Friday, February 21, 2014

One NYC plant = 30 plants in Connecticut

Many years ago before moving here to Branford, I used to take a wonderful class in New York City with a special teacher, Milton Feher. I will post some information later on about Milton and his ideas about dancing for health and relaxation, but first, his studio and home were at 200 West 58th Street, and as I came and went to classes, I would walk right by the Horticultural Society of New York. Their ground floor windows were filled with an array of plants, and inside the door was a shop with plants for sale that they raised in their own greenhouses. I started buying plants there and one in particular, a special kind of jade plant (or Crassula) was still thriving when I moved from New York here to Connecticut. (See some information below about the Horticultural Society, which has now moved from 58th Street in NYC to West 37th Street.)

I thought I lacked the green thumb completely back in New York. Every nice plant I had would eventually fade away. But once here in Connecticut with windows facing all directions, my luck changed...the more copious sunlight via windows on several sides of my apartment was much to the betterment of plants.

The "mother" plant from the Horticultural Society shop gradually grew very large and ungainly and I had to re-pot it several times, the stems becoming so attenuated it seemed destined for the compost heap. So I had to do some "surgery" on it, hating to do so, and placing the cut-off stems into water, putting some of them away from light, and others right in a sunny windowsill (ever experimenting.) And to my pleasure, I would gradually find tiny frail threads of roots coming from the bottoms of the stems. These were the beginning of many of the plants I have now. Using cactus potting soil, I plant the root-festooned stems in small pots, and after a period of time, each become the little brothers of the original cactus from the Horticultural Society. (See photos below showing the stub of a truncated "trunk", and then the resulting little bouquet of new baby leaves at the top.)

If a particular plant's stems have grown so tall that the "trunk" cannot sustain the stem vertically and you find yourself propping them up with chopsticks and such, just cut about halfway down (or even lower on the stem) and place the long bits into water, keeping the "truncated" part happily in the sun, and watered. But I only water cactuses (cacti?) once a week, giving them then a generous lot of water. The newly-cut trunk will lack leaves for a while but is far from over on its quest to proceed with life. In due course, you will find tiny little green leaves emerging from the top of the trunk. And the trunk will have gotten thicker over time, benefiting from the removal of the long leaf-filled stem, and then will look lovely with its little garden of leaves emerging.

My mother had nice house plants. Dad took care of anything growing outside in the yard, and Mom took care of the indoor plants. She told me she had been advised over the years never to water a plant just a little bit, as the water won't get down to the roots. Rather, wait till the pot and soil is well dried out, and then give it as much water as it will hold. (I have a water filter faucet next to my kitchen sink and like to mix that filtered water (which is cool, not icy cold) with some warm water from the regular tap...that gives them something like room temperature water, rather than cold...I think they are much like ourselves, wanting to feel comfortable and "unsurprised" by events.) I usually go around each pot in circles putting the water with a long watering can spout just under the leaves and going around and around slowly so the water seeps down into the dirt. Mom said they much prefer lots of water once a week, rather than little bits every couple of days, so I adhere to that.

Pictures follow, including one big photo of the small guys lined up next to the original New York City Crassula at the left:

The Horticultural Society of New York, 148 West 37th Street, 13th Floor
 (They have periodic exhibits of art by a group of wonderful botanical artists.)

From their website :

The Horticultural Society of New York was founded in 1900, and incorporated in 1902, with J. P. Morgan, Louis C. Tiffany, and J.J. Phelps among its earliest members, the goal of the Horticultural Society was to further the love and knowledge of horticulture through informative monthly meetings, formal lectures and seasonal flower shows.

Today, over 100 years later, we are still growing a community of urban gardeners. Our development reflects the changes in urban horticulture itself, from a focus on specimen plants and ornamental gardens viewed alone in their majestic beauty, to a holistic understanding that plants and gardens are inexorably linked to the health of people, wildlife and our environment.

At The Hort, we recognize the interrelatedness and complexity of the “green” issues in our city, and therefore the core of our efforts is to educate and inform across the spectrum. We still help New Yorkers know plants and gardens as aesthetic wonders, but now our programs and projects encompass urban farming, rooftop gardening, container vegetable production, bioremediation, storm water abatement, landscape design, vocational training, horticultural therapy and environmental literacy.

I will also be posting information up ahead about Milton Feher.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Adventure Magazine Revisited...

I've been wanting to go back to the subject of my Aunt Connie working for Adventure magazine back in the early 1930s. That post was titled My Aunt Connie and Adventure Magazine. There are some more bits of memorabilia in the form of letters and things Connie had saved that I want to add here shortly, but first, a nice comment made on the post back in September:

Walker Martin said on September 24, 2013:

I've been collecting and reading Adventure magazine for 40 years and I hope you will continue to write about your aunt. 

I loved the memo concerning lateness at the office. Reminds me of my years as a manager. I must have sent a hundred memos warning employees. I was amused to see that Adventure had the same problem.

At the time, I wanted to email a response to Mr. Martin but didn't have his email address. I searched online and found he'd given the keynote address at a yearly event  in Columbus, Ohio called "Pulp Fest", his report on the convention appearing in a blog called Mystery*File, written by Steve Lewis.

Here's Steve Lewis's Mystery*File link:

I contacted Steve to ask for Walker Martin's address, and told him that I had a great love of mysteries myself and would send him a list of my own favorites, honed over years of reading on trains and buses and in the wee hours of the night. I explained that I was fussy about the ones I read, in that I didn't like the Scandinavian ones of disturbing content yet also didn't  like the too-ordinary cozies either, only those with wonderful good writing and settings.
He gave me Walker's email address and replied, about the nature of mysteries:

I think I'm solidly with you as to mystery reading: I don't like excessive violence either, nor the present crop of cozies, which are far too bland for me.  Something in between would be good, but there doesn't seem to be nearly enough of those!

So I have just sent both Steve and Walker this list of my own favorite mystery writers:

Deborah Crombie              Water Like a Stone 
Philip R. Craig                    A  Deadly Vineyard Holiday
Barbara Hamilton               The Ninth Daughter
Jonathan Gash                    A Rag, a Bone, and a Hank of Hair
Susan Elia Macneal            Mr. Churchill's Secretary
Donna Leon                      Through a Glass Darkly
Earlene Fowler                  Mariner's Compass
Rhys Bowen                     Hush Now, Don't You Cry 
Margaret Maron               Bootlegger's Daughter
Susan Wittig Albert           The Darling Dahlias and the Naked Ladies
Iain Pears                         The Bernini Bust
Sue Henry                        The Refuge
Victoria Thompson           Murder on Bank Street
Martha Grimes                 The Old Fox Deceiv'd
Simon Brett                      The Witness at the Wedding
Alan Bradley                    The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
Catriona McPherson         Dandy Gilver & an Unsuitable Day for a Murder 
J. F. Englert                      A Dog About Town
Mignon F. Ballard             Miss Dimple Disappears
Linda Greenlaw                Fisherman's Bend
Virginia Rich                     The Nantucket Diet Murders
Nancy Atherton                Aunt Dimity and the Deep Blue Sea
J. J. Fiechter                     Death By Publication

Here also are a few notes about my "favorites":

They all have as a great asset, a most important feature: a true atmosphere bespeaking a particular and interesting geographic area. In the case of the English and Scottish ones, as one who has not in fact traveled to any great extent, I somehow feel I have done so by virtue of my frequent virtual trips via wonderful mysteries.

The books by Catriona McPherson, Alan Bradley, Jonathan Nash, Susan Elia Macneal, Deborah Crombie, Nancy Atherton, Iain Pears, Martha Grimes, Simon Brett, and J. J. Fiechter are all set in the British Isles, though not necessarily all are American writers. Donna Leon's collection of books are all set in Venice. I love the Lovejoy books by Jonathan Nash, have old copies of them which I reread from time to time...they have the added blessing of tons of information about antiques and the aliveness of them, as Lovejoy perceives them, with whole pages of fascinating information about how to forge a magnficent painting (making the pigments oneself!), how to create a silver tray by hammering designs into it, how to forge a pearl! One of Donna Leon's goes into the process of glass blowing on Murano. Alan Bradley's main character, Flavia De Luce, is a child prodigy who has great knowledge of chemicals and forensics, so to speak. I really love all the books from these authors...

In the other bunch, the settings include: the south coastal ranch region of California (Earlene Fowler), Martha's Vineyard (Philip R. Craig), 1930s Alabama, a woman's garden club in a tiny town (Susan Wittig Albert), Boston, the exciting time preceding the Revolutionary war (Barbara Hamilton), 1905 in New York City (Rhys Bowen), North Carolina (Margaret Maron), both Hawaii and Alaska (Sue Henry), New York City, the era when Teddy Roosevelt was Governor of New York in 1900 (Victoria Thompson), Greenwich Village and other bits of New York (J. F. Englert), 1942, WWII, Elderberry, Georgia (Mignon Ballard), Maine and the world of commercial fishermen (Linda Greenlaw), and finally, this last one, written in 1985, "The Nantucket Diet Murders", a pleasure to read (Virginia Rich...of whom Down East magazine says: "Virginia Rich has established herself as the undisputed queen of culinary crime.")

A final word about Rhys Bowen. She is Welsh and has several series, each quite different from the others. The Molly Murphy ones include Hush Now, Don't You Cry; then there are the Constable Evans ones set in Wales, and the more recent series, Royal Spyness, which provide much great pleasure in reading about Lady Georgiana, who describes the terrible heat in London and riding the subway, and says: "You may be wondering whether members of the royal family frequently ride on the underground. The answer, of course, is no. My austere relatives King George V and Queen Mary would have only the vaguest idea of what the tube train was. Of course I am only thirty-fourth in line to the throne, and I am probably the only member of my family who was at that moment penniless and trying to survive on her own, in London..." (Note that among the many familiar and unfamiliar characters which appear in these books include the Duke and Duchess of Windsor during the years when they were extremely controversial.) These are very enjoyable books!

Here is a photo of my "collection" arranged on an old harpsichord in the living room (it does not play, some strings are broken, but is lovely to look at, and a fitting housing for such nice books!)

More of my aunt Connie's "archives" will be coming here soon...

And also re: Adventure: here is an updated website address for the Adventure cover artist, Earl Mayan:

Earl Mayan was also an illustrator for Saturday Evening Post, was a writer, poet and painter, and taught for many years at New York's Art Students League. On the website is a fascinating page showing how he used himself (as well as his wife Jean) as model for many of the Adventure and Saturday Evening Post can view the photographs and then the subsequent illustrations.