Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Gotham Gardens in Transition

This week we're saying farewell to our home for the past 10 years here on Amsterdam Avenue. The space in the neighborhood we hoped to move into isn't ready yet. In the meantime, we'll continue to do fabulous flowers and garden design in a temporary studio. The phone number is the same: 212 877.8908 and you can reach us by email: We'll miss seeing all of you who visit the shop regularly. We'll also miss our good friends at Levain Bakery, Freddy & Peppers Pizza, Beacon Hardware, Andy's Deli, Crumbs, and all the other retailers, big and small, that give this neighborhood so much character. Years ago, who would have dreamt that Amsterdam Avenue would have been filled with so many interesting places to shop and eat.

For the moment, we'll leave you with these words from people wiser than us.

"Earth laughs in flowers." Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Bread feeds the body, indeed, but flowers also feed the soul." The Koran

"Can we conceive what humanity would be if it did not know the flowers?" Maurice Maeterlinck

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Another Reminder Why Mothers Deserve Beautiful Flowers

Today's "For Better or For Worse"

Friday, April 30, 2010

A Reminder of Why Mothers Deserve Beautiful Flowers

Because mothers try so hard to make sure siblings manage to survive one another.

(Especially mothers of boys. And especially mothers of boys like Tucker and Brad. Their YouTube video surely makes their mom proud of her hard work.)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Shoveling Samaritan Works Here!

The bus stops right outside the shop. During that last heavy snowfall, people getting on or off the bus had to climb over a perilous mountain of snow and significant pile-up of slush. We try to do our civic duty when we can. This time one of our people has earned the sobriquet "the shoveling Samaritan." Here's the piece that lead off yesterday's Metropolitan Diary in the New York Times.


As I climbed a multi-foot snowbank in late February to wait for the uptown M7 bus, I noticed a thin, middle-aged woman wearing an open jacket and no gloves, shoveling snow away from the submerged curb.

She was wearing what appeared to be a Metropolitan Transportation Authority-issue shirt underneath, with the colored circles of various bus and train routes.

Me: “I can’t believe they make you do this, with no gloves either! I have enough problems with the M.T.A. as it is.”

Woman: “Oh, I don’t work for the M.T.A.”

I motioned to her T-shirt. She opened her jacket more so I could better see: the colored circles were part of a design that spells something out.

Woman: “This? This is my New York City Marathon T-shirt. I work in there [she pointed to the flower shop behind the bus stop] in the basement, and I was just so hot!” Dan Heching

Monday, February 22, 2010

What are those Olympic medal winners holding aloft?

We have to admit it's not the most telegenic bouquet we've ever seen. The designers, June Strandberg and Margitta Schulz, said they wanted the bouquets to reflect British Columbia and "look natural, like something you would see if you drove up the mountain." As you can tell from the medal ceremonies, that's not the look the design panel wanted. The powers-that-be chose a rather severe design that includes green spider mums, green hypericum berries, aspidistra leaves, leatherleaf fern and monkey grass. Between 80 and 150 bouquets are being made each day, many by novice florists trained by Ms. Strandberg in a program she runs for women who are in recovery, victims of violence or ex-convicts. By the time the last medal is awarded, they will have turned out a total of 1,800 bouquets. Having dealt with some difficult clients in our time, we'd like to award a gold medal for perseverance to Ms. Strandberg and Ms. Schultz. By the time the design panel had finished tweaking their original design, they'd gone through 23 samples.

Designers June Strandberg and Margitta Schultz deserve their own gold medal for endurance and perseverance.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Upper West Side Pick of the Week

We were surprised and delighted to discover My Upper West, the Upper West Side Blog has chosen Gotham Gardens as their Pick of the Month for February. We especially liked what they had to say about Valentine's Day, which is fast approaching. "... if you are thinking about what to get your sweetheart as a token of your love, consider one of the unique arrangements from Gotham Gardens. The flower and plant shop on Amsterdam offers some innovative designs so that your arrangement is more than the phone-it-in-red-roses-in-plastic-wrap."

Last year a woman confessed that, while she didn't want to seem ungrateful for the dozen red roses she knew she'd be getting, she really envied the women getting our lush arrangements of roses, peonies, ranunculus, orchids, sweet peas and other gorgeous blooms.

So, gentlemen, why not really dazzle them this year?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Think Ahead for a Really Special Valentine's Day

In need of inspiration this Valentine's Day? Take a tip from those Victorians who knew romance and flowers were as intertwined as, well, figure skating and sequins.

Though Valentine's Day falls on a Sunday this year, consider kicking off the celebration on Friday. There's always a special thrill in getting flowers at the office. (And so what if part of it is the look of envy on colleagues' faces.)

Catch your Valentine off guard with breakfast ... or at least, coffee -- in bed on Saturday morning and roses on the tray. (And scatter the petals where you may.)

Brunch on Sunday? You'll knock their socks off if you arrange with us ahead of time to have a lovely centerpiece waiting on your table. No additional cost for all the looks of envy cast your way.

In hibernation mode, especially with the Olympics underway? We can deliver a gift basket to your door, pairing a gorgeous bouquet with special treats from our neighbors: the infamous chocolate chip cookies from Levain Bakery, Wicked Hot Chocolate from Jacque Torres, cupcakes from Crumbs, wine from Pour, or salumi and cheese from Salumeria Rosi.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Six More Weeks of Winter

As anyone who has ever seen the movie "Groundhog Day" with Bill Murray knows, there is only one genuine, authentic groundhog prognosticator and that's the one in Punxsutawney, PA. According to Phil, we're in for six more weeks of winter. All the more reason to wrap oneself in thoughts of love and warmth.

Here at Gotham Gardens, we've turned to some of our favorite writers for a little illumination on the subject.

Some of us who seem to have been in hibernation this winter liked this gem from Zora Neale Hurston: Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.

The gardeners couldn't resist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Love does not dominate; it cultivates.

Those of us who remember the enchantment of Il Postino are immediately swept away to a sunny Mediterranean island thanks to the words of Pablo Neruda:

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way
than this: where I does not exist nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Gardens of Baghdad

We know how plants and gardens revive stressed-out New Yorkers. Just imagine what they can do for war-weary Iraqis. There's a story in Sunday's New York Times about the resurgence of gardening, especially topiaries, in Baghdad. As Muhi Mohammed Hussein, the man shown here manicuring the eagle in front of his home, explained, "Iraq has suffered for a long time, so now I'm trying to give a smile back to Iraq with beautiful plants." Another gardener noted that taking care of his garden allowed him to forget the war. His "refuge from violence" isn't quite so well maintained now. "When the situation is good, you're too busy with work," he said, an observation many New Yorkers can agree with.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Not your Typical Bar Arrangement

This summer we did a wedding at the Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers, a beautiful event space right smack on the Hudson River. Some couples come in with only a hazy idea of what they want. Not so Adam and Laura. This has to be the first time our crew assignments included a designated fish wrangler.

Monday, September 14, 2009

New Bus Stop Bench

We're still amazed that someone managed to run off with our old bus stop bench -- it weighed a ton. And even after the city finally put in a bench, people would still come into the shop asking why we stopped putting out our bench. So here's our new contribution to everyone's comfort . A friend of the shop dragged in a dreary bench missing several slats. We birched it up, gave it a zippy coat of paint, and added a lock for good measure.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Eat your Vegetables, Drink your Flowers?

A story in this week's New York Times dining section headlined How to Sip a Flower Garden led us to wonder whether we should add a bartender to the staff. As visitors to the store know, we do enjoy the occasional cocktail hour. We hadn't realized that this is the summer of the floral cocktail; that flowers are being "deployed as much for their delicate flavors as their visual appeal." The cocktail shown is flavored with elderflower liqueur and, as readers of our 4th of July post will spot, garnished with a nasturtium bloom

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

One of the Creatures of Gotham Gardens

Remember the old song Froggy went a-courtin'? This froggy went a-hitch-hikin' and arrived in the shop over a year ago hidden in a plant shipment.  A Cuban tree frog, his is considered an invasive species. Even if he could be released into the wild, New York winters would not be to his liking. He's grown considerably in the warmth and humidity of his own terrarium (complete with pool), feasting happily on crickets. Given tree frogs are nocturnal, we were delighted to find him awake and willing to pose. Meanwhile, the song has been covered by everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Bob Dylan to Elvis Presley. We especially like this version by everyone's favorite frog, Kermit.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Monsoon Summer

We got off to a late start planting our window boxes this spring. For a time, all we had was bare dirt as customers bought the plants we had planned on planting. But thanks to New York City's second rainiest summer (which August may push into the record book), the window boxes have more than made up for lost time. On the left you can see our crop of Swiss chard, more than overdue for harvesting. Alocasias, the elephant-ear plants on the right, have overshadowed a nasturium vine but are bringing much delight to passers-by.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Double-Duty Containers

We originally got these lanterns to use, well, as lanterns. Then we thought, what a great idea for a gift. The recipient gets to enjoy a gorgeous arrangement, then gets a delightful lantern to enjoy on the terrace or in the park. We only have a few left.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Most Plant-Friendly Voice in Britain Chosen

You've got to love those garden-loving Brits. This spring the Royal Horticultural Society's garden at Wisley held auditions to find "the most plant-friendly voice" in Britain. Ten finalists, reflecting a range of voices, were chosen and their recorded voices played through headphones attached to the pots of tomato plants. The winner? Sarah Darwin, a botanist at the Natural History Museum and Charles' great-great-granddaughter. Appropriately enough, she read a selection from On the Origin of Species. During the month-long, her tomato plant grew 1.6 cm higher (nearly 2/3") than the next contender.

Colin Crosbie, Garden Superintendent and curator for ‘The Voice of Wisley’ experiment said, "There is something wonderfully pleasing about a plant responding to a story about how its kind came into being."

Given the influence of British TV on the U.S., can "American Plant Idol" be far behind?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Nasturtiums: A Charmer with Many Virtues

Nasturtiums are one of those garden stalwarts that always seem to bring out smiles. How can you not love a plant with so many virtues? Nasturtiums are fast growers. Low maintenance. ("Benign neglect" is often prescribed in gardening books.) The colorful flowers bloom all summer long. Even the leaves are cheery, nearly round and reminiscent of tiny lily pads. Thomas Jefferson included nasturtiums in the kitchen garden at Monticello for the peppery zest both leaves and blossoms add to salads. The writer of one herbal helpfully noted that, should one run out of capers, pickled nasturtium seeds are an excellent substitute. Enjoy them scampering up a trellis or cascading from a windowbox this holiday weekend, knowing that, in the Victorian language of flowers, nasturtiums signify patriotism.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What is that?

Think of a fern and this probably isn't the image that springs to mind. The hapu'u, a tree fern native to Hawaii, sends forth giant fronds. The fuzzy brown stuff is pulu, a wool-like fiber once used for stuffing pillows and mattresses. We once had a bride who saw this and immediately cancelled her order for a regular bouquet. Ferns, of course, have ancient roots and it's takes little imagination to picture the hapu'u's ancestor in prehistoric times. We were reminded of this link at the opening night of the World Science Festival where we had the opportunity to meet Frans Lanting, one of the world's premiere nature photographers. His lyrical multimedia exploration of natural life on earth, LIFE: A Journey Through Time, set to music by Philip Glass, traces the evolution of life on earth. As life emerged from the sea, club moss and ferns were the first plants to take root. Like horse shoe crabs, which haven't changed in 150 million years, Lanting photographed the hapu'u as a way of "seeing the past in the present." 

Cutting the stem revealed this delicate pattern.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Portrait of Ephemeral Beauty

There's something to appreciate in every stage of a blossom's life. Yet occasionally the beauty revealed in details isn't revealed to us until the very end.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Gotham Gardens at Horticultural Society of New York Gala

Our table card used this image with the headline, What kind of tropical isle has gems like these?

This Side of Paradise
, the theme of this year's Horticultural Society of New York gala, led us to conclude that while many consider sand, sun and ocean to be their idea of Eden, when it comes to eternity, we actually prefer the best New York City offers. Yet how to boil all of that down to a centerpiece? Now that's a challenge. George Balanchine's three-act ballet, Jewels, sprang to mind. Hmmm. A ballet -- that could stand for all the fabulous cultural offerings of the city and we do adore the New York City Ballet company. And not just any masterpiece but one inspired by a visit to Van Cleef & Arpels with each act symbolizing diamonds, rubies or emeralds. Talk about the kind of shopping excursion one could develop some serious fantasies about. Here's how we reprised it in our window.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Satisfy your Sweet Tooth for a Good Cause

Sunday, May 3rd from 12 to 5 p.m., stop by the shop, buy a delicious cupcake or cookie and help support Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Gotham Gardens is pleased to participate in this first nationwide grass-roots bake-a-thon to raise money for breast cancer research. Who knows? While you're here, you might just find the perfect gift for Mother's Day. Want to know more? Check out Bake for Hope here or on Facebook.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Glories of Spring

Spring brings with it some of the year's most gorgeous blooms and blossoms. Plump peonies. Astonishing anemones. Luscious lilacs. A dazzling variety of tulips. Who can resist?

We sure can't. Anymore than we can resist this groaner. If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring?

Pilgrims, of course.

A note for the historically-minded. In the mid-16th century, Thomas Tusser, musician, farmer and poet, put his observations on farming, country life and human nature into rhyming couplets and published first A Hundreth Good Pointes of Husbandrie, followed by the expanded, Five Hundredth Good Pointes of Husbandrie. To him we owe the familiar observation on April showers among other sayings:

Sweet April showers do spring May flowers.

The stone that is rolling can gather no moss.

Naught venture, naught have.

Look ere thou leap, see ere thou go.

A fool and his money are soon parted.

Some respite to husbands the weather may send, but housewives' affairs have never an end.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Ideas for your Passover Table

Instead of one large centerpiece for the table, consider multiples -- several small arrangements that won't get in way of all the platters and bowls and give you lots of flexibility and versatility. Here are a variety of arrangements created in small, delicate glasses for inspiration. Choose one color palette with different kinds of flowers; one type of flower in different colors; or variations on a theme. See what we mean by versatility?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Opening Tomorrow: An Exhibit of Fountains by JCCA Students

Given the age of the artists, we're tempted to refer to this exhibit as Fountains of Youth. Twelve students will be showing the ceramic fountains they created through Doing Art Together. Join us this Saturday, March 21st, from 7 to 9 PM, for refreshments and a chance to meet the artists: Brianna Brooks, Chyna Brooks, Sandy Brooks, Egypt Frazer, Jose Garcia, Christina Green, Jasmine Moses, Shampelle Hackshaw, Keanu Pediford, Aisha Reid, Mary Todd and Vanessa Twine. Their work will be on display through Sunday, March 29th.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Levain Bakery on "Oprah"

We're just a block from the fabulous Levain Bakery. Yesterday we stopped in for our usual morning coffee to discover a film crew wrapping up. "What's up?" we asked before spotting Mark Consuelos, the Oprah regular. Turns out Connie was showing Mark how to make sticky buns for a sticky bun taste-off on the Oprah show today. Mark put his favorite from Levain up against the legendary cinnamon bun from Chicago's Ann Sathers and Ali Wentworth's homemade version. The verdict? Congratulations, Pam and Connie!

Levain is best known for their cookies: chocolate chip walnut, dark chocolate chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin (one of our particular favorites) and dark chocolate peanut butter chip. We're also partial to the blueberry muffins, oatmeal raisin scones, chocolate chip brioche, cinnamon brioche, pumpkin ginger spice bread and, oh, did we mention the artisanal breads?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Audubon Original Watercolors at New-York Historical Society

You'll have to wait another 10 years to see the 40 original watercolors by James Audubon now on view at the New-York Historical Society until April 5th. Due to their sensitivity to light, these national treasures can only be exhibited for a short period, then are returned to storage, not to be shown again for another 10 years. 

We never gave much thought to what Audubon went through to create his monumental Birds of America until we read Audubon, Painter of Birds in the Wild Frontier by Jennifer Armstrong with fabulous illustrations by Jos. A. Smith.

This was one brave, rugged, intrepid adventurer. Today he'd have an action figure and no doubt his own line of wilderness gear. On his travels he encountered wolves, bears and Daniel Boone; survived an earthquake; sought shelter in a hollow tree that turned out to be home for a thousand or so swifts; and watched amazed one noon as a solid mass of passenger pigeons filled the sky, blocking out the sun as if there'd been an eclipse, flapping wings creating a roar and leaving behind copious amounts of bird poop.

We have two copies left. It's a great gift for a budding explorer, naturalist or lover of daring-do.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Dozen Red Roses Dilemma

Come Valentine's Day, a dozen red roses is like a default setting. You can't go too far wrong but you also miss the opportunity for something imaginative, personal, unique. It all comes down to expectations. If you know that's what she expects, by all means, go for it. If you're not sure, here's your opportunity to be a hero.

If you know her favorite flower, you're ahead of the game. If you're married, ask her mother or best friend what kind of flowers she chose for your wedding. Bonus points if you remember on your own.

Consider red roses mixed with other elements like this dramatic arrangement with peonies and sugar cane:

Know her favorite colors? Then just use red as a romantic accent:

Does she dream of the garden she'll one day tend? Choose a few exquisitely fragrant garden roses and a book to feed her imagination and she'll applaud your thoughtfulness.

Or keep the romance going. Give her a special vase and the promise of gorgeous blooms all year long.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Need a gift for that special Oscar nominee?

The nominations are out! Let the gift-giving begin! Stuck for what to get Sean or Kate, Meryl or Danny, Brad and Angelina? What could be more appropriate than a gorgeous vase made from exposed 35 mm film? The ingenious Canadian artist, Colin Schleeh, has turned the raw material of Hollywood (and Bollywood) into a gorgeous work of art. And perhaps the lucky recipient will discover just how fetching it looks next to a certain golden bald man.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Our First Music Download

Visitors to the shop know we're definitely animal-friendly. Margo the Parrot normally presides from her usual perch in the niche, though she's been staying home of late while Kevin is serving as the foreman of a jury. Clementine the Westie is typically on hand Tuesdays and Thursdays. Past working dogs include three former 'pound pups': Turtle the big, grey terrier mix; Stella, part German Shepherd, part Border Collie; and Levi, a Weimaraner/Doberman combo. The original Gotham Gardens Dog and presiding canine spirit, though, was another shelter rescue: our beloved Maggie. Even though Maggie passed away two years ago at the ripe age of 18, people still come in to ask about her. We'll try and find a photo to post. Meanwhile, in her honor, please enjoy a free download of a new song from Neko Case.
For every blog that posts it, she's donating $5 to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. (Perhaps you've seen Dogtown and the amazing work they've done rehabilitating the Michael Vick pit pulls.) Great idea, Neko.  

Monday, January 5, 2009

Thomas Hampson, Valery Gergiev, the Maryinsky Orchestra & Us

Imagine walking through the nearly deserted American Museum of Natural History on a rainy fall night and hearing the spooky strains of Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain echo through the halls. For dramatic effect, it can't get any better than this. Then imagine being serenaded while you work by magnificent baritone Thomas Hampson and the Maryinsky Orchestra led by maestro Valery Gergiev. We don't get perks like that everyday. For the White Nights Foundation of America's fall gala, the Hall of Ocean Life (aka the Whale Room) glowed in rich amber tones. Mr. Hampson, meanwhile, is currently appearing with Renee Fleming in the Met's new production of Thais. We'd go but then we'd have to share him with nearly 4,000 others.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Last Minute Gift Ideas

It's the night before the night before Christmas. Still stumped and in need a little gift guidance? Help a fan of Mad Men channel his inner Don Draper with a trayful of martinis. The tray itself is incorporates contemporary design and metallic foils with centuries-old Vietnamese lacquer techniques. Sorry -- gin and olives not included.

When you just need a little something. These charming glass bulbs come nestled in a padded box (like two gifts in one!). Chinese character on one side, English on the other. Who couldn't use a little peace and love?

So the warmth of a Russian sable is out of the question this year. This gorgeous lacquerware bowl radiates warmth. And besides, a sable makes a lousy salad bowl.

Give a little light and a fragrance so enticing it was a FIFI finalist this year for home collections. Le Cherche Midi candles combine cotton wicks, all natural essential oils and the highest quality hand poured wax. The boxes, made from recycled wood, are silk lined, perfect for storing little treasures and trinkets.

Look for us in Chic in Paris

We're delighted to be among the three florists in Susan Tabak's Chic in Paris blog. Check out Get Festive with Florals. Besides gorgeous arrangements, we've been busy making kissing balls and garlands, decorating wreaths, potting up delightful orchids and helping customers pick out fabulous gifts. We should note that Susan was erroneously promoted to owner; Kevin Esteban is still the owner and Susan remains the jack-of-of-all trades. Or is that jill?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Birch Bark Birds

These handmade birds just flew in from the West Coast today, trading sunny climes for the first snow showers of the season here in New York. Six different species, each charmingly unlike anything we've seen in Central Park.