Randalls Island Park Alliance

Archive for the ‘Rock Garden’ Category

A Rage for Rock Gardening

In Rock Garden on June 1, 2012 at 1:27 pm

By Phyllis Odessey

“Dwarfish and intense, Reginald Farrer (1880 – 1920) spent an isolated, privileged childhood climbing the limestone cliffs of his native Yorkshire, collecting the delicate alpine plants that grew there in profusion.  By age eight he knew their names and anatomy, and by thirteen had published his first  discoveries in the Journal of Botany.”  from Nicola Sherman’s  A Rage for Rock Gardening

From page 41 of A Rage for Rock Gardening, recounting Farrer’s efforts to garden on a cliff:
“Over the years he devised many methods of seeding it, including lowering men down the cliff on rope ladders and, so it is said, rowing a small boat out into the middle of the lake and shooting at the cliff-face from a rifle loaded with seed.  The results were gratifying the cliff broke into flower.

We did not have to fire a single shot to complete the expansion of the rock garden on Randall’s Island.  We just needed corporate volunteers from Blooomberg.  We have to do things in stages in the gardening world of Randall’s Island.  We build our gardens over time, each year adding a new section.  This is true of The Water’s Edge Garden, The Wildflower Meadow at Hell Gate, The Learning Garden and most recently, The Rock Garden at the Ferry Dock.

Volunteers planting the extension of The Rock Garden

There is a certain satisfaction in making a garden in stages.  You learn things along the way.  You find out what plants work in what soil and if there are any environmental conditions you hadn’t accounted for when you first made the garden.In the case, of the Rock Garden it’s beginning was on shaky ground.  The entire Rock Garden is built on asphalt with a slight slope.  We knew the slope would work in our favor, but we weren’t sure about the asphalt.

Julisa M. adding specially mixed soil

The success of the Rock Garden rests on its soil underpinnings.  And although this is not a glamorous subject and certainly not a dazzling way to begin a volunteer project, it’s probably the most important part of the project.  Volunteers bucketed over gravel for the base for the extension of the Rock Garden.  After this painstaking task was finished, volunteers mixed compost and sand to create a well-drained soil for The Rock Garden.  Simultaneously, other volunteers began planting 20 ft. trees at the  base of the Rock Garden, an equally strenuous task on a hot, humid day.  The teams worked simultaneously; creating the final “leg” of The Rock Garden.

I always remember A Rage for Rock Gardening when I think of the difficulties we  encounter in bringing our dreams to reality.  Reginald Farrer  had his helpers and we have ours.

The entire group of volunteers plus Randall’s Island Horticulture staff.

Our corporate volunteers  from Bloomberg did not need a rifle or a boat to make this garden; just good old-fashioned hard work.

Come see the extension of rock garden.  The new section will flower next year.

Dear, I know nothing of
Either, but when I try to imagine a faultless love
Or the life to come, what I hear is the murmur
Of underground streams, what I see is a                                 
  limestone landscape.
In Praise of Limestone, W.H.Auden


Friends Indeed

In Randall's Island, Rock Garden on May 23, 2012 at 12:04 pm

Eunyoung with Bob deciding on the correct size gravel

By Phyllis Odessey

When you garden on an island, you need to make the most of the resources available, even when you are technically on an island in the middle of East River, which is classified as Manhattan by zip code.

Since Eunyoung and I arrived on Randall’s, we have interacted with the other city agencies on the island.  One of our  closest neighbors,  are the firemen who are instructors at the Fire Academy on Randall’s Island.  These group of guys have been giving  us their time and expertise for almost six years.  Their generosity has been overwhelming.

Working for a nonprofit is incredibly rewarding and often challenging.  We are expanding the Rock Garden, located near the ferry dock, and we needed gravel for the surface under the soil line. We received quotes from potential vendors, but they were all out of our financial grasp.  As we often do when we have a problem of this nature, we thought about who could help us.  The firemen immediately came to mind.

On Monday the firemen took us an amazing place for our gravel.  A kind of recycling center for gravel, sand and small rocks.  Towers of gravel, every shape, size and color.  We found exactly what we were looking for at a reasonable price.

Friendship is so important in life and at work.  We could not accomplish what we do without the assistance of our friends on Randall’s Island.

Special Thanks to:
Wally, Danny, Skip, Paddy, Bob and all the other firemen  at the Fire Academy for helping us make gardens on Randall’s Island.

Rockin at the dock

In Rock Garden on December 19, 2011 at 7:47 pm

INTRODUCTION:  The installation of a 2500 square foot Rock Garden at the site of the ferry dock on Randall’s Island utilizes both Eastern and Western traditions of rock gardening.  The garden features alpine plants and a collection of dwarf conifers.  The process of building the Rock Garden included:  excavation of rocks from the island; placement of rock material by RISF Horticulture staff and FDNY volunteers; and the addition of custom mixed soil to allow proper drainage.

Located at the ferry dock, the Rock Garden welcomes visitors to Randall’s Island Park.  Using an arbor designed and constructed by Sean Ealey, the “entry gate” is planted with clematis and conifers.  The entry recalls Chinese tradition of a “moon gate,” welcoming visitors to a special place.  The Rock Garden arbor at Randall’s Island is a passageway into a complex and intriguing world.

The Rock Garden allows visitors to explore what’s around the corner and aid in drawing the eye to a specific point of interest, such as alpine perennials, evergreen shrubs and colorful trees.  Layered rocks not only serve as a focal point, but also provide contemplative sitting areas.  The Rock Garden is sloped to face the East River, offering a beautiful view of the Manhattan skyline.

In 2012, the Rock Garden will be expanded.  Stay tuned!