying no to those precious seedlings so I am always trying to regroup and re-plan around them, giving up my big plan, embracing the new and just enjoying the beauty and incredible growth all around the garden.
At the end of the day, I feel like gardening is a constant lesson in awe - I think we’re here to learn from nature, enjoy it and adapt around it, not the other way round.
So what’s awesome and awe-inspiring in our garden this week?
Monarda! Rebellious and proud, like a queen holding court with a swarm of bees around, monarda used to intimidate me when I was little. I know the citrusy scent of the leaves, but to this day I have not been able to smell a flower; every time I tried a few bees would take flight around it and, sure enough, this morning the same thing happened when I got my phone closer to take a picture.
The marigolds, with their strong woody, earthy smell and their compact, rich cups of gold, - such reliable blooms all the way into December sometimes, or until the first tough frost. They are my go-to flower, every time my grand garden design planned in March starts to go wrong in July, basically every year.
The lilies, standing tall with their regal blooms in all colors, always remind me of the famous bible verse: "Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these”. “Exactly!” a friend of mine always says, "So, why do we have to do it?" True… maybe we have to work, because we humans have become so good at hiding simplicity and inner beauty under layers and layers of beauty norms, decrees and endless schools of thought?
The purple clematis - I think there are several different varieties around the garden. They are simply stunning and, if you haven’t stopped to look at them yet, you must have been in a really big hurry, because they are breathtaking show-stoppers. Personally, I am not just in awe of their purple splendor, I am also in awe of the gardeners ‘raising' them.
I love the modest, sweet butterfly weed - such an unfair name for a friendly, beautiful plant that produces ‘copious amounts of nectar’. Whoever called it weed must have been a stuck-up gardener disgruntled with this trouble-free plant, basically growing itself and not needing any of his/her superior gardening skills.
The zinnias, the black-eyed Susans, the snapdragons, the phlox, the daisies, they all bring memories of lazy summer vacation afternoons with childhood friends in the shade, playing board games and dreaming up big expeditions and adventures. I love catching the scents of herbs in passing, of lavender, of mint, sage, thyme, oregano, basil. There are so many more colorful treasures in our gardens, but we’d be here all day if I were to go on.
Most importantly this week, have you seen the fireflies? A free-for-all, in-plain-sight reminder of nature’s magic software, each one of them a tiny little lesson in awe.
This spring has been a very difficult season for gardeners with all the rain. In spite of that, Marjorie Marcallino entered two roses in the Manhattan Rose Society Flower Show for The Roosevelt Island Garden Club. I'm happy to say she won two blue ribbons in a judged show for the club. Both roses replace ones that had to be destroyed last year due to the rose rosette disease.
Rosanna (pictured on the left) was judged as the best climber. It is a deep pink and is on the left as you enter the garden on the hard blacktopped path. The other one( pictured above on the right) is Moonlight Romantica a yellow Hybrid Tea. It was also ranked, Queen of Show. This rose is also located to the left of the entrance arch and can easily be. seen from the front hard path.
We are very happy to be so well represented as a community garden.
from Carole Kennedy
Watch the community service slide show below for pictures of our 6-22-19 morning. Thanks to Takelu for the photos and to Karen L., Aiesha, Dave, and others for another almost zero waste picnic with music after our service.
What are Community Service Days Really All About? by Iliada Bass
For most of us, with the exception of those few gardeners you constantly see around the garden, rain or shine, mending a fence or tending to a public area, carrying around some power tool or dragging a cart heavy with everyone’s “green material”, community day seems to oscillate between a social event, a reason to bake, a chore or just another day in the garden. The little Tom Sawyer poster kind of mirrors some of those feelings, too.
I think all or any of those feelings are alright, as long as we show up. Some people come to all community days, some people put in the minimum time just to give their dues, some people happily go around to connect, partake of snacks and socialize, some people just get their task done and then quietly retreat to their garden to continue their toil…
Beyond the main purpose of getting every single corner of the garden and all public areas in top shape and getting some projects done that require more than a handful of people, there are some side benefits to these community days. There is no right or wrong and every helping hand counts; however, I noticed that, irrespective of our social approach or personal inclinations, a few things always happen during community days, besides the work, of course:
1. On those days, we get to actually talk to some garden neighbors we’ve known by sight forever but hardly ever spoke to; at the very least, now our ‘hi’ going forward might be a bit less absent and a tad warmer, which never hurts in a community
2. You might get a great snack idea or even a recipe. Although I haven’t always tried the snacks in the past, now at least I look to see what unique things people are bringing - the latest picnic offering was especially nice. A special shoutout to the kind neighbor always bringing the utensils and the cloth napkins - a thoughtfulness that elevates our gatherings, not to mention the turntable we had! That alone turned a garden club picnic with slightly tired, sweaty and slightly nerdy green aficionados into a garden event that every hip millennial would brag about.
3. You will definitely learn something new on those days. Whether it’s the name of a plant you never knew, or how to take care of certain plants, how to use a tool that might make your gardening easier, there’s always something. Special learning treats, like learning about the bugs living in our garden from top entomologists, make these days a do not miss.
4. You feel very good that day - I am pretty sure we all agree on this, we leave the garden those days with a very nice feeling.
5. It’s fun - there’s quite a lot of unexpected laughter, and a lot of times coming from people you’ve never imagined laughing before.
6. Again, most importantly, at the end of the day, the garden looks spic and span, like we’d like our own backyard to look… wait, it is our backyard!
To honor Pollinator Week, we were quite excited to welcome experts Dr. Parker Gambino and Dr. Matt Schlesinger, who joined us from 2-5pm on Saturday 6/22 under the Cottonwood tree after our community service morning and picnic. Parker Gambino is an expert entomologist with deep knowledge of bees and wasps who led a “catch, identify, and show” experience. Matt Schlesinger, who grew up on the Upper West Side and now works as a zoologist with the NY Natural Heritage Program in Albany, NY, spoke to us about the importance of insects in the ecosystem and as pollinators. He showed us how to collect data using our phones and the iNaturalist app for those who are interested in participating in a citizen scientist program for pollinators in the Empire State.
It was a really wonderful afternoon of discovery for all ages! Thank you to Christina Delfico and iDig2Learn for bringing this event to our front common area. Let's do this again!
Hello Roosevelt Gardens NYC,
We were visiting NYC last week and staying in RI. We spent a very pleasant hour or more in your community garden last Saturday and enormously enjoyed it. We are keen gardeners and it was joyful to see your variety of gardens and planting. It is a fond memory from our stay.
Just wanted to say thank you for such a pleasant experience. Much appreciated!
P--- & M-----
PS Your rose garden had a superb selection of David Austin Old English roses too- excellent!
RI Day 2019 Partnerships for Compost and Planting: Full Circle Again from Food Scraps to Rebuilding Our Soil
One can definitely say, "It takes a village ...to work together as a community! " This was RIGC's 4th year helping RIOC with RI Day, and it turned into the most collaborative year ever.
Planning ahead and Connecting
In February, Julia Ferguson and Anthony Longo spoke with the RIGC Board and then made an appointment with Mary Cunneen, RIOC's Director of Parks and Recreation, to speak about compost collaborations for 2019. Longo works constantly leading the Compost committee and RIGC members in making "black gold" from our garden plant materials and from a few gardeners' food scraps. Ferguson is a big compost fan who volunteers at Big Reuse when possible, and also works with the RIGC Compost committee.
Mary Cunneen was very open and interested as Anthony and Julia talked about past years when RIGC has received and shared "compost give backs" from NYC Compost hosted by Big Reuse. Compost is a rich, natural soil amendment made from mixing greens (like food scraps) and browns (like wood chips) which Big Reuse does locally at their site under the Queensboro bridge. Food scraps are actually not trash. Through the NYC Compost program, NYC soils in gardens and parks are fed and rebuilt "closing the natural recycling loop" on all food scraps that Roosevelt Islanders and other New Yorkers drop off from their residences at sites city wide. Big Reuse hosts 14 of these sites. Alvin Ulloa is in now charge of the Drop-Off site on Roosevelt Island and keeps the RI Saturday Drop-Off running smoothly. Shakara Petteway, Bella Rabinovich, and Gil Lopez at NYC Compost hosted by Big Reuse answer queries from RIGC and RIOC quickly and consistently. All these people were key partners as this year's plans were hatched and fully realized on June 5th and June 8th, 2019.
Compost Give Back - June 5th
So this year in June with the full collaboration and help of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, a RIOC truck and team went to the NYC Compost Big Reuse composting site under the Queensboro Bridge to pick up compost. That day Citigroup employees were volunteering at RIGC and helped RIGC Board members unload some of this beautiful natural resource. Then, Fernando Vargas and others on the RIOC team prepped the beds and sites for RI Day. All in all, Roosevelt Island received 8 cubic yards of beautiful sifted NYC compost, closing the loop on food scrap drop offs by rebuilding city soil again this year. This compost was shared with RIGC and also with RIOC for Good Shepherd Plaza planting spaces and "pocket meadow/ butterfly beds" on Main Street.
Beautification on Roosevelt Island Day - June 8th
RIGC worked closely with Jessica Murray, Supervisor of Community Affairs at RIOC. Jessica carefully and kindly led and coordinated us all for the benefit of the whole community. We also connected often with partner Christina Delfico @iDig2Learn as RI Day approached. Christina was amazing and instrumental in helping to source pollinator plants with RIOC. iDig2Learn's work presence was key in promoting learning about composting and more. Anthony Longo brought GRIN (Green Roosevelt Island Neighbors) for all the composting and a new RI resident, Danika Lam, volunteered all day long and took care of the 9/11 memorial tree bed. Anthony gave out compost to more individuals than we've been able to give to before on RI Day following up on what Big Reuse does annually each spring.
For the beautification and planting activities, all kinds of RI neighborly volunteers showed up: pre-schoolers and their families, young couples new to the Island, Roosevelt Island Girl Scouts, CERT volunteers and more. Roosevelt Island Garden Club members and associates: Jack, Alexander, Julia, Graciela, Aiesha, Anthony, Laura and Zita, all led planting teams and helped in major ways. One young helper quickly recognized the orange Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) from a lesson about Monarch butterflies in his elementary school. He was planting alongside his grandmother, a Roosevelt Island resident. To get a great sense of the whole day, check out more beautiful pictures in the RI Day album on the RIOC facebook page.
From Past Projects to Ongoing Compost Resources
Two years ago, our Roosevelt Island Food Scrap Drop Off from NYC Compost hosted by Big Reuse was featured in local news in a WIRE article, so please click to learn more! Last summer, RIGC shared a 2018 donation of some Big Reuse unsifted NYC Compost at Coler Hospital to amend new flower beds created for the restoration of their Magnolia Courtyard. In recent years, RIGC has given compost and also RIOC donated tree mulch to both the RIHS Kiosk Garden and to Life Frames Living Library. RIGC donated a composter to the Carder Burden Senior Center patio garden. And the list goes on....compost is definitely a renewable, natural resource that lends itself to community building and beautification. Composting is also one of the top 100 solutions to reversing global warming as researched by Project Drawdown.
In 2016, RIGC shared NYC Compost from Big Reuse with an iDig2Learn project for a P.S. I.S. 217 school planting. We can still say as we said then, RIGC is so glad to be a part of all this! We say thanks again to everyone in this circle and ...
"Remember to bring your food scraps on Saturdays between 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. to the RI Food Scrap Drop Off Site run by NYC Compost hosted by BigReuse!"
On May 21st we heard from Nancy Glynn, Strategic Program Manager Global Information Security at Citigroup. By the next week, shortly after the Memorial Day weekend, we had confirmed our second day of service with Citigroup employees for June 5th, 2019. Citigroup has their office on the Cornell Tech campus and are relatively new members of our greater Roosevelt Island community.
Just like last year, we were amazed by their enthusiasm and hard work.Getting outdoors helps everyone. This year the day was also timed so that with RIOC's help, they could help us receive a wonderful load of compost from NYC Compost hosted by Big Reuse!
Neal Weissman, Curtis Lowry, Takelu Gross, and Anthony Longo were all available to host this morning of service. Neal wrote to Nancy after that morning saying,
I just want to thank you and your professional team, who did a great job. The weather cooperated and we were so happy to see familiar faces from last year as well as new people who we hope to see again next year.
From 9:30am to 12:15pm we got so much done. The help with the compost delivery, the painting of the tables, the dreaded nail removal, the discarding of old wood, the clearing of paths, and work in the landscape areas: these were all a great help to our club. Last year we did a survey and found out that a significant percentage of our membership are people over 70. So what is easy for your team can be a challenge for some of our members. Much appreciation. Let's do it again next year!
Nancy responded quickly writing,
Hi Neil! It was our pleasure, and it was fun work to do outside the office. As a member of the Cornell Tech community, we are committed to Roosevelt Island and happy to support and contribute to your special organization.
Thank you Citigroup! We will continue enjoying the fruits of your work all season. "A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them." (Liberty Hyde Bailey) RIGC is a community of volunteers and it is great to host other volunteers to help us with all our work.
Calling interested 3rd to 9th graders who want to experience gardening. RIGC is offering free classes on Thursdays and Sundays from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. from June 6th and extended through June 30th.
Everyone needs to pre-register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org because there are required permission/liability forms and class sizes are limited. You may choose to attend one session or all sessions based on availability.
by Iliada Bass
I think the true rewards of gardening are bigger than the sum total of its many obvious and well-publicized benefits: the work-out that you don’t even feel sometimes that dispels stress, improving our heart health, mental health, and physical dexterity. Gardening reduces our risk for a number of ailments and strengthens our immune system; but most importantly, it gives us the veggies and flowers themselves in their glory and accomplishes all this with no treadmill or prescription in sight.
Beyond the usual reasons - to grow our own organic herbs and vegetables, the love of nature, “it’s therapeutic for me”, or “I need to be outdoors”, there’s always a story, a very personal story. Whether being in the garden is a need to reconnect with our childhood in some countryside around the world, or just a way to balance our busy city lives, there are so many layers to this attraction that sometimes we’re not even aware of.
You may have a Proustian moment one early spring when you go and plant the first seeds of the season and realize that smell of the earth brings memories of you and your grandfather walking home from the vineyard, way back. Or you may go to have your coffee in the garden on a Saturday morning, with a slightly stiff back and thinking the garden is in good shape, no need to get down to it. But then one weed leads to another and, an hour later, you realize that your back has never been better. Now that’s what I call therapeutic.
For me, dabbling around our little plots, from one plant to the next, checking each bloom or vegetable out, picking up a tiny stone, weeding relentlessly, watering and watching the little water rainbows, replanting, figuring out the rebellious and prolific self-seeding flowers can be better than meditation. Your focus is so far away from the mundane. Your world has been reduced to several important but very simple coordinates - and you’re in tune with them.
Yes, I want all the fresh organic lettuce, tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, herbs, zucchini and everything else. We cannot deny the moment of pride and joy serving our garden goods to our families and friends, but the joy of actually being in your garden among your flowers and vegetables is so simple and pure that I feel it makes us better humans.
No, maybe we wouldn’t be able to grow potatoes on Mars like Matt Damon in The Martian if it came down to it, but, according to NASA, we can still all enjoy the “gardening glow” that plants are gifting us with through stress relief and positive sensory stimulation. Apparently, even the dirt under our fingernails can benefit our immune system via friendly bacteria in the soil.
Just walking around the paths admiring (or being envious of) a gorgeous bloom, sensing their fragrance, noticing some luscious tomatoes or ripe strawberries gets us on a higher vibrational level. By the time we leave the garden - we’re just nicer, and friendlier. If nothing else, we should garden for this.
Please send in your own thoughts and musings. Why do you garden?