On a recent trip down the Appalachian Trail I caught up with Martin Bernstein, who is in the beginning stages of an epic journey across America. This is no ordinary top-down, rt 66, scenic cross country drive, however. Inspired by his adventuresome Norwegian bretheren (people like Amundsen, Nansen, and Monsen) Bernstein decided on two rules for his trip. First: no sleeping indoors. Second: every mile covered, must be covered on foot (well, actually canoeing is allowed, too).
When asked why he’s decided to undertake such a long and grueling journey with nothing but two dogs and the bare essentials to keep him company, Martin has to smile. To him, this is what life is about. To him, an adventure of this kind is the most wonderful thing he could possibly be doing. Dropping the helter skelter life of the city to follow the long and winding 5,000 trail to the west coast is nothing less than a dream come true. Bernstein will hunt, fish and forage as much as possible on his journey, and write about it along the way. He’s taking the Appalachian Trail south to Pennsylvania, the Ohio river west to the Mississippi, and the fabled Pony Express all the way to the Pacific.
Follow him here.
Henrietta Crosby, Lady Northcliff, Allington Pippin. Sound like names belonging to English nobility? Well, they’re actually varieties of apples. And how about Beech Tree Nestling, Gelbe Triumphbeere, Hero of the Nile and Golden Lion? These impressive monikers belong to a hairy, unassuming little fruit known as the gooseberry. The list goes on at Brogdale, the site of England’s national heirloom fruit collection, where over 3,500 cultivars are lovingly maintained. Here, even the most obscure and long forgotten varieties thrive, and bask in the glory of names like ‘Ben Nevis’ (a currant named for the tallest mountain in Britain) or ‘Bigarreau Antoine Nomblot’ – a cherry. Not a French courtier. This precious cache of diversity ensures the continued adaptability of fruit crops in the face of increasing threats from diseases, pests, and climate change. Brogdale, located near Faversham in Kent, is open to the public. Interested greenthumbs can purchase their own totally unique Brogdale gems at the nursery – so what strikes your fancy? How about a Bastard Victoria plum?
Image by Ammgramm
Anna Schuleit has gathered 28,000 plants and placed them in a mental hospital slated for demolition. Anna spread out her flowers across four floors of the Massachusetts location and invited the community to wander through the spaces. Her thoughts:
“It would have been infinitely easier to work with just a few hundred flowers, or a few thousand even, but I wanted to reach my goal of twenty-eight thousand, because it had occurred to me at the beginning of the project that that was the minimum number that was missing here. If it had been a project merely for photography, we wouldn’t have needed so many. But it was really a project for the passing visitor, someone coming in, in real time, from the street and finding this sea of color inside the building, and throughout. A multitude of greetings on every floor. Really, simply, a work of the imagination. That’s all I hoped for. I was amazed by how many people wandered through the building on those four days.”
Grace Kelly at the 1955 Cannes Film Festival.
Pictured: peony (Peonia) sage (Salvia)
Invisible, scentless, soundless. Pollen is the silent task master of the plant world. The thing is, pollen is just as beautiful as the plants that create it. Members of the Asteraceae, or sunflower family, have pollen grains that look like celestial suns. The Betulaceae, or birch and hazel family, have delicate, tricornered grains resembling a Napoleonic hat.
Despite its tiny size, pollen punches way above its weight. Those of you badly allergic to the stuff can surely agree. But did you know pollen has solved murder mysteries? In one case in Berkshire, England, a palynologist (that’s a pollen expert) discovered a dusting of pollen in a suspect’s throat. Turns out, the pollen matched a unique plant that was blooming in the field where the victim was buried. Besides all that, pollen allows scientists to reconstruct ancient landscapes. Dredging up cores of lake sediment, where pollen is well preserved, palynologists can identify the grains to incredible precision and say exactly what was growing, and where. Pretty impressive for such a little thing.
Believe it or not, bananas are older than Christendom. A sweeter cultivar of the usually starchy fruit was grown in Rome as early as 63 B.C. The plant’s scientific name, Musa acuminata, is actually a tribute to Antonius Musa, the personal doctor of Emperor Octavius Augustus, who promoted widespread cultivation of the fruit. As kingdoms, republics and empires rose and fell the bananas distribution continued to grow. Plantations emerged in Costa Rica, Ecuador, India, and Indonesia producing millions of tons of the fruit and making it one of the most widely consumed foods in the world.
It wasn’t until 1502 that the Cavendish variety, commonly sold in supermarkets today, was created in England from Chinese stock. When this super sweet cultivar arrived in the USA it was considered such a delicacy people ate it with a knife and fork. In England, people missed the point entirely and made use of the banana’s skins, stewing them in a pie. Banana’s are actually grown from suckers, or offshoots of the original mother plant, as the heavily cultivated varieties no longer produce viable seed.
To grow your own bananas, try the hardy, plain green Japanese banana, Musa basjoo, which thrives in zones 5 and up. For a little more color look for the Himalayan banana, Musa sikkimensis, which sports purple stripes on its leaves.
For those of you in New York on March 16th, the Horticultural Society is hosting a conference on urban farming where folks like Erika Brenner (Dekalb Farm), Annie Novak (Growing Chefs), Phyllis Odessey (Randall’s Island Park), and Britta Riley (Windowfarms) will be in attendance. A bit more about the event:
“While the potential of urban farming is huge—NYC alone has some 25,000 acres suited to it—this potential remains largely untapped. We will explore urban farms that have made it in NYC, as well as discuss hurdles to further development, promising avenues for activists, and what role we can expect urban farming to play in the larger food system. Whether you’re new to the concept, have been scratching city dirt for decades, or hope to make your mark on our food system, this conference will put urban farming in a “big picture” context with something for everyone.”
For more details, head on over to The Hort’s website.
Photograph taken by Jackie Snow of Annie Novak for Wilder Quarterly Winter 2012
Designer Matt Singer has teamed up with Rivendell Mountain Works to create a limited-edition backpack to benefit the Million Trees NYC initiative. Their goal is to plant and care for one million new trees across the City’s five boroughs over the next decade. Planting trees is one of the most beneficial and cost-effective ways to help clean New York City’s air to reducing the pollutants and cool the city.
The bag is handmade in the Washington Cascades with the impeccable sturdiness and quality that Rivendell made its name on back in the 70s. The backpack is available in limited numbers, so if you want, it best go get it now. If you live in New York City and want to support Million Trees inititviae by volunterring, you can get in touch with them here.
City parks are more than just places to walk your dog and catch a few rays of sun. Vestiges of natural habitats that once flourished before human populations expanded, parks serve a conservation purpose, too. In San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, a little plant known as the white rayed pentachaeta thrives amidst mostly non-native neighbors. An endangered relic from the park’s past life as a serpentine barren, the population growing on the San Francisco peninsula is one of the last of its kind.
The plant puts on a fantastic show in early spring, covering drab wintry hills with countless heads of nodding white and yellow flowers. In the megatropolis known as New York, similar sights can be seen at this time of year too as ephemeral wildflowers raise their heads for the briefest of moments before diving back down into the urban soil.
Image shot by Sage Ross
Tilda Swinton in bed.
Pictured: rose (Rosa), lily (Lilium), moth orchid (Phalaenopsis) boat orchid (Cymbidium)
Most people probably think that the spiny cactus can pretty well take care of itself. However, the truth is over a third of all cacti species are endangered. Although all wild species of cacti are protected by the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), cacti fall just below drugs and guns as the most popular item smuggled out of Mexico. Large specimens of saguaro are in demand in the landscape trade. The psychotropic species peyote brings in up to $250/kilo, and barrel cacti are prized for their sweet pulp which is used to make a popular candy in Mexico.
Recent efforts to curtail illegal cacti harvesting include outfitting some of the most wanted species with tracking devices. The chips will allow officials to easily sweep nurseries and landscape centers, which might be accepting ill begotten plants. Recently, a pair of German collectors were detained at Mexico City International with 543 species of cacti in their possession. They face thousands of dollars in fines and possible jail time. The next time you purchase a cactus, ask where it comes from, and make sure it’s grown in legal nursery.
I’m not one for camping, but I have come to enjoy a trek through the woods. My rugged father-in-law, James, get all the credit for that. West Virginia men just have a way with the wild. This year, I’ve signed up for a class on edible East Coast foliage. I’m hoping a little foraging and scavenging know-how will make the walks even more interesting, but I admit, I’m also aiming to impress.
Every time we take a cool autumn walk or a hot summer stroll through the woods by their home, I imagine I’m going to see something like Thomas Jackson’s photography above. The woods always make you feel like you’re about to happen across some sort of mystic secret – like how Jackson has these leaves moving through the trees in concert or the gathering of orange dots around that massive tree trunk. It’s part of the fun.
… Oh yeah. Those orange dots are cheese balls.
The Natural Resources Group is charged with conserving New York City’s natural resources, which means that Clara Pregitzer, an ecologist with the group, sees things most New Yorkers don’t. In her travels up and down the five boroughs she keeps an eye out for all things natural, and beautiful. As an early spring descends upon the east coast, Clara is keeping tabs. She takes pictures, and fills willing listeners in on the urban-defying nature that is welling up in spring soils. Recently reported news includes information on city salt marsh restoration projects, and the blooming of march bulbs.
Check out her blog, Unscene New York and experience New York in a whole new way.
Image shot by Clara herself
One of my favorite pieces in the Winter Wilder Quarterly was the DIY guide to creating your own string garden. Created by Taylor Patterson, who runs floral and garden design studio based Fox Fodder Farm , and photographed by Rory Gunderson, the step-by-step guide shows you how to make a gorgeuos indoor or outdoor string garden. They’re gorgeous and perfect for weddings, outdoor parties are just to bring a bit of spring into your living room.
Our friend Hiroshi in Japan just sent us a photograph of Wilder at the Utrecht store in Tokyo. We can see our good friends Inventory to our left and directly next to us is a collaborative art zine with photographs by Takashi Homma and embroideries by Kaoru Yokoo called “In Our Nature.” Embroideries? Think we’re going to have to order that one.
And, hello Japan. It’s nice to meet you.
I’ve been looking for something colorful with a heavy aroma for the backyard. Honeysuckle came to mine, but now, I’ve made a hard left into more exotic territory.
The Kinmokusei plant, aslo known as Osmanthus fragrans and Sweet Olive, carries the scent of ripe peaches or apricots throughout a garden or home. The plant is a native to Asia, the city flower of Hangzhou, China and in almost every backyard in Kyoto. The flowers of this large shrub bloom in winter, early spring and sporadically throughout a not too hot summer with white, pale yellow, yellow, or orange-yellow flowers. The orange flowers have caught my eye with their slightly unusual shape and the descriptions of their aroma has me lusting for a Kinmokusei shrub of my very own.
What’s most amazing about Kinmokusei is that it a sun to partial shade plant, which makes it a good choice for some urban backyards that may have shifting shade throughout the day. Check your zone as it does better in 9 than 7.
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