Author Archives: Anne Underwood

Love and Compost

Valentine’s Day is upon us, and with it the promise of wine, roses, and chocolate. Lace-trimmed cards and expensive candlelit dinners will herald eternal love. But not in this household—not this year. I’ve got a new mantra for 2013: Nothing … Continue reading

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Spanish Roja

Garlic, I always assumed, was just garlic. That was before I started reading about heirloom varieties with exotic names like Persian Star, Chilean Silver, Georgian Fire, and Creole Red. Robust and zingy, they promised to deliver more flavor than the … Continue reading

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No Mere Hothouse Flower

My mandevilla has an identity crisis. You think I’m joking? The shopkeeper who first steered me toward this gorgeous vine recommended it on the grounds that it could withstand blistering heat and relentless sun—exactly the conditions on the west-facing side … Continue reading

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Winter Berries

The shortest day of the year has come and gone—and with it, the predictions of Mayan doom. The world still turns, the holidays still beckon. And in my garden, the euonymus bushes continue in their evergreen splendor, just as the … Continue reading

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Holiday Gift Guide

I don’t know about you, but when it comes to presents, the last thing I need under the tree is more stuff to take care of. To me, a great gift is one I can eat or redeem for a … Continue reading

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The Pothole Gardener

Leave it to the Brits. Anything we can do, they can do quirkier. Take guerrilla gardening—the semi-legal practice of planting seeds and flowers in vacant lots that belong to somebody else. We have a guerrilla gardener in my New Jersey … Continue reading

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Stevia 101

On a whim this summer, I planted some organic stevia seeds. For weeks, I watched with anticipation as tiny seedlings sprouted—excruciatingly slowly. But I was confident that the wait would be worth it. I’d seen over and over again how … Continue reading

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Nor’easter Athena

Like a Greek tragedy, Nor’easter Athena swept through the region this week, dumping heavy, wet snow on towns that were still getting back on their feet after Hurricane Sandy. In my own little garden, the snow bent and broke the … Continue reading

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In Hurricane Sandy’s Wake

Hurricane Sandy has mercifully passed, but so much devastation remains in her wake. This morning’s walk felt post-apocalyptic, as my husband and I roamed the vacant streets. Stores we have never seen closed before–CVS, Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s–were shut tight. Street … Continue reading

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Battening Down

Hurricane Sandy is still miles out to sea. But the winds are already whipping the trees. Stray plastic bags in the streets have been carried aloft on the winds and hover in mid-air like Halloween ghosts. Leaves swirl down the … Continue reading

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You Know It’s Fall When …

You know it’s fall when you have the urge to make applesauce—and today the itch struck. So I walked down to Sobsey’s, my local go-to purveyor of outrageously delicious produce. In front of the shop, under the awning, were a … Continue reading

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Farmer’s Market Bounty

Having just read Tomatoland, Barry Estabrook’s hair-raising exposé of the winter-tomato industry in Florida, I’ve resolved again to buy small, local, and organic whenever possible–and to raise more tomatoes of my own next year! In the meantime, here are some … Continue reading

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Roses and Dahlias

The impressionist painter Claude Monet may be known for his water lilies. But according to the Monet show at the New York Botanical Garden, he also loved roses and dahlias. When I saw these at my local market today, I … Continue reading

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They Call It “Confetti Blazing Maple”

All summer, my container garden brought me so much joy. Instead of fretting about work from the moment I awoke, I would walk out onto the stoop where it grows and examine all the changes that had occurred overnight—the new … Continue reading

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Sheep May Safely Graze

“Where are the PETA people?” The New York Post reporter looked worried. She was supposed to be covering the anticipated protests over Prince Charles’s multinational Campaign for Wool, which on this particular day happened to include an event with live … Continue reading

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YouTube’s Urban Gardener (Hey, Great Title!)

If I had a larger garden (and bankroll), I would hire Denton Tarver to come transform my container garden into a showpiece. Denton is a designer at ViewPoints Exterior & Garden Design in Manhattan and host of a program called … Continue reading

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Pansies–Not Just for Spring Anymore

Move over, chrysanthemums! There’s a new fall flower in town—pansies—or so my neighbor Jane informed me a few weeks ago. I have always adored pansies with their cheery faces. When I was a child, we had an entire flower bed … Continue reading

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Urban Farm (Battery Included!)

I know. This photo of lower Manhattan from the harbor doesn’t look anything like a garden. But nestled between the Staten Island Ferry terminal (on the far right) and the rising towers of the new World Trade Center (on the … Continue reading

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The Ultimate Urban Garden–and Me

The ultimate urban garden may be New York’s Central Park. The casual visitor might think that it’s just as nature created it, but in fact it had a giant helping hand from designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in … Continue reading

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8 Things I Love About My Container Garden

1. A Stoop With a View. As I was sitting on my front steps last Saturday morning, a dad with two kids and a dog walked by. “I love what you’ve done with these flowers,” he said. “This space used … Continue reading

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Please Don’t Eat the Petunias

After the untimely death of a colleague many years ago, his widow wrote a note to the staff: “Please don’t send flowers. Harry thought all flowers were petunias.” While it’s hard for me to imagine such willful ignorance of blooming … Continue reading

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Scents and Sensibility

Every morning when I walk out into the container garden on my stoop, I am greeted by the sweet scents of lavender, dill, basil, and rosemary. But when I try to describe these fragrances, I soon realize that my vocabulary … Continue reading

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Show Me the Honey

This may sound preposterous, but in many ways, the perfect urban crop is honey—or so says Meme Thomas, founder of Baltimore Honey and the organization’s Queen Bee. We’ve all heard about colony collapse disorder. But if all bees were treated … Continue reading

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Guerrilla Gardening

A mystery gardener has been planting flowers in Hoboken. Where these blossoms come from, no one seems to know. On the warm June afternoon when I planted my first seedlings out front, a woman I’d never seen before asked me … Continue reading

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Pesto!

For years, my husband and I have trekked down to the supermarket during the summer in search of fresh herbs. Usually we come home with a few sad stalks of droopy leaves encased in plastic—which is why the fresh basil … Continue reading

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Withering Heights

All is going well until the blowtorch of July’s heat wave strikes. Worst affected is my Swiss chard, which I’m sure would be much happier in Alpine splendor than it is in the scorching New Jersey sun. The leaves used … Continue reading

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The Edible Balcony

I might never have attempted urban gardening if it hadn’t been for a book called The Edible Balcony by Alex Mitchell. In the interest of full disclosure, I used to work for Rodale, the book’s publisher, but that’s not why … Continue reading

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I Walk the Vine

Some people have pets. I have plants. True, they don’t come wagging their tails to me in the morning. But I now firmly believe that plants have observable behavior. Most fascinating for me are vines, like my mandevilla. When I … Continue reading

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Sunbathing Beauties

No matter how many pets and people trample the fledgling flower bed in front of my house, I’m determined to keep planting until the blooms are lush and beautiful enough to command respect. This has meant multiple trips to the … Continue reading

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Linnaeus’s Flower Clock

I’ve always been fascinated by morning glories. I know that some people regard them as unruly, invasive weeds—the kudzu of ornamental flowers. But I adore the blankets of blossoms they produce as they cover a fence or hedgerow. And I … Continue reading

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Beethoven’s Veranda

When I was little, my parents ordered their seeds from Burpee’s, tilled the soil and planted their garden the old-fashioned way. But decades later, in the densely populated urban setting I call home, I have no soil to till—or so … Continue reading

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Little Shop of Flowers

Everyone has a favorite store or two—the bakery with the perfect canoli, the shoe shop with the gorgeous high heels, the hardware store that always has just the fixture you need. But my new favorite is 14th Street Garden Center … Continue reading

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It Was the Best of Thyme, It Was the Worst of Thyme

I know my friends will react with skepticism. But this is the year I’m becoming a gardener. Mind you, I don’t dwell in some leafy neighborhood with tidy lawns. I live in Hoboken, NJ—directly across the Hudson River from Manhattan, … Continue reading

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