Late November, still blooming

At the end of November, tulip and daffodil bulbs are in the ground, the hibiscus and the passion flower went indoors and the squirrels have collected ample stashes (I unearthed lots of peanuts when I planted my tulips).

However, we did not yet get any frost and there are still flowers to be found. Here are some pictures:


Lavender dream rose; a spider plant, usually a weed, now a welcome bit of color; one of the many yellow native Asteracae; a salvia.


The common mallow (Malva sylvestris); feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium); Alyssum, and a dahlia flower.


Rhoma’s peach drift is putting on a late fall show; the coral bark maple tree shows golden leaves; this anemone looks almost like arranged in a wintery bouquet.

This week, we also got some much needed rain, while the temperatures were in the upper 50s. I checked on the garden and found the roses to look pretty in the rain.


Roses in the rain

There is a poem by Herrmann Hesse, beautifully set to song by Richard Strauss, that came to my mind. It was written for Fall in Germany, where during Hesse’s time, September must have looked like October or early November in 2016 New York. Here is an English translation:


The garden mourns,
Cool rain sinks into the flowers.
The summer shivers
quietly awaiting his end.
Golden leaves drop one by one,
from the tall acacia tree.
Summer smiles surprised and faint
at the dying garden dream.
For a long while he pauses
beside the roses, yearning for rest.
Slowly he closes
his large weary eyes.
Der Garten trauert,
kühl sinkt in die Blumen der Regen.
Der Sommer schauert
still seinem Ende entgegen.

Golden tropft Blatt um Blatt
nieder vom hohen Akazienbaum.
Sommer lächelt erstaunt und matt
in den sterbenden Gartentraum.

Lange noch bei den Rosen
bleibt er stehen, sehnt sich nach Ruh.
Langsam tut er die großen
müdgewordnen Augen zu.

Urban gardener #7

This month, our chair for more than 10 years, Sara Jones, was featured by GreenThumb in their urban gardener profile #7. GreenThumb is a program by the New York City Parks Department that supports the more than 600 community gardens in the five boroughs. A while ago, GreenThumb began to interview especially dedicated community gardeners, most of whom have been gardening in the city for more than 20 years. Sara is one of them. See below why she loves to garden at LaGuardia Corner Gardens. You can read the other interviews on GreenThumb’s tumblr blog.

November blooms

It is already mid November but we are having warm and sunny days. It’s not yet time for the garden to hibernate. Some roses are still blooming. And the wild clematis (Clematis vitalba) is actually only now putting out its white flowers.


From top left: “The Prince” rose in the North Garden, “Simplicity” is one of the sturdiest roses in our garden, Clematis vitalba, and Charles Mallerin.

On a walk around the garden yesterday morning, I saw many other plants that are not ready for winter. Some are putting out a second bloom, as a matter of fact.


Lavender in the morning light


Chrysanthemum with honey locust leaf


A variety of Clematis viticella


some late Rudebeckia flowers


Our Fuchsia likes this time of the year better than the hot summer days.


Here, seen from top left: Verbena bonariensis (a plant that self seeds happily and comes up where it likes it best), the native wild flower white snakeroot (Eupartorium rugosum), a last Nasturtium flower, toad lilies (Tricyrtis hirta), a late fall sunflower, Arbutilon, passion flower, and fall asters in the middle.

The garden is now closed for the season, but if you come by and the gate is open, come in. There is still a lot to see.

Honey harvest

In spring, I reported that the garden got a new colony of bees at the beginning of April. This colony thrived. In fact, by mid June, there were so many bees that many of them hung out on the outside of the hive during the day. This behavior is called “bearding” and bees do it when it is hot and they need to air-condition the hive by fanning their wings. If there is not enough room for all bees to do the fanning inside, some will do it outside. Having so many bees outside of the hive also meant that we could add another story.


“Bearding” bees on a hot day in June

Last weekend, it was time to harvest the honey. Sara and Barbara donned their beekeeping suit and veils, started up the smoker and opened the hive. Tequila was there to take pictures.


Smoke from smoldering plant material calms the bees. They can then be gently brushed away from the combs.


Our bees were building their honeycombs in frames that fit side by side into the hive.

In the afternoon, it was time to extract the honey from the combs. The Church of the Ascension had generously made its kitchen available for this operation. Sara had set up her honey extractor, a muscle-powered centrifuge.


Barbara, Erica and Ray are uncapping the combs. The fall honey is darker than the spring honey.

But before the honey could be removed from the combs, the cells needed to be uncapped. Bees put a cap of wax over each cell once it is filled to prevent the honey from taking up moisture from the air. We removed the caps by gently running a knife over the surface of the honey comb.

Next, the frames were placed inside of the spinner, and then it was time to turn the crank. Centrifugal force removed the honey and a lot of wax from the combs. We used a strainer to separate the honey from the wax.


Sara and Ellen are loading the spinner, Ray turns the crank

Because we harvested our honey only once this year, the combs contained honey that the bees made from early summer until October. Summer honey is much lighter in color than fall honey, and many combs were filled with summer honey on one side and with fall honey on the other side. Both kinds of honey got mixed as we extracted it. LaGuardia Corner Garden honey vintage 2016 has a lovely amber color and a flavor that is in the middle between the lavender-like spring honey and the more robust-tasting honey from fall.


Yes, honey is coming out. We got about 48 jars of honey, more than 3 gallons.

While we were decapping the combs, working the spinner, straining the honey and licking our fingers again and again, questions about honey came up: how is honey different from regular sugar? What kind of vitamins are in honey?

So here are some honey facts:

  • The sugar in honey is mainly a mix of the simple sugars glucose and fructose. Cane and beet sugar contain the double sugar sucrose, where a glucose molecule and a fructose molecule are bound together.
  • Nectar contains sucrose. When the bees are turning nectar into honey, they use enzymes to digest the sucrose into glucose and fructose.
  • Bees also remove a lot of water from the nectar such that the final product contains around 80% sugar. No bacteria or yeasts can grow at such a high sugar concentration. Therefore, honey does not go bad and can keep for hundreds of years when it is well sealed.
  • Honey contains various organic acids that contribute to its flavor, and also minerals and B vitamins.
  • Honey promotes wound healing when applied as a dressing.
  • Honey is usually healthy, but if bees make it from nectar of rhododendrons, azaleas and mountain laurels, honey can be toxic.


A morning in October

A few days ago, I walked through the garden on a bright sunny morning. This is what I saw:


Fall roses and Japanese anemones plus the flower of garlic chives being visited by a bee.


Fountain grass, fall Crocus, Cleome and Fuchsia flowers


Marcia’s fantastic passion flower and some Clematis seed heads