Design inspiration


Check out a wonderful new book on garden design Andrea Cochran: Landscapes by Andrea Cochran, one of my favorite landscape architects from San Francisco.

Visit her recently revamped website here.

Buy it here or at your local bookseller.



The other side of Maui

I've been tardy in posting the pictures of my recent vacation to Maui. But here they are...I did edit them, I promise! I've tried to keep the pics all plant-y or nature related so that they make sense on this blog. But I couldn't resist a few beautiful beach shots. (Click photographs to enlarge)

Above, peering over the edge of Makuhiku Falls near Hana. That pool is 180 ft down


Fallen African tulip tree blossoms (Spathodea campanulata) on the trail to Waimoku Falls

We've been going to Maui for a number of years. I have loved going there ever since I was a kid, particularly to the lush, remote town of Hana and the nearby Kipahulu area of Haleakala National Park. Many parts of Maui are overrun with tourists but if you get off the beaten track even a little bit you will have the place to yourself. Most of our fellow American tourists rarely stray from within a few feet of their parked cars. Even a short hike will take you away from civilization quite quickly

400 ft. tall Waimoku Falls is the end of the amazing Pipiwai Trail.  Notice tiny Chad in the lower left corner for scale


Waimoku Falls


A cool mountain pool at the end of the Waihee Valley trail


Houseplants gone wild.  A roadside bank of variegated philodendron lines the Hana Highway. So many of the wild jungle plants near here are introduced species


The eerie red sand beach behind the Hotel Hana Maui. I used to play here for hours as a child but was always a little scared of swimming since the water is dark and full of churning currents


Another introduced species, the scented maile fern (Phymatosorus grossus)


The view from our cottage toward Kipahulu. It's a wonderful spot


A natural container garden of ferns on the Pipiwai Trial


The Pipiwai Trail leads through acres and acres of timber bamboo, also an introduced species

Me diving into one of the more mysterious of the pools at Oheo. I was the only swimmer there and I have to admit to getting spooked for no valid reason. One has to be careful swimming here if it's raining upstream in the mountains. Flash floods come rushing through with no warning and several people have been swept out to sea to their deaths


The same spooky pool

Chad swimming in the Oheo pools


The deepest part of the ravine of the Oheo stream. Bamboo cascades down the steep sides


A breakfast of tropical fruit from the local Hana farmstand: two kinds of sapote on top and a cherimoya on bottom


At this Japanese cemetery in Hana, the graves are perched so close to the cliff that several of the stone markers have gone tumbling down and can be seen on the beach below. I used to play here as a kid when it was more overgrown, at some times of year it would be covered in so many Chinese violets (Asystasia gangetica) that the graves would disappear


Barbara and Diana on Makena beach at sunset


A thicket of twisted mesquite trees near Makena on the dry side of the island


The landscape becomes drier and drier on the drive around the Kaupo side of Maui. Here you can see down to Makena and its cinder cone out to the uninhabited island of Kahoolawe


The road around the remote southwestern side of Maui, above and below, used to be impassable but they pave more of it every year.



There is only one store in Kaupo and its been there since the 1920s


A Kaupo garden


The remains of the breakfast


A jungle root system on the road to Hana


Intricate flowers of the 'Queen Emma' crinum


These bird's-nest ferns in the trees along the Pipiwai Trail are about six feet across


The flamboyant African tulip tree (Spathodea campanulata) comes from Kenya


Our favorite beach at Makena, above and below

Daffodils upstate



My front lawn upstate is filled with hundreds of daffodils. Since I'm there only once in a while I decided to cut a bucket-full to take back with me to the city. 

I'll show you more of the different varieties in another post soon. These shots are just an appetizer.

For Mom

My mother and I used to enjoy watching the 1949 movie The Secret Garden, featuring one of her favorites, Margaret O'Brienwhen it happened to come on television. It's a beautifully dark picture along the lines of another 1940s movie that starred O'Brien, Jane Eyre. I still like its gothic spookiness and also how it celebrates the natural interest that, given the opportunity, children have in nature. Well, at least I hope they still have that interest...test yours and see.

This older version hasn't been released on DVD but you can watch the entire film split into parts on youtube. Be sure to hit the "HQ" high quality button on the youtube browser.







Double-click to view the other segments on You Tube

Blogger salute!


I'd like to give a hearty shoutout to my ex-colleague at Domino, the lovely and talented
Germinatrix (aka Ivette Soler). During her time there, she adeptly garnered a garden following among the doministas (not always an easy task!) and now, as we've said goodbye to all that, she has launched her own new blog at thegerminatrix.com. Very exciting!

I appreciate Ivette for several things: one is her great sense of humor and deep plant knowledge, another is that she once called me a "dark genius" in a blog post (I've never been called a dark anything much less a genius so that gave me a thrill!), and finally I love that she doesn't think I use enough exclamation marks in my blog. (There are 6 in this short post alone, Ivette!) She is helping me be more bloggy.

Please visit her site and get involved with her lively group of commenters here.

PS to Ivette. Love your banner drawing. I hope you will do new ones from time to time. I want to see more!

PSS Ivette is also a garden designer. See some of her beautiful Los Angeles gardens at Elysian Landscapes.

Upstate Bulbs--Chess Flower, Frog-cup, Guinea-hen Flower, Checkered Daffodil, Leper Lily, Snake's Head, Deathbell, Madam Ugly, Widow's Veil, Toadhead

For the first time, I've had success with the somber little Fritillaria meleagris in my upstate lawn. It is not a showy thing at all, but it does make you want to lie down in the wet grass so that you can look up inside its intricate bell-shaped flower. I'm hoping now since there is more sun on the front yard (we had to take down three diseased 80-ft hemlock trees last fall) that these little guys will decide to set seed and increase. The garden books say it likes damp grass. Check...that I got.

Photographs by Stephen Orr


Who would think that this little spring flower could gather so many common names? (see title of post) The classic lady garden writers like to wax rhapsodic about it. Vita Sackville-West loved it. William Morris used it in his designs.

I leave a fuller description to a master, Louise Beebe Wilder in her excitingly titled 1936 book, Adventures With Hardy Bulbs:

Among gardeners who are concerned with growing Fritillaries, the Checkered Lily in its various varieties, is the white hope. If any may be said to be amiable, it is this one. Given a damp situation in sandy loam, it nearly always endures and increases, and where it grows in generous colonies, is a most charming thing. The bulb is small, roundish, and composed of several thick scales. The stem arises to a height of about a foot, the leaves which appear along its upper portion might be termed incidental. They are few, narrow, and pointed, grayish in color. The flower is quaint and engaging, not bright, but decidedly attractive.
And its development from the bud stage is interesting to watch. Usually there are two flowers to a stem, but at first the two buds appear to be united. Presently they separate, and the large bud develops a faint checkering, garnet upon a pale ground, and this checkering becomes more distinct until, in the fully expanded, square-shouldered flower, it is very marked. The second bud then follows suit. The buds droop, but the open flower raises its head somewhat, while the narrow leaves, as the stem lengthens, change their position from a slanting one to almost vertical. Each of the six petals that make up the bell is rather narrow and bluntly pointed, and about one and one-half inches long.
The checkered Lily was called by Dodonaeus—the sixteenth-century botanist of Flanders, whose writings are said to form the basis of Gerard's "Herbal"—Flos Meleagris, meleagris then being the name of the guinea hen, for the reason that the whole flower is checkered over like the wings and breast of that curious fowl. 'Nature, or rather the Creator of all things, hath kept a very wonderful order, surpassing (as in all other things) the curiousest painting that art can set downe. One square is of a greenish yellow color, the other purple, keeping the same order on the backside of the flower as on the inside, although they are blackish on one square, and of a violet colour in another: in so much that every leaf seemeth to be the feather of a Ginnie hen, whereof it took its name.'

Questions answered—bee heroines


GARDEN Q&A—A Helping Hand for Pollinators (specifically the miner bee, above).

Have you been to the Conservatory Garden lately?


Last week's warm temperatures seemed to make New York gardens explode simultaneously with flowers. I took these photographs last Thursday at the Conservatory Garden, a beloved horticultural gem hidden at Fifth Avenue and 105th Street that is strangely unknown to many New Yorkers. It looked like the most perfect flower show garden you could imagine. Everything was blooming. I regret that I hadn't been to this garden in years. 

Congratulations to the gardeners who work and volunteer there for making it look so wonderful. I look forward to returning in midsummer and autumn to see how the plantings change over the seasons.

Click photos to enlarge. All photographs by Stephen Orr.

The garden is sunken below the level of busy Fifth Avenue so it has an unexpected feeling of quiet and solitude. 

The South Garden is full of pristine bulb plantings that will be followed by summer perennials and blooming shrubs.




The bronze fountain at the center, above, based on The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, was made by Bessie Potter Vonnoh in 1936. 

The shade border grows on a bank on the perimeter of the South Garden.

Our native Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) come and go so quickly in spring.


The main lawn of the Conservatory Garden is backed by an enormous arcade of wisteria and flanked by a double row of blooming cherries.

All these glorious tulips will be replaced by seasonal plantings for the rest of the year. I plan on coming back to see the Korean chrysanthemums this fall. I vividly remember them from a visit years back as well as the scene with Dianne Wiest from Woody Allen's Bullets Over Broadway. See the shot here.


Three Dancing Maidens of 1910 by Walter Schott. See the maidens, chilly but still dancing, on a winter's day here.