Friday, August 18, 2017

Total Eclipse Cosmic Cocktails to Celebrate Celestial Canoodling

There’s no doubt that Total Eclipse 2017 is surely helping to eclipse all the ahem, other-worldly happenings that seem to be streaming in from other planets or outer space of late! Oh this is fun writing and researching. So many puns. )Plus a pun is also called a “paronomasia” which in itself seems like a sure-fire paranormal stressful state!)

The good news is that the Total Eclipse is really about art and science coming together. Many folks refer to it as the “sun kissing the moon.” How romantic is that? Not since 1918 have we witnessed such celestial canoodling.

I’ve worshipped the stars and invoked their magic on more occasions than there are stars in the sky (!) -- ever since my beloved father, George, took me to the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History when I was a little girl. There, we purchased an index-sized card that swung open in order to chart four sky maps -- both the winter and summer skies - looking north and south.

I keep it over my writing desk today. It’s as much a tribute to space and my enduring curiosity as it is about my love for my father and his ability to nurture the fascination, imagination, and magic of the stars. As I must confess that the ancient star constellations or asterisms are almost impossible for me to trace. Rather like a parlor game; except that my husband is great at pointing out Aquila (Eagle), Sagittarius (Archer), Leo (Lion) not to mention the easy ones such as the Dippers and the Canis Minor (Little Dog). So much beauty and legend…

There’s no doubt this celestial phenomena is stirring artists and curiosity seekers. Today’s New York Times has a feature about the artist Howard Russell Butler’s exhibit at the Princeton University Art Museum, highlighting the mash up of art and science at the last total solar eclipse. The Times also offers a musical, top-20 Play List to accompany and enhance the sensual elements surrounding the artful eclipse. I like “I Put a Spell on You” by Alice Smith, “Time” by Pink Floyd or Dark Star by the Grateful Dead.
But my favorite site for all things eclipse is Nasa Total Eclipse - especially their suggested party tips and activities and downloadable activities that can spark your viewing experience. Who throws a bigger party than spacemen, er space people?!

Nasa says, “Many eclipse enthusiasts host parties in local community centers, museums, observatories, parks or open fields. Even your own backyard is a good place to throw a party.”

If you’re throwing your own party or bringing celestial treats to another, here’s a few excellent drinks to further the magical darkness...


Total Eclipse -- neė Ashes to Ashes - created by Jordan Bushell, Mőet Hennessy National Brand Ambassador. This is one of master mixologist Jordan’s more brilliant contributions to my soon-to-be-released book, Finishing Touches: The Art of Garnishing the Cocktail (available in presale now.)

I think it’s perfect for toasting the total eclipse, don’t you?

Here’s what it looks like in the book:

And here’s how to make the dark cocktail:

  • 1.5 oz Hennessy VS
  • 1 oz Tawny Port 10 year Old
  • 1/2 tsp activated Charcoal
  • 2 dashes chocolate bitters
  • Garnish – cocktail Cherry (luxardo) and or 1 red rose petal
  • Glass – Rocks

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with ice. Stir to combine, pour into a rocks glass


With a cherry and/or a rose petal.

From Finishing Touches: Dark and foreboding in look and yet the drinks is full of flavor, Ashes to Ashes was named for the charcoal but also for the end of things for every end is a beginning and this balanced and approachable drink is also deep and contemplative in it’s flavors. You want to sit with it as it begins to warm up in the glass and reveals more and more of itself.

The charcoal does not add any actual flavor and thus is one of the garnishes; if a garnish is not there for the flavor it can still have a purpose, in this case, dramatic effect. We drink and eat with our eyes first, as a drink comes across the room to us, or is handed across the bar we are already imagining different flavors it will have. When a black drink is presented, it creates mystery and thus an open palate. The rose petal and or cherry provide a contrast, bright red, dramatic.

Patrón Platinum Margarita

(photo courtesy of Patrón Tequila)

How beautiful is this cocktail?


  • 2 oz Platinum Patrón Tequila 
  • 1 oz Dolin vermouth Blanc
  • 2 dash rose water 
  • .25 oz agave syrup
  • .5 oz lime juice

Stir all ingredients with ice for 30 seconds then pour in a mixing glass. In a mixing glass add 
1 bar spoon edible platinum color
1 pinch xanthan gum
Stir for 10 seconds pour in your coupe glass.


With an edible orchid using edible silver sprayer marshmallow flavored to coat the orchid.

Heart of Gold - Leeann Lavin


  • 2 jiggers Goldschlager - a Swiss Cinnamon Schnapps Liqueur 
  • 3-4 jiggers cold Ginger Beer - homemade or hand-crafted artisanal, such as Reed’s: sparkling, filtered water sweetened by a blend of cane sugar, pineapple juice, honey, fresh ginger root, lemon & lime juices and spices. 
The cinnamon of the schnapps harmonizes with the spices in the ginger beer.

Put ice cubes in goblet

Mix all ingredients in cocktail shaker

Remove ice from goblet. Pour strained cocktail into iced goblet glass.


Crystallized ginger - highlights ginger beer/ginger root ingredients (or maraschino or orange rind studded with cloves) clipped on glass with gold jewelry pins.

Garnish option

Spun, gold sugar wafers cotton candy on a lollipop stick (can provide recipe)
You can also pour the cocktail into old-fashioned glasses with ice and garnish.

Food Pairing

Posh Pretzels & Piglets

Serve with classic cocktail party, German hot dog-inspired favorites: pigs in a blanket, artisanal pretzels and hearty mustard.

Entertaining Tips

Add glamour to the common beer & pretzel or beer and hot dog. Play off the heart of gold- use mirrors under the goblet glasses to amplify the gold flakes floating in the Goldschlager; create heart-shaped glitter accents.

Sprinkle glitter gold on mirror plates to shine, use gold baskets as serving vessels

Linen napkins with gold embroidered detail add a golden touch.

Silver Blue Moon

Available at Sir Henri in NYC by Beverage Director, Gil Bouhana

Photo courtesy of Nolet’s Dry Gin



Combine in a cocktail shaker with ice, shake and strain into a cocktail glass. 


With lavender* or more traditionally, a brandied cherry.

*My notation: be sure to use English lavender. French lavender is used for beauty products such as soap, while the English lavender is used in food preparation, including cooking and drinks.

Reyka’s Take My Breath Away by Anna Levy Mains

(Photo courtesy of Reyka vodka)


  • 2 parts Reyka Vodka
  • ½ part Dolin blanc vermouth (Dolin is my hands-down favorite vermouth; it is appropriately botanical and delicious.)
  • 1 part cucumber juice 
  • ¼ Lime
  • ¼ part Wasabi simple 

Combine all ingredients into cocktail shaker. Shake, strain

Use a cucumber ribbon and orchid garnish; serve.

*Wasabi simple was 1 oz wasabi powder by volume to 8 oz of simple syrup

Mixologist Mains hails from Oklahoma City’s In the Raw Sushi Bar, Knucks Wheelhouse, and Rockford Cocktail Den.

Hudson Summer Smash

(photo courtesy of Tuthilltown Spirits)



Add apple slices, simple syrup, and two or three mint leaves to shaker tin (or pint glass half of ‘Boston Shaker’) and muddle together. Add Hudson Four Grain Bourbon and ice and shake well. Strain over fresh ice in Old Fashioned/rocks glass and top with splash of ginger ale. Float port (or wine) on top of the drink by pouring carefully over the back of a bar spoon.


With mint sprig.

Free Cosmic Stuff

With more than 750 locations, Pilot Flying J is the latest to get in on the fun.

Guests of Pilot and Flying J Travel Centers can receive a FREE standard size Milky Way candy bar or pack of Eclipse chewing gum when purchasing any beverage in-store (excluding alcohol). This offer is available in the myOffers section of the myPilot mobile app. The solar eclipse promotion is valid for customers in the U.S. from Aug 21 until Aug. 25.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

PaperSoil Launches Happy, Rainbow-Colored 'Jar Gardens'

PaperSoil Launches Jar Gardening
If gardens could smile, this little rainbow of a container garden would be grinning, blowing bubbles, and turning cartwheels.

And if it wasn’t so effective and so darn easy, you’d be forgiven for just having fun with this charming garden project using the soon-to-be-released product and ingredients created by PaperSoil. More about the company in a minute.

Let’s get right to the fun part. PaperSoil discovered a way to make make “soil” from recycled colored paper. I suspect that it’s actually recycled paper that is colored using vegetable or natural dye. Nevertheless, it’s a phenomenon I just found out about. The company calls it “jar gardening.” How cute is that?

How it Works

The PaperSoil kit, if you can call it that, (it’s all so intuitive and simple that you really don’t even need directions) arrives packed with six different rainbow-colored paper soil bags, seeds, a teeny, tiny shovel (repurpose for your fairy garden?), a mini plastic watering squeezer with a needlepoint top, and a kind of old-fashioned milk jar that stands about 5 inches or six inches. You can use the jar in the kit -- or use any glass container you have. Or think about creating a composition of jars at varying heights. Or use one tall jar. The possibilities got my imagination fired up once I came to understand how it all worked. The concept is so refreshing; so new that it takes a bit of wonder to to get your garden art ideas flowing.

I could see creating a cheerful tablescape for a brunch or outdoor garden party. Or a fun project for a child’s party. You could just pile all the different colored paper soils in cups and have the kids layer their soil selections in the jar -- or mix up the colors. Squeeze a bit of water on top. It kinda’ works like making an ice cream sundae -- with sprinkles. Kids of all ages can make their own rainbow jar garden to take home and watch in awe as their seeds sprout.

The company says the light-as-confetti “colored recycled paper is specially created to replace the traditional soil of jar plants or the water in glass vases, bringing color and cheer into your home or office.” PaperSoil additionally suggests using the jar gardens in your car. Not exactly sure that’s the best environment but hey - if it can put that bit of zen oxygen in your motoring - and you have a steady, flat surface - I’m on board with it. Especially because this PaperSoil can help conserve trees, water, soil.

According to PaperSoil:

  • This is a fresh idea -- completely new technology that replaces the traditional soil with recycled colored paper, contributing to the protection of the environment in an entertaining way. 
  • It’s Eco-Friendly -- certified by SGS, the world's leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company, ensuring that PaperSoil meets European Union environment standards.
  • An Easy Method -- just plant the seed and then just water them. PaperSoil technology is ideal to prompt the growing of plants.

Color Options

The PaperSoil kit comes with everything you need. (The magic wand though, is mine…)

Because of international regulations, the company cannot ship seeds but does offer a number of seeds to optimize the gardens, including pretty, yet easy-to-grow plants, including a choice of Zinnia Elegans, Mimosa Pudica, Four O’Clocks (I love seeing this old-fashioned plant favorite as part of the feature seeds), Catgrass, Mint, Impatiens Balsamina, Cosmos Bipinnatus, Ipomoea Nil, and Sunflowers, - although I’m not too sure how these last few plants in particular would do in the small jar I received. Perhaps better to order enough PaperSoil and plant in a tall glass container or vase.

This is my happy Jar Gardening results -- placed on a morning sun windowsill, the seeds sprouted within a week!

And here’s an instructional (but fun) Papersoil YouTube video.

Further, the garden novelty company has just 40 hours to go on their Papersoil Kickstarter campaign. It looks like they’ve exceeded their goal - but hey -- get in on a good thing -- there is a collection of Pledge Rewards that will tickle your Green Thumb.

Hats off to garden technology and new, fun ways to engage with plants. Please do write me with your PaperSoil Jar Gardening ideas and success - why its garden glamour is practically made for Pinterest and Instagram!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Protect our Pollinators - USPS Unveils Butterfly and Bee Stamp Art to Honor Native Habitat. Celebrate with Entertaining Honey Cocktail Recipe!

The U.S. Postal Service announced they are paying tribute to the beauty and importance of pollinators with stamps depicting two of our continent’s most iconic: the monarch butterfly and the western honeybee, each shown industriously pollinating a variety of plants native to North America.

The Protect Pollinators Forever stamps were dedicated at noon, August 8th at the American Philatelic Society National Summer Convention StampShow in Richmond, VA. And I was the first to buy the Pollinator stamps at my local Post Office!

“Bees, butterflies and other pollinators sustain our ecosystem and are a vital natural resource,” said U.S. Postal Service Judicial Officer Gary Shapiro, who will dedicate the stamps. “They are being threatened and we must protect them.”

Scheduled to join Judge Shapiro in the dedication are American Philatelic Society President Mick Zais; The Pollinator Partnership President & CEO Val Dolcini; and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Assistant Regional Director for External Affairs, Midwest Region, Charles Traxler. U.S. Postal Service Director, Stamp Services Mary-Anne Penner will serve as master of ceremonies.

“We’d like to thank the U.S. Postal Service, not only for supporting StampShow Richmond, but for bringing stamps that are sure to be a hit with collectors,” said Zais.

Andy, husband of a favorite cousin of mine - Teri Lewkow - is a postal hero in Florida. For years I’ve heard the stories of how much his route customers appreciate and love him. I can’t help thinking with the introduction of the Protect Pollinators stamp art collection - we can now thank our Postal team, or mail carriers, for not only supporting our native landscapes but also for bringing such beauty right to our doors as a hopeful reminder to respect our environment. Sort of like the Johnny Appleseed of the plant kingdom; spreading love like so much native seeds and blooms.

The stamps feature a monarch and a coneflower (photo by Karen Mayford); a monarch and a zinnia (photo by Bonnie Sue Rauch); and a monarch and a goldenrod (photo by Justin Fowler);

Further, a western honeybee and a golden ragwort (photo by George D. Lepp); and a western honeybee and a New England aster (photo by Michael Durham).

These insects are go about their business every day, providing the vital ecological service of pollination.

“As with their fellow pollinators — other insects, birds and bats — they are rewarded with sweet nectar as they shuttle pollen from blossom to blossom. The plants are rewarded too. They can then produce the seeds that bring their next generation. Humans also benefit. We can thank insect pollinators for about a third of the food that we eat, particularly many of the fruits and vegetables that add colorful variety and important nutrients to our diet.”

Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) and western honeybees (Apis mellifera), also called European honeybees, are two of North America's most iconic pollinators. Both travel far and wide. Monarchs can flutter thousands of miles in one of nature’s most wondrous migrations, a multigenerational round-trip that can cross southern Canada, the north-south breadth of the contiguous United States, and deep into Mexico, where they rest for the winter before returning north.

While western honeybees do not naturally migrate such distances, beekeepers truck their hives on long-haul migrations, accommodating agricultural growing seasons around the nation. These bees are far and away the continent’s most vital pollinators, servicing almond, citrus, peach, apple and cherry tree blossoms, plus the blossoms of berries, melons, cucumbers, onions and pumpkins, to name just a few. Surpluses of honey, created from nectar by honeybees as a nonperishable food source for their hives, is yet another benefit to humans.

Regrettably, in today’s world, “these pollinators need mindful human intervention in order to thrive. The hives of western honeybees have lately been raided by parasitic mites and plagued by Colony Collapse Disorder, a mysterious condition which disorients bees and causes them to abandon their hives. While monarch butterflies, utterly dependent on milkweed plants throughout their range and specific mountain forests in Mexico, face collapsing populations as these habitats disappear to accommodate farming, urban development and illegal logging.

Throughout North America, efforts to halt logging, study the effects of agricultural herbicides and pesticides, and plant long swaths of flowers along stretches of highway and other such rights-of-way offer promise. On a grassroots level, individuals and groups can help provide for pollinators by planting locally appropriate flowers — a win–win for people and pollinators alike.

“The Protect Pollinators stamps are being issued as Forever stamps. Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce price.”

Joining the Pollinator Party

The USPS is joining a heroic network of organizations working to promote awareness and educate citizens about what we must do to protect the health of pollinators - critical to food and ecosystems through conservation and active participation.

The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge was launched by The National Pollinator Garden Network, “an unprecedented collaboration of national, regional, conservation, and gardening groups to address the critical decline of pollinators by asking all Americans to plant for pollinators.”

You can register your pollinator gardens and your personal eden will be added to the Pollinator Partnership Map.

I just registered our country house gardens! It’s fun. And you’ll be kind of deputized - to become an ambassador of the plant kingdom helping to reach the Million Pollinator goal.

You can also sign on as a volunteer to the Pollinator Action Team. And you’ll love the artful Monarch Butterfly map poster.

Here you can also get your hands on a planting guide, by region, to help the Monarch butterflies on their astonishing winter migration to Mexico. Hint: plant milkweeds. I do in my gardens and my clients’ too. Consider the apt-named Butterfly Weed, Asclepias tuberosa. They are gorgeous - a bright sun-kissed hue that you and butterflies will find irresistible.

And don’t forget the colorful daisy-like Native: Coneflower Echinacea.

I took this photo in a favorite garden client’s “Butterfly Garden” it is the ying to the yang of the garden’s other side, the “Dinosaur Garden!” Here the Echinacea seduces the Monarch.

I also belong to The Xerces Society. If you’re not familiar with this organization, please check it out. Xerces offers a fascinating peek into what I think is a secret world of invertebrates with their bi-annual publication, Wings, as part of membership.

Most folks are aware of the plight of the bees and their shocking colony collapse disorder. Xerces writes: “Alarmingly, recent work by the Xerces Society in concert with IUCN Bumble Bee Specialist Group, indicates that some species have experienced rapid and dramatic declines more than others. In fact, more than one quarter (28%) of all North American bumble bees are facing some degree of extinction risk.”

And Climate Chaos, especially, “is affecting bumble bees by changing bloom time and subjecting populations to fluctuating temperatures and weather extremes,” adds Xerces.

Overall, Xerces works hard and smart to conserve Monarchs, Bumble Bees, as well as some creatures you’ve probably never seen before!

Protecting our Pollinators is the critical element of the Xerces mission. Bear in mind, “Pollinators are essential to our environment. The ecological service they provide is necessary for the reproduction of over 85% of the world’s flowering plants, including more than two-thirds of the world’s crop species. The United States alone grows more than 100 crops that either need or benefit from pollinators, and the economic value of these native pollinators is estimated at $3 billion per year in the U.S.,” according to The Xerces Society.

We’ve all seen the slogan posted as a shield or poster at Farm to Table restaurants and as bumper stickers, “No Farms, No Food.”

But in truth, we should be sporting the tagline, No Pollinators, No Food.

No kidding...

Ordering First-Day-of-Issue Postmarks

Customers have 60 days to obtain first-day-of-issue postmarks by mail.

I got mine. In fact, Mary who was managing the desk the day the stamps were unveiled, wasn’t aware of the Pollinator stamps. I showed her my email from USPS. She asked her boss, who said they had indeed received them; he needed to register them so I could purchase a sheet. Paydirt! I was number one - the first to buy the Pollinator Stamps. They are almost too pretty to use. I love the stamp art.

You can purchase new stamps at United States Post Office locations, at the Postal Store or by calling 800-782-6724. The USPS says you should affix the stamps to envelopes of your choice, address the envelopes to themselves or others and place them in larger envelopes addressed to:

FDOI – Protect Pollinators Stamps

USPS Stamp Fulfillment Services

8300 NE Underground Drive, Suite 300

Kansas City, MO 64144-9900

After applying the first-day-of-issue postmark, the Postal Service will return the envelopes through the mail. There is no charge for postmarks up to a quantity of 50. For more than 50, customers are charged

5 cents each. All orders must be postmarked by Oct. 3, 2017.

Ordering First-Day Covers

The Postal Service also offers first-day covers for new stamps and stationery items postmarked with the official first-day-of-issue cancellation. Each item has an individual catalog number and is offered in the quarterly USA Philatelic catalog, online at or by calling 800-782-6724. Customers may request a free catalog by calling 800-782-6724 or writing to:

U.S. Postal Service

Catalog Request

PO Box 219014

Kansas City, MO 64121-9014

You may view many of this year’s other stamps on Facebook at or via Twitter @USPSstamps.

Share the news on social media using the hashtags #ProtectPollinators and #PollinatorStamps.

Entertaining with Honey

We celebrate Bees for their pollination prowess, of course. Plus, we couldn’t love their honey more!

Taste the terroir of local, natural honey -- some taste salty as does a honey farmer near us who borders the sea. Other honey suggests lavender or orange blossoms or native wildflowers.

Honey tasting inspired this cocktail from my upcoming book, Finishing Touches: The Art of Garnishing the Cocktail (available in pre-sale) and named for a favorite garden client, Maria - who has her very own honeybee hives! (Her beekeeper is the same man who tends Bon Jovi’s honeybees. Shhhhh!)

You’ll find the history of honey mead fascinating. Honey is Love.

Maria's Mead: Nectar of the Goddesses - Leeann Lavin

This heavenly cocktail is inspired by honey mead, the world’s oldest spirit; the beverage offering man his first “buzz!” The history of this sweet nectar - or Ambrosia as the Greeks called it - was believed to be descended from the heavens as the “drink of the gods” -- and goddesses! Bees were thought to be driven to the sky to honor the goddess of love, Aphrodite and later, bees were seen as the messengers of the gods. Delivering such sacred love letters it’s no surprise that bees and honey are tied to a fruitful marriage.

The very term “honeymoon” comes from the ancient tradition of giving bridal couples a moons worth of honey–wine.

The “recipe” for honey itself is eternal: honey is flower nectar collected by honeybees -- its different compounds give honey its distinctive flavor and aromas unique to a region’s flowers and blooms. Honey’s enduring properties of taste and healthful properties continue to reward us with a kind of intoxicating love potion.


1 jigger potato vodka- I recommend hand-crafted spirits such as LiV small batch distilled from 100% Long Island potatoes or Tito’s vodka.

1 jigger Sorbetta Strawberry Liqueur- crafted from LiV vodka and fresh homegrown strawberries

2 jigger Owl’s Brew White & Vine tea crafted for cocktails - blend of white tea, pomegranate, lemon peel, & watermelon

.25 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice

.25 oz honey -- locally sourced honey with its genius loci - or “spirit of place” - lends a unique flavor triumph to Maria’s Mead.


Mix all ingredients in cocktail shaker over ice. Strain and pour into white wine glasses or wine goblet.

Garnish with fresh strawberry wrapped with lemon twist, held with a decorative cocktail pick - or as I did, with a bee-u-tiful Bee Jewelry pin.

Food Pairing and Cocktail Composition:

Honey Mead cries out for honey-dripping canapés that stand up to its sweet side, including strong cheeses, spicy soups and vegetables.

With the homegrown honey taking center stage, what better treat to pair it with than another star?

Goat Cheese & Mushroom Honey Stars:
Pizzettes with fig and tea preserves, culinary lavender, sea salt, goat cheese,

Raw honey drizzle


pizza dough

1/3 lb mushrooms

Fig and black tea preserves

12 slices goat cheese


lavender salt

1 tbs olive oil

Sea salt and white pepper


Preheat oven to 400F.

Sauté the mushrooms in olive oil, add sea salt and pepper and let cook until the liquid evaporates.

Roll the dough very thin, about 1/16 of an inch thick. Using a cookie cutter or a glass - cut the dough into shapes. Place the shapes onto an ungreased cookie sheet sprinkled with corn meal (to prevent sticking)

Place a smidge of cooked mushroom mixture on each dough shape, topped with the preserves, then a bit of crumbled goat cheese.

Sprinkle with lavender salt (be sure to use the English culinary lavender), and honey drizzle .

Bake for about 10 minutes until the crust is golden brown and cheese has melted.

Can serve hot or cold.

Pair the canapes with dried apricots, Villa Cappelli Lemon Rosemary Almonds and shelled green pistachios.

Entertaining Tips

Everyone’s favorite pollinator, bees are captivating and beguiling. Set up a cocktail composition using some of the honey bee’s favorite habitats, especially fresh flowers. Fresh lavender in tiny vases, and sunflowers, for example, are welcome to bees and guests alike.

Decorate with honey accessories, such a glass honey pot filled with golden honey that also provides the amber gold for dripping on the cheese, canapes, and nuts.

There are a plethora of honeycombs, bee skeps, yellow and black candy kabobs, water-colored macarons, especially yellow, green, black and white, and bee-themed jewelry scattered throughout the composition that add a bee-utiful presentation sure to inspire all kinds of love. Position table setting holders with the local honey’s personally-branded gift logo (spread the honey goodness).

Sprigs of French lavender, and ivy or morning glory, clematis, or other vine twined around the composition and bejeweled with bee jewel studs, add to the garden ambience.

Use color-happy serving pieces & cocktail napkins.


Monday, July 17, 2017

New York Botanical Garden's "Hortie Hoopla!" Turns Five

The number five is good -- we all wave a “high five” when we are saying congratulations in a physically demonstrable way, don’t we?

I researched the significance of the number five and found that “People with the lucky number five/5 usually tend to pursue freedom.

They do not like to be bounded by their surroundings or other people.

They judge or enjoy things with their senses…”

Well if all that doesn’t more or less describe the Hortie Hoopla attendees’ spirit, I don’t know what does.

Freedom and celebrating nature and the environment with all of our senses is truly a hallmark of those who choose to make horticulture their career.

This Wednesday, July 19, 2017, marks the fifth anniversary of The New York Botanical Garden’s (NYBG) Annual Green Industry Intern Field Day -- or as it’s affectionately referred to: Hortie Hoopla, and hosted by NYBG’s School of Professional Horticulture (SoPH).

(Karen Washington speaking at last year’s Hortie Hoopla.)

The brainchild of Charles Yurgalevitch Director, School of Professional Horticulture, NYBG, and inspired by the rather prescient feature that successful author and horticulturist Ken Druse wrote for Rodale Press in 2013 where Ken introduced us to “The Next Generation” - six young horticulturists, emblematic of the Emergent professionals who are the future of American gardening, Hortie Hoopla has grown to become the seminal event for the future of professional horticulture.

Of the original six, several have spoken at past Hortie Hoopla events - I especially love that Kelly Norris! Here I am last year showing Kelly the spelling of my name so he could autograph his book, Plants with Style for me.

Me, Kelly, and Ken. Happy Plant People.

Kelly Norris speaking at 2016 Hortie Hoopla at NYBG

Brie Arthur is really on a successful roll - this firecracker of a plantswoman is now a first-time author with her just-released book, The Foodscape Revolution, (can't wait to get my autographed copy) published by St. Lynn’s Press; she is the recipient of the American Horticultural Society’s (AHS) first-ever “Emerging Horticultural Professional.”

The AHS clearly took a cue from Hortie Hoopla. High-Fives to that!

Brie is also the Keynote speaker at this year’s Hortie Hoopla. Again, High Fives all ‘round.

According to Charles, this year’s Green Industry Intern Field Day has a whopping pre-registration of nearly 250 attendees; over 175 of whom are interns or seasonals. “Further, the event has grown to be regional - attracting attendees from a broader geographic base than the original city or tri-state core audience,” explained Charles. “We’re hosting young professionals from as far away as North Carolina and Massachusetts,” he added, with great pride.

If you are a an intern or seasonal and haven’t yet registered, you can still do so - SoPH and Charles’ team make an exception for you.

Here are the details for Hortie Hoopla's schedule:

5th Annual NYC-area Green Industry Intern Field Day - Hortie Hoopla 5

When: Wednesday, July 19, 2017 @ NYBG

2900 Southern Boulevard

Bronx, NY 10458-5126

Time: 11 a.m.–dusk

Join NYBG for its annual event for interns and seasonal employees involved in the green industry.

This free industry-sponsored event features remarks from top horticulturists around the Tri-State Area.

Plus this being a magical kind of garden, you may discover a special surprise - or two - on this very remarkable day.

View the Garden’s collections and talk with the Garden’s Horticulture curators, test your plant ID skills with a contest, and wrap up the day with food and refreshments, games, and prizes. Nice!

The School of Professional Horticulture is very proud to host Brienne Arthur as the 2017 keynote speaker.

In addition to being a first-time author, Brie helps lead the national suburban foodscape movement -- a model of community development that incorporates sustainable, local food production.

To Register: RSVP with the name and email address of each person attending, and the name of your organization to Eric Lieberman at 718.817.8580 or

Space is limited to one supervisory staff member per group of interns.

Arrive early to view the breathtaking works of art created by world-renowned artist Dale Chihuly in his first major garden exhibition in New York in more than ten years.

Program of Events

  • 11 a.m.— Early Registration
  • Lunch on Your Own (Pine Tree Café open all afternoon)
  • 12:30–3 p.m.—Arthur and Janet Ross Lecture Hall

  • Todd Forrest, Arthur Ross Vice President for Horticulture and Living Collections

“My Stories”/Featured Speakers:

  • Louis Bauer—Director of Horticulture, Wave Hill
  • Francisca Coelho—Vivian and Edward Merrin Vice President for Glasshouses and Exhibitions, New York Botanical Garden

  • Ken Druse, author/photographer

Keynote Address: 
  • Brienne Arthur, author of The Foodscape Revolution 

3–5 p.m.—Visit the Collections at NYBG, including, 
The Thain Family Forest, 
Native Plant Garden, and 
Green Materials Recycling Center (new composting facility), & Hands-on composting demonstrations
Plant ID contest (ongoing)

5 p.m. to dusk—Food and refreshments, fun, games, and prizes in the Clay Family Picnic Pavilion

Food and drink generously provided by:

Floral Landscape Services

Etain Health

Landcraft Environments, Ltd.

Mario Bulfamante & Sons

Bartlett Tree Experts

NY State Arborists Association

Riverside Park Conservancy

The Bronx Brewery (I love this craft beer!)

Thank you, sponsors.

If you are a green industry professional - or want to become one -- this event is for you. See you at the Garden.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Romancing Bridal, Engagement Showers & Garden Parties with Pretty Floral Drinks & Punch Recipes

Hinterland Punch with Jagermeister 

It’s the season for showers - not the spring showers that bring May flowers; rather the bridal and engagement kind that brings -- well, love. Love of family. Love of nature. And love of food and drink.

I’m sharing some of my favorite new - and tried and true - cocktail recipes to make the party pretty and special - and delicious.

Remember, finishing touches creates the ambiance that will be talked about long after the party swag bags are emptied and enjoyed. The experience lives on.

First up, is Hinterland Punch that is as pretty as a nosegay.

Hinterland Punch

Created by Josh Mazza

Serves 6-8


12oz Jägermeister

5 oz Grenadine

10 oz Ruby Red Grapefruit

20 oz Roobis tea

1 Bottle (26 oz) Sparkling Rosé

8 oz raspberries

8 oz strawberries


Add edible flowers to tea and freeze in a bread pan. Combine other ingredients in a punch bowl. Add frozen tea/flowers.


Cut berries and add into punch.

Aperol Spritz
This is one of my most favorite go-to summer drinks. And this year, I made it for our annual Independence Day Fireworks / Birthday Party event

Every year I put out a hostess drink on the kitchen island so that when guests arrive I can offer them a warm welcome and a refreshing drink with gracious hospitality.

This is the prep and testing -- the crystal glasses came out later!

You could readily set this up for a shower either on an island or on a hostess cart.


1 part Aperol

2 parts Sparkling white wine or Prosecco

3 parts Q Club Soda

I added 1 part homegrown Rhubarb simple syrup


Build cocktail over ice in a tall collins glass or white wine glass or a small cordial glass. Or a punch bowl

Orange Twist or quarter "smile"

photo: Pinterest
My Finishing Touches Garnish is to add a homegrown garden sprig of orange thyme clipped to the glass with a teeny-tiny clothes pin -- orange-colored, of course. The essential oil in the herb gives a hint of earthy, refreshing orange with every sip. Bellissimo!

You can also use the recipe in a punch bowl - and float the oranges and herbs.

I make a special ice ring for pure punch pizzazz.

My famous bridal punch with the rose wreath encased in ice mold is a favorite with the “ladies who lunch.”

This is a dreamy, special bit of floating florals surrounded by a peachy or pink punch confection. It never fails to elicit the oohs and ahhs that something pretty and out of the ordinary does to our senses.

How To:
photo: Pinterest
Photo: Pinterest
Photo: Pinterest
To make a Finishing Touches ice mold, simply fill a bundt pan three-quarters of the way full of distilled water. The distilled water has the impurities removed so the ice will be crystal clear -- the icicle white by-product of freezing tap water will not allow the visual delight of the blossoms or berries to be the star of the show.

When the water is frozen, add in an edible floral, herb, citrus peel or berry of choice. I’ve used rose petals, lavender, johnny jump-ups, and cranberries. You can match the bride’s colors or match to the tablescape.

Then add in another layer of distilled water on top of the fruit or herbs and freeze.

Take out of the mold when you’re ready to serve the punch, warming the bottom and sides with warm water -- I just run the tap a bit and use my hands to warm the pan. You could also set in a pan of warm water for a bit - especially if you’re preparing another dish and have water on the stove.

When you can see the ice is loose in the pan, turn over into the punch bowl. The mold will float while your guests enjoy the pretty and delicious punch. In the end, you’ll have a ring of flowers or blossoms in the bowl.

Another pretty drink for a shower - or a garden party showcasing the beauty of nature’s botanicals is the

Reyka Siren by Ingi R. Sigurdsson

This cocktail recipe showcases the additional garden glamour florals in individual ice cubes rather than the circle wreath. Here the mixologist Sigurdsson also uses flavors in the ice - not just visuals - and an orchid! How glamorous is that?
The St. Germaine provides elderberry flavor - from the plant Sambucus canadensis or nigra. The elderberry is such a pretty plant - you can’t help admire the inflorescence.

Victorians and today - Eastern Europeans - continue to love this traditional, natural herbal liqueur. Since 2007 it’s readily available from Bacardi as St.Germaine.

The taste is a little like honey with orange blossoms if that makes sense to you. It does to me!

I really adore this liquor and use it frequently to add nuanced florals to cocktails and punch.

I suggest you have a bottle on hand to add to food and drink recipes. You will thank me…

3 Parts Reyka Vodka

1 ½ parts Fresh lemon juice

1 Parts Simple Syrup (1:1)

1 parts St. Germaine

6 parts Champagne or sparkling wine


Combine all ingredients into cocktail shaker except champagne. Shake, top, garnish and serve. Shake/strain over the fruit juice cubes/top with 6 parts prosecco in a Bordeaux/Burgundy wine glass


With 2 cranberry juice cubes/2 grapefruit juice cubes/ 1 large simple syrup ice cube with orange blossom water, rose water, frozen edible Sonja orchid.

Garnish How-To:

For Flower ice cube liquid:

4 liters water

24 parts simple syrup 1:1

10 droppers Orange flower water

10 droppers rose water

Stir till combined

Freeze in 1x1 molds with Sonia Orchid

Empress Gin
The other drink recipe I must include here but will have more to say on later, uses Empress Gin

I plan to write a feature on this soon. However, I couldn’t allow a story on the oh-so-pretty punches and botanical party drinks go out without including this new, artisanal Empress 1908 gin. 
Besides being handcrafted, the gin is a natural, color-changing spirit. How cool is this?!

Guests will be cooing with the magic. I didn’t have a chance to taste the Empress Gin - I’m assured its botanicals are top-tier -- but I did try the the curious, authentic pea vine (Clitoria ternatea) or “butterfly pea” ingredient that waves its magic “leaf” to turn a drink’s color from blue to purple to red.

That’s a lot of shades on the color spectrum. And a whole lot of shades on the wowsy, happiness scale!

Plus, doesn’t every bride to be want to be a royalty of sorts? So Empress Gin is spot-on for a bridal party.

Empress and Tonic


2 oz Empress 1908 gin

3 oz Tonic Water



Build on ice in a tall glass. Stir well.


Grapefruit slice

For a punch-full of color and fun, just use the recipe and multiply by the number of guests.

You can also create an ice mold using grapefruit slices or peel. Or if you can get the butterfly pea leaves -- or local pea leaves - or pretty blue or red blossoms - you’re going to the star hostess.

Why do you think they call it "punch?"

How glamorous…

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Greenacre Park is a Jewel of a Garden - Like Tinkerbell, She Needs You to Keep Clapping. Fight For Light

This is a park with a pedigree.

It surely was kismet when a Rockefeller helped create a pocket-sized, jewel-box of a public park in Gotham back in 1971.

Creating a park in that era was an investment - a sign of hope for the future of a city that some thought wasn’t worth it -- even the American president in 1975 offered a kind of Bronx cheer to the citizens of New York City.

Today, NYC can truly be thought of as the “shining city on the hill” that other American presidents from Kennedy to Reagan emphasized when referring to America.

But we really are that city! Everyone who moves to New York City comes with a dream. To be the best. To feel that urban frisson and work with all kinds of people. And contribute to our shared community.

Greenacre Park is a beacon. Yet, its own light is slowly being snuffed out… We can’t let that happen.

Greenacre Park

Recently, I was privileged to be part of a garden tour with our Metro Hort group - the “association of professional horticulturists in New York City and the the tri-state region.”

I so appreciate this working group of professionals - we meet at the Fifth Avenue/Central Park Armory in the winter for lectures and how-to’s and bonhomie - in order to increase our knowledge and skills, and in the warmer months, we tour outstanding gardens and parks, organized and led by the respected hort professional, Sabine Stetzenbach - who I had the honor to work with at The New York Botanical Garden

First up this season was the outstanding public garden: Greenacre Park.

I think I have it right that we were the first professionals to be invited and accorded a full tour by the Greenacre Foundation staff who manage, operate, and maintain this urban arcadia. Our Greenacre hosts were Joe Renaghan and Lois Cremmins.

I’m kind of embarrassed to say that I never visited this park previously. Don’t repeat my mistake. This is a must-see; trust me.

In an elevated, theatric sense of style, you enter this garden space by stepping up into it. You alight upon it. There is that sense of arrival -- leaving the street and - like crossing a threshold - entering another world. It’s indeed one of the more glamorous gardens I’ve seen - and I mean to compare it estate gardens, as well as parks and parts of botanic gardens.

In addition to the sheer delight taking in the trees, perennial plants, and that majestic 25-foot waterfall over granite that makes living in New York -- or any urban environment where one is delighted to discover so much dramatic nature and beauty - (just as in New York’s Central Park) - it’s important to note these urban oasis’ are a designed and built environment.

While I’m not entirely sure, I do think that many New Yorkers - and others - believe the parks - and for that matter - the botanical gardens - are preserved remnants or remains of what was once a more native landscape.

However, the truth is, all of our parks and gardens and public spaces have been professionally designed. With love.

Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth

Given all the jewel-like references to Greenacre Park, it seems quite appropriate to learn this gem of a park had a woman steering its creation and design. A rich woman too.

Abby Rockefeller Mauzė - granddaughter of the industrialist John D. Rockefeller Sr. gifted the park to the people of New York in October of 1971. With love. And she dedicated the park to her brother Laurence and his associate Allston Boyer, for their help in getting the park created.

She directed the cobbling together of three lots via the Greenacre Foundation that continues to manage the park today. Gail O. Caulkins, the president of the Greenacre Foundation is Mauzė’s granddaughter.

As part of our tour of this “vest-pocket” garden park, the Metro Hort members sort of clung to the hosts and speakers like so many hens and chicks - clinging to the mother plant - to absorb the privileged news and inside, first-hand information and lore. (And to hear over the roar of the waterfall.)

Don’t you just adore garden history? It’s all so precious with its links to money, heritage, locale, and politics and personalities.

The story unfolded… In the 1970’s, there were lots of empty lots in New York City.

Hard to believe it now when there is so much over-construction - (more on that later.)

With a desire to create a public garden, Abby Rockefeller Mauzė established the Greenacre Foundation to fund and maintain a very special space: roughly 60-feet wide by 120-feet deep.

Greenacre describes the space as “slightly smaller than a tennis court.” We’ll take the tennis “love.”

See, good things do come in small packages…

So it’s all the more dismaying to later learn that this gift to the people of New York is being besmirched in that harm will come to the jewel box after developers steal the light.

Garden Design
The look of the park, designed by Sasaki -- Sasaki, Dawson, DeMay Associates with Masao Kinoshita as lead designer and Hideo Sasaki and Tom Wirth - has remained true to the original design. It’s a classic, cultural landscape.

We learned, too, that Mr. Sasaki is still alive and visits the park. He made a surprise spring appearance and contributed to the spring pruning!

The park is comprised of three levels:

  • The rear wall at the lowest level is punctuated by the 25-foot waterfall
  • The central area, paved with russet brick and layered with tree canopy and seating
  • A raised terrace along the west wall with a trellis roof of weathered steel beams and transparent acrylic vaults. There are heating elements there, built into the trellis roof. 
There are 12-foot honey locust trees in the center of the park -- six on each side of the runnel brook that navigates the length of the park from the sidewalk to the waterfall.

These sturdy yet delicate trees provide the much-needed and enjoyed “dappled shade” that visitors embrace and the designer planned for.

We learned these trees are living in giant container pots under the hardscape!

It’s a very unique design, described Lois Cremmins, Executive Director, Greenacre Foundation. “There are large pots beneath us, each with its own irrigation system.”

More magic beneath our feet.

Accessorizing the interior design of the park are mid-century Knoll tables and chairs.

Park goers can arrange them to create their own conversation pods and reading nooks.

We were told that visitors also come to practice yoga, propose marriage, and all kinds of connections.

I asked what the funniest things were that happened in the park -- after all, it is New York City. “There was the time a woman tried to wash her hair in the waterfall pool; and the lady in the winter of ‘72 who dove in the water in her dress -- only to be outdone by the woman who stripped naked to dive in… Ah, the theater of a public park…

We were told that from a construction standpoint, the park is unique because it was built from the “inside out.”

There was a crane on 51st Street that dropped in the granite back wall for the waterfall first, with three pumps. We were told it’s an imperative to keep those pumps in tip-top working order because it would be very cost prohibitive to replace the pumps.

Next, the blocks went in. The stone is gorgeous and dramatic too; a kind of stone art on the walls.

Trickles of water collect from the base of the highly textured ashlar masonry of the east wall and feed into the runnel.

On the west side, the higher terrace, is covered by trellising and acrylic domes, to provide a protected overlook down into the garden.

It’s a lovely perch to view the lower level of the park. And it shows what good garden design can do in spite of the size.

The designers created a sense of movement within the distinct “garden rooms” and offer elevation and movement with the different levels.

It’s a very transporting experience - a delight for the senses.

There’s no doubt the crowning glory of the space is the Greenacre Park waterfall.

The roar of the falling water is a kind of “white noise,” designed to block out ambient urban noise.

The Foundation is testing LED lighting for the waterfall now to replace the previous ones corroded five years ago. The Fisher Marantz lighting designers will complete the work by November. All the evening lighting is managed with a timer.

Here I am with Greenacre Park manager, Joe Renaghan. When I asked him what he did with the Park and he told me he was the manager I looked skeptical, saying I’d never met a park manager who worked in a suit. Without skipping a beat he told me, “I work for the Rockefellers.” So there you go. Gotta love a gentleman urban farmer / gardener!

The hardscape design creates the framework for the garden-like park. The plants are the fashion statement creating the alluring style and romance.

There is Boston Ivy clinging to the walls.

There are ilex shrubs as part of the evergreen plant portfolio. There are other low-light shrubs, including azaleas, rhododendron, andromeda - Pieris Japonica , Japanese Maple, Star Magnolia, to name a few. “We see what plants do well, “ added Cremmins. I especially enjoyed the crape myrtle, the Japanese umbrella pine and mock orange.

Sabine and her team from Town & Gardens are tasked with selecting the annual plant palette in the bowl and upright containers. They change out the plants two times a season, refurbishing the soil, pinching, pruning and providing plant love.

The colors and the textures just pop!

While the T&G team does the heavy hort work, Charlie Weston is the resident park maintenance guru for the park and has been there since the park opened! Talk about committed passion for a garden…


Can You See Me Now?

Greenacre has organized a “Fight for Light” campaign backed by the Municipal Art Society; New Yorkers for Parks; Gale A. Brewer, the Manhattan borough president; and City Councilman Daniel R. Garodnick, whose district includes the park.

Why? Because the simple reason is there is too much high-rise building approved that will produce so much shadow that the park will lose light.

Light for people; light for plants; light for life.

I read that as part of the Greenacre Park’s dedication by the City Parks Commissioner, August Heckscher said, the Greenacre “... places no burden on the city, which makes no demands, which asks of us only that we cherish it.”

Why don’t we cherish it now? I can only speculate. Greed comes to mind…

Here is my kinda garden rant:

Look, horticulturists and garden lovers understand that change is a matter of course.

Nature and time change things. We get that. And so just like that, neighborhoods change too.

But there needs to be an element to managing a sustainable change. Let’s not wholesale sell our neighborhoods away to building and real estate and the promise of profits for a few.

Let’s be realistic.  Don’t you think there should be shared “sacrifice” so to speak?  We can’t allow the few to be “Takers.”
And make no mistake, if the continued construction of these huge buildings continues, there is a quality of life that will be taken -- taken away forever from the people who live and work in the neighborhoods.

There is some cosmic comedy at play that is traces the thoughtless “Takers” in real estate development and city government and the “dark side” because of their ability to permanently create dark spaces in our life.

Don’t let this happen.

To continue to use the metaphorical - I hope that we can effectively combat the forces of darkness to preserve the light -- and the beauty of our gardens and parks.

Don’t get me wrong - I adore “Shadow Art.” So much so that I have a Pinterest board devoted to the interplay of light and shadow. But that s a natural, ephemeral, moment of beauty.

What we’re being subjected to in the case of Greenacre Park is the permanent “shading” of the space - as in “pulling the shade” and “lights out.”

Let there be Light

There isn’t a living soul who isn’t charmed by the romance and beauty of this garden park. Tourists, locals - residents and office workers.

So why smite those who only asked us to “cherish the space.” Why indeed?  Again, all signs point to selfish greed.
Building bigger and higher. For what? Half the time people don’t permanently live in these structures.

Paley Park has lost light as you can see in the photos below. I adore Paley Park - I ate breakfast and lunch there for so many years… It was a gift everyday to find a spot and soak in the ambience of water, oxygen, people and light.
I deplore the deliberate, calculated destruction of its environment just as I do that of Greenacre Park.

Think of this destruction of our parks as similar to that of the Amazon rainforest or the wholesale change in habitat in Africa or our seas.

Environmental destruction is a kind of creep. It catches us all unawares.
Next thing you know there is the man-made horrors of the Dust Bowl or the famine in Africa due to clearing of the trees…

We need to get mad - get angry enough to change this creep from occurring.

Nothing gets between a New Yorker and our parks. Remember when Bette Midler organized protests against the Giuliani administration to prevent them taking away community gardens? The running joke was that Rudy could bust the mafia but he couldn’t break the gardeners’ will. He bowed to the green enthusiasts. Bette created the New York Restoration Project that continues to honor art and beauty in our city.

If these gigantic buildings are allowed to continue - it has truly giant ramifications - not just for Greenacre Park but for other parks, for community gardens, for our quality of life.

Rezoning should be an issue that we all have a voice in. We need the power to control the element of light in our lives.

What to do?
Care enough to make a difference for Greenacre - and other parks.

  • Like and follow Greenacre on social media - @greenacreparkny
  • Join their mailing list to receive alerts. 
  • Text GREENACRE to 22828 to get started.
  • Go to and send emails to Mayor Bill de Blasio urging him and his administration to preserve the sunlight
  • Commend Borough President Gale Brewer and Councilman Daniel Garodnick for their support of the Fight for Light
You can make a difference.

Think of this like Tinkerbell in Peter Pan. If we stop clapping - or caring -- the light. Goes. Out.

I tell my own garden clients and often say at speaking engagements I’m privileged to talk at - that healthy plants need three things: water, sun, and love.

Can you show the love?

The Greenacre garden / park is open from the first week week in April to early winter.
You can get to the Park via public transportation: take the 4,6 and get off at the 51st Street station or the E, M to the 53rd Street station.