Tag Archives: The New Yorker

the sun king redux

With cabinet selection still underway, previous hiring decisions during the president’s business career can provide some illumination into his selection criteria.
And if a 24-year-old kid with no horticultural experience can end up working as Trump’s landscape architect, you might want to start polishing up your resume. Truly, anything is possible.
Judging by his well-known, gold-plated desires, it’s no surprise that Trump’s taste in garden design leans toward the opulently formal.
At his Trump National Golf Club, where “members pay an initiation fee of $350,000,” a $7.50-an-hour summer employee named Andy Sick was tapped to perform landscape architect duties.

“A few days after the boss was fired, one of Trump’s golf-course architects, Tom Fazio, Jr., spotted Sick planting petunias.
‘He asked me if I was the landscape architect,’ Sick said. ‘I told him yeah. My only gardening experience was mowing my parents’ lawn.’
Fazio told Sick to get to work, so he went home that night and Googled ‘French formal gardens.'”

Trump’s fans are thrilled by his low-information, shoot-from-the-hip management style, which seems to have worked out fairly well so far as one of his eponymous golf courses is concerned.
Andy Sick turned out to be a natural at intuiting his employer’s taste in landscape design:

“I knew Trump liked ostentatious stuff, so the gardens of Versailles were a perfect fit. I wasn’t even looking at other golf courses. I was just looking at grandiosity.”


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“Early on in Sick’s planting, Trump paid a surprise visit. He loved what he saw. ‘Once that happened, I was given an unlimited budget,’ Sick said.

After spending between two and three hundred thousand dollars of Trump’s money, Sick got nervous.
‘I was worried the plants were going to die,’ he said, so he e-mailed a high-school friend who had studied landscape architecture for guidance.”

Sick turned out to be a quick study in economics as well:

“A few months went by, and Sick, who was still earning $7.50 an hour, decided to ask for a raise.
‘The new boss asked me how much I was making. I told him it didn’t matter — I wanted $75 to $100 an hour.
He agreed to $100.’ At the end of the summer, Sick had to quit to start his first year of law school, at Syracuse.”

“Trump ended up liking the golf club so much that, in 2007, he filed plans with Somerset County to build a family mausoleum there…”


From The New Yorker 10/24/16 “Where Trump Wants To Be Buried – How an untrained gardener created a Versailles-inspired landscape at the Trump National Golf Club.

This is no game

(This piece by Jack Handey, which appeared in The New Yorker January 9, 2006, made us laugh just as hard again this morning. Thank you, Mr. Handey!)

This is no game. You might think this is a game, but, trust me, this is no game.

This is not something where rock beats scissors or paper covers rock or rock wraps itself up in paper and gives itself as a present to scissors. This isn’t anything like that. Or where paper types something on itself and sues scissors.

This isn’t something where you yell “Bingo!” and then it turns out you don’t have bingo after all, and what are the rules again? This isn’t that, my friend.

This isn’t something where you roll the dice and move your battleship around a board and land on a hotel and act like your battleship is having sex with the hotel.

This isn’t tiddlywinks, where you flip your tiddly over another player’s tiddly and an old man winks at you because he thought it was a good move. This isn’t that at all.

This isn’t something where you sink a birdie or hit a badminton birdie or do anything at all with birdies. Look, just forget birdies, O.K.?

Maybe you think this is all one big joke, like the farmer with the beautiful but promiscuous daughter. But what they don’t tell you is the farmer became so depressed that he eventually took his own life.

This is not some brightly colored, sugarcoated piece of candy that you can brush the ants off of and pop in your mouth.

This is not playtime or make-believe. This is real. It’s as real as a beggar squatting by the side of the road, begging, and then you realize, Uh-oh, he’s not begging.

This is as real as a baby deer calling out for his mother. But his mother won’t be coming home anytime soon, because she is drunk in a bar somewhere.

It’s as real as a mummy who still thinks he’s inside a pyramid, but he’s actually in a museum in Ohio.

This is not something where you can dress your kid up like a hobo and send him out trick-or-treating, because, first of all, your kid’s twenty-three, and, secondly, he really is a hobo.

All of this probably sounds oldfashioned and “square” to you. But if loving your wife, your country, your cats, your girlfriend, your girlfriend’s sister, and your girlfriend’s sister’s cat is “square,” then so be it.

You go skipping and prancing through life, skipping through a field of dandelions. But what you don’t see is that on each dandelion is a bee, and on each bee is an ant, and the ant is biting the bee and the bee is biting the flower, and if that shocks you then I’m sorry.

You have never had to struggle to put food on the table, let alone put food on a plate and try to balance it on a spoon until it gets to your mouth.

You will never know what it’s like to work on a farm until your hands are raw, just so people can have fresh marijuana. Or what it’s like to go to a factory and put in eight long hours and then go home and realize that you went to the wrong factory.

I don’t hate you; I pity you. You will never appreciate the magnificent beauty of a double rainbow, or the plainness of a regular rainbow.

You will never grasp the quiet joy of holding your own baby, or the quiet comedy of handing him back to his “father.”

I used to be like you. I would put my napkin in my lap, instead of folding it into a little tent over my plate, like I do now, with a door for the fork to go in.

I would go to parties and laugh—and laugh and laugh—every time somebody said something, in case it was supposed to be funny. I would walk in someplace and slap down a five-dollar bill and say, “Give me all you got,” and not even know what they had there. And whenever I found two of anything I would hold them up to my head like antlers, and then pretend that one “antler” fell off.

I went waltzing along, not caring where I stepped or if the other person even wanted to waltz.

Food seemed to taste better back then. Potatoes were more potatoey, and turnips less turnippy.

But then something happened, something that would make me understand that this is no game. I was walking past a building and I saw a man standing high up on a ledge. “Jump! Jump!” I started yelling. What happened next would haunt me for the rest of my days: the man came down from the building and beat the living daylights out of me. Ever since then, I’ve realized that this is no game.

Maybe one day it will be a game again. Maybe you’ll be able to run up and kick a pumpkin without people asking why you did that and if you’re going to pay for it.

Perhaps one day the Indian will put down his tomahawk and the white man will put down his gun, and the white man will pick up his gun again because, Ha-ha, sucker.

One day we’ll just sit by the fire, chew some tobacky, toast some marshmackies, and maybe strum a tune on the ole guitacky.

And maybe one day we’ll tip our hats to the mockingbird, not out of fear but out of friendliness.

If there’s one single idea I’d like you to take away from this, it is: This is no game. The other thing I’d like you to think about is, could I borrow five hundred dollars?

(Author’s Note: Since finishing this article, I have been informed that this is, in fact, a game. I would like to apologize for everything I said above. But please think about the five hundred dollars.) ♦

Coronilla valentina

Now that we all have a new phrase in our meteorology lexicon (“polar vortex”)*, it’s time to entertain our cold-blasted friends with talk of plants from warmer climes. Along with the unexpected germination of several triangle palm seeds (Dypsis decaryi), the coronilla also surprised me this year with more than a dozen seedlings. The mother plant was grown from a single cutting taken of the variegated form as it was collapsing in August a few years ago. (Variegated or non-variegated is fine by me.) Coronilla, like lots of plants from the mediterranean climate regions of the world, are not long-lived. Its very lanky form is supposedly limited to 2 to 3 feet. Since I never see this plant locally, I can’t be sure if mine is an outlier, topping as it does the garage roofline. Its sprawling stems were threaded when young through a spiraling tuteur, and now a froth of rue-like, ferny leaves and, beginning in January, scented, clear yellow flowers billows up and over the top of its cinched-in shape. Coronilla blooms on new growth, but hard pruning is to be avoided, so I just clean it up after the major bloom period is over in spring, though it does throw a few flowers all summer. Twiggy tracery, tiny blue leaves, flashes of yellow like sunshine snagged in its stems. Sometimes I think this plant has a fan club of one (me), so it’s nice to find out I’m in good company. English plantswoman Derry Watkins lists it as a favorite too. Coronilla sails through our ever-lengthening dry season. One of those plants damned with the faint praise of having a “subtle beauty.” I’ve gotten so used to this beloved plant being ignored by visitors, that when a gentleman helping us hang gutters on the garage inquired about it, I didn’t know what to say. You’re talking about this plant? I asked him incredulously, grabbing and shaking one of its branches. Indeed he was. He declined my offer of seedlings, but later was seen googling “coronilla” on his smart phone. Proving again there’s a first time for everything.


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The crown-like flowers

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Lanky stems cinched in by the iron tuteur

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Absorbing patterns and scented bloom for mid-winter. For zone 8 or cool greenhouse. I’m including coronilla in Loree’s discussion of favorite plants at her blog Danger Garden.

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*”Polar Vortex Causes Hundreds of Injuries As People Making Snide Remarks about Climate Change are Punched in Face.” (It’s humor.)

clippings 9/30/13

While on the subject of concrete, precast manhole covers, stacked. I prefer to have a day’s worth of concrete projects if I’m going to drag all that mess out.


http://www.bhg.com/home-improvement/patio/designs/backyard-patio-transformation/?socsrc=bhgpin050912#page=16 precast concrete manholes, stacked photo 101350652jpgrenditionlargest.jpg

Found at BHG here, but the link loads slow.


I was continually disturbing the dormancy of the little patch of nerines in the gravel garden by digging in what I forgetfully thought was available garden space, so I moved them into pots again. And not long after they’ve rewarded me for all that rough handling with a bloom. These South African bulbs are fast multipliers.

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Mine were gifts from Matt, who blogs at Growing With Plants. He keeps a wonderful greenhouse full of fall- and winter-blooming bulbs.

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And in the offchance your inbox hasn’t been inundated with friends sending you emails of the Fiona Apple/Chipotle/Willy Wonka Pure Imagination mashup, here’s the link to the video. And some words from The New Yorker on why this pretty little video on eating fresh is raising hackles.


On the subject of inboxes, Gmail users, what are we making of the new segregation system of sorting our mail that Gmail imposed this summer? Personally, I never click on the other categories, “social” or “promotions,” but read only mail labeled “primary.” Retailers suspect as much and aren’t happy about it: “Retailers Fight Exile From Gmail In-Boxes.” — The New York Times, September 15, 2013.
I’m still mad about losing Google Reader and have yet to find an effective replacement for keeping track of online reading.

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Knots. I see knots everywhere. Knotwork for enormous pots at Orange County’s The Lab

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And a photo from their website of the pots without their finery

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unsourced image from Pinterest

Did you ever wonder what holds the center of those heavy sailor doorstops? We have. Marty is a whiz at knotwork, but finding a large, heavy orb has been a problem. Bowling balls are too large. Currently we’re experimenting with bocce balls.


Ethan Hawke fondles switchgrass at the High Line

There’s an attention grabber. No, that’s not a recent tabloid headline and, yes, I am being facetious, but I find it amazing that the High Line (and switchgrass!) is casually slipped into a bit of puffery about the current goings-on of Ethan Hawke.

From the May 13, 2013, issue of The New Yorker: “Ethan Hawke traipsed the High Line with his hands in his pockets, his blue-gray eyes wide in the strong morning light…Knifing through a bed of switchgrass, he observed…”

No further explanation of what the High Line is, or what switchgrass is for that matter (panicum). It’s just assumed we’ll know — or should know.

In the land of public opinion, the High Line has been an idea in transit, moving relatively swiftly from an impossible feat to a controversial instigator of gentrification, now coasting and settling into a beloved space mentioned in articles about film stars. I’ve been a fan every step of the way. Will the High Line be the impetus for plants and landscapes to begin to share a little space in the collective cultural mind, alongside film stars and cat videos? Wouldn’t that be something? Can headlines like “Autumn crocus now in bloom at the High Line!” be far off?

I’ll always read any piece on Ethan Hawke, because of all the Chekhov plays he’s been doing, because of the Before Sunrise/Sunset movies and Gattaca, and because of the film version he made of Jack London’s White Fang, in which at 21 he costarred with the incomparable Klaus Maria Brandauer and that equally incomparable actor Jed, the wolf mix that played White Fang. The scene where Jed rescues Ethan from a mine collapse is especially riveting, as is the scene when Jed dispatches the bad guys.

But I had no idea Ethan Hawke had narrated a history of the High Line. I suppose his movie Chelsea Walls was a tipoff to his involvement in the neighborhood.

There is something so emotionally satisfying about moving through a landscape — which is why I think there’s something uniquely American about the High Line and its contribution to landscape design. Footfall after footfall expectation builds, scent and sound are stirred, memories too. Memories like walking to and from school on paths through empty fields, an interlude of intense freedom bracketed by responsibility at both departure and arrival. Even in a tiny garden like mine, moving through a landscape is embarking on a journey of discovery. Cutting a little path through the main border and scaling the plants down to knee-high at the path’s edge has been an interesting and rewarding experiment this year.

Where the bricks end is where the new path begins, maybe 8 feet in curved length. It’s really just a dog track in width now that summer growth is spilling onto it, fit for corgi-sized adventures.


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Summer gardens and parks, coming soon to a neighborhood near you.


Habituation

Every so often I come across a word that tunnels straight into the murky recesses, boring into that dank station in the brain where rusty thoughts rumble around and bang like aimless cars in a railyard. Thoughts with otherwise no timetable for arrival, no destination known. Just knowing such a word exists is enough to set one of those idle railcars in motion, rumbling down the track and into focus

An opportune moment to pause for a photo of The Atocha, Madrid’s astonishing, jungly, former railway terminus, from “The Ten Most Impressive Railway Stations.”
I could plan entire trips around gardens, railway stations, and libraries.

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As I was saying before risking derailing this little narrative with that glorious photo, which incidentally does serve to illustrate my point of seeing things in new ways, like envisioning a railway station as a gigantic tropical conservatory….

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Last week the word was “habituation.” It has a specific scientific meaning and usage, but what appealed to me was the scientist, Jonathan Schooler’s quick sketch of the word for the lay person in the magazine article:

Habituation is why you don’t notice stuff that’s always there. It’s an inevitable process of adjustment, a ratcheting down of excitement.”
(12/13/10 The New Yorker,The Truth Wears Off,” by Jonah Lehrer.)

And, no surprise, I’m relating habituation to making gardens, our own personal gardens to be exact. The inevitable “ratcheting down of excitement” that comes from having only one garden to view day after day, and sometimes becoming numbingly acclimated to it. Traveling, visiting other gardens, whether in blogs, books, magazines, or in person, are time-honored habituation busters, a means to see anew and clarify what the heck it was you set out to accomplish in the first place. You’d think we’d be weepy with disappointment from too much garden visiting, but my little garden never pleases me more than when I compare it to others, even gardens far superior, because at such moments I feel the most intensely connected to the ageless tradition of garden making. Being a participant in that tradition is literally and figuratively the ground under my feet.

Another disrupter of habituation is the camera. This morning I was surprised by a couple different views when trying to make the most of an early misty light rinsed in fog. One unseasonal bloom of Salvia verticillata ‘Purple Rain’ changed everything.

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Photographing the salvia from the back of the garden made me take notice of the drama of kangaroo paws against a solid backdrop.

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I know, kind of anticlimatic after that train station photo (from Wikipedia). For another good dose of anti-habituation, if you have a half hour to spare this Sunday I’d recommend watching Carol Klein’s Life in a Cottage Garden. There are some annoying ads to contend with, but Carol’s tour of her garden is just what’s needed for those of us habituated this February to our personal garden scenes of unremitting snow, mud, or just the same-old/same-old.