Charlie called me this morning.
"Matt. Peat Moss? Mulch? What is the difference?"
Mulch can really be any organic or mineral material used to cover bare soil. Gravel, pine needles, cocoa shells - peat moss itself can be a mulch if it is spread accross the top of the soil.
I believe if you went into a garden center today in the spring of 2016 and asked for a quantity of "mulch," it would be understood as you were really asking for "shredded hardwood bark" - although cypress and redwood bark mulch are often available in bags these would not be the default mulch setting.
Peat Moss is a material harvested from peat bogs far far away. It is very decomposed organic matter that has collected in ecological and geological deposits over many earth ages. It is considered highly unsustainable by many as (1) peat bogs are very rich and delicate ecosytems in limited quantity on the planet and to strip the bogs for the benifit of our flower beds is frowned upon. (2) Peat Moss is also most often compressed into bags and trucked long distances to our gardens. Where it is being predominantly harvested now, I'm unsure, but back in the early eighties most peat available in WNYwas sourced out of Quebec. You may see bags of "Tourbe de Sphagnum."
Peat moss was the most common mulch used when I was a kid back in the late seventies and eighties. There is a whole series of techniques that go along with its use as a mulch which I get to show off once a year when I get a bag of peat moss for something that seem to confound everyone that works with me. I think peat moss bags are the only packaging that is opened by cutting the bag accross the middle and dividing the bag into two parts for use.
(If at anytime you wanna check and see if your horticulturist or landscaper professional is "old-school legit," put a 4.8 cubic foot bag of compressed Tourbe de Sphagnum in front of them and see how they work it. If they open it at an end... Take their certification card immediatly and burn it.)
Shredded hardwood bark I believe works better as a mulch than peat. Bark mulch suppresses weeds better. Way better. Bark mulch I believe creates a biological rhizosphere (like, an atmosphere for plants) more conducive to fungal populations desired by ornamental plants. Shredded hardwood is also (generally) a local product. There are many making hardwood mulch products locally - Buffalo Horticulture's most recent load came out of Rochester.
Peat Moss is most beneficial as a soil amendment. It is a standard ingredient in potting soils and professional growing mediums. Added to planting beds or site soils it helps to structure soil - breaking up clays and binding sandy soils. For the most part, peat moss does what any oganic matter does - improves drainage as well as nutrient availability and retention. However, as it is so well decomposed, its benefits to the biology of a soil are limited. I think the ideal use of peat moss is probably limited to commercial growing media (potting soil on a large scale) because it is very lightweight which reduces the resourses demanded in shipping and production. In the home garden, basic composts are much more effective as well as easier on the debit card.
There you have it Charlie. I hope you enjoyed your day in the garden.
A rush of images from different spaces almost simultaneously, collapsing the worlds spaces into a series of images on [a computer screen]...The image of places and spaces becomes as open to production and ephemeral use as any other - commodity.
The above image of Lamb's Ear was a bit late - on the ground, so to speak. I've wanted for several years now to capture the image of how gardens first emerge from the soil. How accross the plane of the soil, at once these small shoots of differing green begin to push out of the soil. The overuse of daylillies finds its moment as at emergence their abundance acts as a meadow to bridge together a variety of Daffs, Crocus, and Hyacinths moving towards their peak.
The duration of this may be seven to ten days. The first half of which pass before you even recognize its here. And then, apparently, the tenth day passes before you've had a moment to stop and take a picture.
This image I can't capture could be unique to what some call "The Buffalo Cottage Garden." The image can't be curated. It is structurally established in a world where Daylilly and Hosta are infinitly divided and passed to neighbors and bulbs are sporadically added in packs of 10 over time.
I'm counting on "the times" being easier next season. I promise myself I'll take the time, stop, and take a picture, before it passes.
* Above quote is my interpretation of Juhani Pallasmaa quoting David Harvey in "The Eyes Of The Skin: Architecture and the Senses"(2005). See page 21.
My latest scheduleing tactic has been to start the workday at 4AM. It is monumentally productive but it leaves me very much out of the "circulation" I am accustomed too. Sunday even, up at 4:30, picked up my work clothes strewn about from the weeks race, put some laundry in, and tidy'd the house getting it emotionally stable for the week before I got out for a 10 mile run. Oatmeal and yogurt for breakfast and off to spend some time (first appointment of the day is at 10:45) at the caffe with ear plugs in - organizing task lists and hoping to drop a blog post.
Everything is fast and on (or terribly off) schedule this time of season. I spend the day hitting time frames one after another. Its complication comes from racing as fast as possible to be responsible, "on time," and productive, all the while, in the midst of each frame being as slow as possible to help everyone with what they need. Stop go. Stop go.
The whole point of the above is to explain this moment I just had, ears plugged and the bitter flavor of espresso in my mouth, where assembling the images below I said, "I think we succeded in making beautiful things this week."
I sent her this one at 5:30 in the morning Saturday. Its my favorite. I never heard from her. Never really talked about, these are the flowers of a Norway Maple - the worst tree ever - which is why for this one emerging second in the springtime in can pull a tear. Norway Maples are terribly problematic and invasive in urban landscapes and we need them to go away.
The last few springs I have begun to wonder just how many more there may be. Landscape and garden life - unlike the worlds of factory produced living - is seasonal and the business has its stages we pass through each season. I feel I get dramatically better with each season's experience. By this time next week, these Daffs will have passed on and I'll be looking at Crabapples and Tulips. But how many more bloomings of the Daffs will there be to learn from?
Back in the first week of January I collected a bunch of discarded Christmas trees from the neighborhood's curbs and erected them in this vacant lot near my house. I took them down last week and made this form. By the years end this won't be a vacant lot. The neighboring house has been bought and we're building a garden here.
Three Peony "Karl Rosenfeld." I bought them at Aldi for $1.49 each and planted them at "The Territory." Surely they were on clearance but that is 1/2 of what I can by them at in cases of 12 at wholesale. It about experimentation and learning. Turns out "Karl Rosenfeld" is a reputed variety and was offered in nearly every wholesale catalog I had. So. I'm just say'n. Aldi may be the next frontier of the garden world. ❤️ to all.
This is a long portal into a space of speculation on the uniqueness and specialized "way of being" occupied by one making their life and living in this so called "maker's movement." Although my sample is limited, what I'm speculating on is the absolute qualitative difference of one's everyday life, affective position, and state of being in the world, city, neighborhood, and most importantly, one's own body.
I do not understand "the charge" one gives themselves or from where the motivation comes that leads them into this way of life, but at some level I can only say it lies in a heart of design - in an insistence that "this way must be;" in opposition, distinction, or resistance to an other: "that is not good enough."
And so this "heart of design" is what drives the labor.
And this distinction in a design is what can never be articulated and is always a gulf between the maker and the prospective client.
How the maker solves the problem of this gulf happens in one of two ways. One, the maker moves forward and creates the object to prove to the world that it does in fact exist. Or, alternately, one draws from a catalog of objects recognized by both maker and client and the maker agrees to create a reproduction - at which time the maker no longer exists and become a re-producer.
The "trouble" in the maker's way of being
(their ontological position)
Is that reproductions are a fraction of the production cost
As there is only the cost and work of reproducing
And not the cost of making the object itself
And for a maker
To compete with a reproducer
-whether they call themselves a florist, a pastry chef, or a landscaper-
Demands the sacrifice of one's entire life
to fulfill the charge
And where the reproducer goes home at the end of the work day
The maker is always home
and yet, in the way of the reproducer
does not have one.
Highstone, John. "Victorian Gardens: How to Plan, Plant, and Enjoy Them." Harper & Row, San Francisco (1982)
A neighbor on Johnson Park lent this to me last autumn and only now have I gotten around to it. With the most recent snow over the weekend, it slowed down everyone's rush to spring so I'm finding myself in a bit of a stretched out space as I'm in the rhythm of a much more active time.
On reading garden books: I have churned through ten new books in the last few weeks. I've never been able to cover such broad textual territory before but my techniques are expanding. Here's some tricks. Garden books, although their form may be disguised, they almost always repeat themselves. With "Victorian Gardens," it opens with a ten page history of the key designers ("Capability" Brown - remember that one, you'll here it ten more times in your life) and a description of the style. The second chapter is 25 pages of detailed description of "design principles" of the era. The 6 or 7th chapter has some nice talk about garden construction and "trelliage" - and when I say "talk" I really mean "informative pictures." These 40 pages, which are 1/3 occupied by images, are the key to the book. The rest is repeated information you find in every garden book - plant lists, planting instructions, and garden care.
Once you become comfortable with this form, you recognize you can for the most part just look at the pictures for 2/3's of the book. This will allow you to read three times as many relevant garden books. Be efficient. :)
10 points to summarize the book:
1. Plant away from the home not on it.
2. "A Shrubbery"
4. Strolling paths
5. Lawn as designed ornament - not "filler" material.
7. Solariums. Orangery. Greenhouse.
9. A. J. Downing
10. Kitchen garden
Note: this list isn't really an accurate representation of the books efforts but more of a subjective listing of points that affected me - especially number 8.
Landscape designer and Proprietor of Buffalo Horticulture