Monday, March 20, 2017

New York City-Part 3-Top of the Rock

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Ok, ok, ok...I've been a truly bad blogger...I just cant' seem to get up the enthusiasm to blog lately...but I started this post months ago (literally) and finally decided to get on with it!

So, today we take a step back in time to last fall when I went to NYC for a week, and which I posted about previously here, here & here. Today post, however, is about one of my absolute favorite places in the city, Rockefeller Center, which most people are well acquainted with, from the Today Show, 30 Rock, and, most notably, the famous Rockefeller Christmas Tree.

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Here we have the well-known sculpture of Atlas, bearing the world on his shoulders, as we approach the main entry.

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Rockefeller Center is not just one building, it it a cluster of buildings and plazas that were intended to be a "city within a city". Completed in the early '30's, the complex, like so many great NYC buildings, is Art Deco in design...and, I'll admit, I LOVE Art Deco! Very few architectural styles combine both boldness and elegance like Deco does.

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One of the hallmarks of 30 Rock is the amazing amount of artwork, from many different artists and eras. This piece, titled 'Light and Movement', was installed in the 70's. It's, well, kinda 70's...but I still liked it ;-)

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The layers of light and shadow are fascinating.

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Step back and take a look at the bigger picture, however...the grand entryway. There is something so grand about these Deco entryways...sleek, elegant...and, perhaps, over-the-top. I think the fact that their relative opulence was followed by the more sterile modern/international styles makes them even more special.

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I had decided I wanted to visit the open-air viewing deck around sunset, so we had to show up in time to make it up there...be aware you'll wait in line for at least an hour...probably more, so plan accordingly! There are 3 levels of viewing decks...and they are all jam-packed!

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Once you make it up to the viewing decks, the whole city spreads out before you.

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The NYC skyline is so engraved in our national consciousness, it's hard to divorce it from associations with TV and Movies. I seem to always hear strains of "West Side Story" and "Moon River" whenever I look around.

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One the opposite (North) side, you get an expansive view of Central Park and the surrounding high-rise apartment towers. The one on the far right is about the skinniest skyscraper I've ever seen...and, I believe, is new since I was last in the city.

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Another sleek, new building bordering Central Park.

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And here we have the older, more classic, NYC buildings which form the borders of the Park on all sides.

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Pulling back, the wide view as the sun starts to set, washing everything in golden light.

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No matter where you go in NYC, it's always a thrill to spot the Empire State Building. I use it to orient myself in the city, since it stands out so grandly.

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Of course, the drawback to something being a tourist attraction is...the tourists! I assumed since we were easily an hour early for sunset/dusk viewing, we'd be able to wander and get a decent spot for photos...but there were people who were already camped out when we arrived and they DID NOT MOVE at all the entire time. I sorta understand...but, c'mon...give other people a chance.

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Regardless, the show is still stunning, and not even rude tourists could ruin it. As the sun slips lower in the sky, it gilds the edges of each tower in gold.

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And one-by-one, as it gets darker, lights start to turn on as the blue sky deepens to a richer wash of color.

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Gradually, the colors shift from warm, ruddy, sunset colors...

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...to cooler tones as night falls.

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The trip to the "Top of the Rock" was a highlight of our trip, jostling crowds notwithstanding...I highly recommend it, I don't think you will be disappointed!

Friday, December 30, 2016

A Garden Throughout the Year - 2016

Yep...it's that time of year again...we're almost ready to say farewell to 2016 in anticipation of 2017. It's been a rocky year for all of us, I'd venture to guess. Without further ado, let's take a look back at the past year in my garden. I decided that to keep things simple, I'd focus on one view of the garden as the months progress. So...I give you 12 months of my front hellstrip!

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January of 2016 saw us get an actual bit of snowfall! I seem to remember staying home from work that day...which was such a treat. Snow in Portland is rare, and we can go an entire winter or two without seeing a single flake...so any measurable snowfall is a good reason to celebrate!

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February is typically when my garden starts to really wake up for the year, and therefore, its also the month I usually start cutting things back. This pic is just before I started the annual cut-back. It's actually the saddest part of the gardening year for me...as I have to cut down all the beautiful grasses and seedheads which provide so much winter beauty. I made the decision during the winter to re-work parts of this hellstrip, replacing plants that weren't doing well and re-arranging things slightly to break up groupings of plants that looked a bit too rigid for my liking. I knew this would mean the hellstrip would look a little threadbare this year, while things settled in...but that's part of gardening, right?

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By the time March rolls around, I've forgotten my temporary sadness, luckily, in the excitement of seeing all the new, green growth. Its amazing how just a few weeks can make such a difference. Truly, its also kind of amazing to have the garden cleared and be able to see all of it in a glance, without the plants obscuring views. Of course, it's also the most dangerous time, as it seems there is so much bare space...and the urge to buy more plants to fill them in is VERY REAL. I try my best to resist, knowing that all that empty ground is an illusion and will be filled up within a few weeks. Still...I always buy a few things and then spend the rest of the season trying to decide where to put them.

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April is the last month in the garden where I can almost think of it as demure, before it explodes into growth. It's the month where I'm grateful for the bulbs I've planted...and yet I swear I should have planted MORE! I don't have too many Daffodils or Tulips, since I prefer Alliums and Iris, as they are more reliably perennials and their foliage either withers away quickly, or remains looking good for the rest of the season.

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May sees the garden erupt with growth...those bare areas are rapidly disappearing...and the bulbs are dominating the garden. I think of this as one of several waves of colorful displays in my garden, which are broken up by periods where calmer, foliar greens prevail. Over the past few years, I've really come to appreciate this white Allium shown above, Allium nigrum...which is not only reliable perennials, but multiplies well...creating ever-better displays. The seedheads are also persistent...a real bonus.

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June is one of the calmer (relatively) periods in the garden, bracketed by colorful May and July, with their abundance of vibrant blooms. This is when I can really appreciate the subtle variations of greens...rich, emerald greens...glaucous gray-greens, and vibrant yellow-chartreuse greens. In this parking strip, I planted several Schizachyrium 'Blue Heaven' in the first year...because I love their steely blue color. However, to make sure they don't get lost, I've purposely tried NOT to plant other silvery-leaved grasses with them...so they always stand out among the varying shades of green.

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Once July hits, though, the blooms start to steal the show again. I've struggled to keep plants going in my garden...but the Echinacea have been good, dependable performers...and they are the herald of summer for me. This year, I decided early on to replace the failing Agastache with Liatris, which seemed to do well...and I'm hopeful they will thrive in the heavy soil. I also added more Daucus this spring...hopefully they will reseed and multiply...fingers crossed! I was fairly happy with this mix, to be honest...the mix of colors and shapes was spot-on for me.

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August continues much as July did...still very floriferous, but, perhaps, more somber as the days turn hotter. I feel like it was quite a warm summer...but, honestly...anything over 75 is too warm for me and I retreat inside to the a/c. Luckily, mornings and evenings are generally pleasant...and I stroll around the garden daily. I always find this time of year in the garden particularly satisfying...it practically heaves with life...and yet, there is that particular feeling that the wave is cresting...and the downward slide is just around the corner.

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September is a finicky month here in Portland...a mix of hot days with the occasional cooler, rainy day thrown in to remind us of our coming autumn. There is a sweetness to those last, warm days now that their end is in sight. The grasses, which have played supporting and structural roles until now, start to assert themselves more each day...blooming and flushing with fiery, autumnal colors. I am unfailingly tactile...and I cannot walk past the grasses without running my hands through them. The knobbly blooms of the Panicums, the fuzzy eyelashes of the Schizachryium and the pliant straw-like stems of the Sorghastrum never fail to delight.

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The onset of autumn is gradual in Portland, compared to other places, but it still seems as if the garden transforms overnight. Suddenly, flowers are drained of color and it's the foliage that steals the show. The light is warm but mercurial...varying from milky and soft to brash and intense. While I always take advantage of the cools temps and steady (sort of) rainfall to move things around and plant new things, I mostly take it easy.

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As November approached this year, as in most years, I gradually start to settle in for the season. With the promise of Winter, I can unhook the garden hoses and just wander around the garden, not feeling any pressure to actually DO anything for once!

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And here we are in December...we've actually had a fair bit of winter weather so far (snow and ice...oh my!) and it looks like we may even get a bit more in the coming weeks...although I try not to get too excited for it, in case it doesn't materialize. As I look outside this morning, I'm struck by how much the garden has changed, not just this year, but over the 7-ish years we've been here. My mind wanders to the changes I have in mind for next year (nothing major...but changes, all the same). I hope you had a good 2016 in your garden...and here's to 2017...hopefully it will be a banner year for us all :-)