New Card!

I really can’t contain my excitement. Especially because I designed the logo long before began doing the clear plastic cards.

At any rate, it’s pretty exciting, and I just couldn’t wait to show you!



Hello world. I’ve been slowly shaking off the hibernation of winter, and setting forth my leaves and getting ready to make GALA grow some more!

On a personal level, things are going pretty well. We decided to renovate our kitchen, in big part because I’m a site coordinator for a wonderful CSA called Cream of the Crop, CSA. It’s my 3rd year as a coordinator and as a member, and I know that this year I am excited to preserve a good portion of the food we get. Last year we were moving so it simply wasn’t possible – but this year we are well settled in. All we needed was more storage space, and we now have that in spades! So you can expect a few canning, freezing, and drying recipes coming this summer as the bounty rolls in.

I’ve had a number of new clients contact me, and am working on using a space to demonstrate gardening techniques more regularly so that I can share them with you. I’m also hoping for a new green roof client.

Speaking of green roofs, I’m pleased to announce that over the winter I became a Certified Green Roof Professional! It’s very exciting and I look forward to putting my skills to use more often.

Additionally, in May I’ll be volunteering with the Urban Agriculture Conference being held through the Horticultural Society of New York.  It’s going to be a blast, and I’m very excited about it!

I’ll be posting more throughout the summer, please feel free to follow me on Twitter @galagrows and @creamofcropcsa!

This summer and fall, I had the opportunity to work with a wonderful client downtown on Hudson Street. I took a lot of pictures – it’s the largest garden we’ve done to date in New York, and I hope to do more.

The client had moved into this gorgeous building a year prior. Her daughter and grandchildren live on a lower floor, and she wanted to make the 1000 sf roof space into a garden for them to use. On the list of uses was family dinners, play/flex space for the grandchildren who range in age from 18 months to 14 years, a place to plant herbs and veggies in the summer, fruit bearing plants to snack on, something to screen some views, and something to discourage the smallest grandchild from the edge. In addition, the daughter of the client wanted to throw a large catered gathering yearly there – and the first one was scheduled for September 14th of 2012.

You can click on the photos below to see them expand for more detail.

Again, the views were excellent, but the idea of sitting out here was fairly depressing.

The building is quite old, and land marked. As such, it had a lot of requirements about weight on the roof, where weight could be applied, and movability. Everything had to be able to be moved in case of an emergency leak. This meant lightweight planters, lightweight growing medium, and a deck that was built to be easily disassembled.

View facing south – gorgeous views, but who would want to sit on black tarp and drainage mat?

My client’s neighbor is architect Michael Schmitt, and he generously offered to design her decking for her. We talked it over, and he made adjustments to his design to accommodate my planting scheme.

The original owner had 12 fiberglass planters up on the roof, more or less scattered about. There was no irrigation system, so the plants were not in the greatest shape. Without decking, the surface was hazardous to walk on – one ended up slipping on root barrier cloth, and of course, worrying about puncturing the waterproofing. It was also hot! Black absorbs heat tremendously, and the roof was uncomfortable to be out on as well as bare feeling.

The client’s rooftop deck looks out over a common area that is not used for much else than maintenance, so a fence was requested to screen the view and keep visiting contractors out.

But the views were marvelous.

We got to work!

I ordered 37 fiberglass planters from Fiberglass Engineering. They promised delivery on September 7th. It would be close, but doable!

5.75 cubic yards of specially formulated lightweight growing media was ordered from a well-known company. This came out to 250 bags of soil.

Over 150 plants were ordered from an excellent nursery in Brooklyn.

Not the most professional photo as the blob on top is my finger – but an excellent view of the planting materials from above. Left: planting materials, middle: awning, right: growing media.

What 5.75 cubic yards of growing media looks like.

The contractors installing the decking finished at the end of August, and came back to assist my team and I in getting everything from the ground level – up to the roof! 10 guys, 3 women, countless trips in the elevator, and then we formed a human chain to pass along bags of growing media up the final flight of stairs, onto the roof, around a corner, and into the patio area! It took 4 hours total to get it all upstairs, and I was extremely impressed. I had thought it was going to take all day, honestly.

By the end of the first day, we had installed half the planters.

Planters by Fiberglass Engineering, unpacked and ready to be installed. Bags of growing media ready to be put into planters as soon as they are placed!

It took a total of four days to install all the planters, fill with soil, and plant them. During that time, Life Source Irrigation came out 3 times to install piping, and drip emitters, as well as lights, in the planters. They were wonderful to work with.

Rather than get rid of all the old planters, I decided we would rehabilitate them.

One of my assistants, Holly, spraypainting the existing pots after cleaning and drying.

Pots all done! Holly and Rebecca did a fantastic job!

Irrigation was installed by Life Source Irrigation. They were a JOY to work with! The large blue planters have Prunus americana – a shrubby plum. The small blue and brown planters hold annuals, and in the spring will be planted with herbs & vegetables.

I’ve been told the gala was a great success, and the client has gushed to me several times about how pleased she and her family are with the garden. I’m looking forward to teaching her grandchildren in the spring – they want to learn how to plant veggies!

Chairs sit next to the blueberry bushes that frame the skylight. Beyond, the small plums and potted annuals provide visual depth and complexity.

Area after fence, plants and furniture were installed. A much more soothing view.

Northwest corner. Grasses screen the neighbor’s garden, and there are blueberries in the foreground, around the skylight. Their leaves will turn scarlet in the autumn.

The roses began to bloom right away. They provide a beautiful border, as well as a prickly one to discourage little ones from getting too close to the fence! The carpet rose is extremely hardy and will be able to withstand the harsh environment of the roof.

Detail of grasses. They invite you to touch them and listen to their swish, swish, swish.

From the moment we got the plants up on the roof, the bees and butterflies started coming. When installation was done, they were everywhere! I have high hopes for next summer’s blueberry & plum crops.

It’s 6 a.m. on a Friday. I couldn’t sleep and ended up on youtube watching random videos. I saw this one:

It made me so happy to see that not only is my worldview not alone, that it’s shared by so many great scientific minds. I’m glad that when I took my science classes in school, I understood the implications of what was being taught to me.

The universe is such a wonderous place. Sometimes, that’s easy to forget. I want to try and remember.

As usual, life is busy. I have several clients right now, and have kind of reached my maximum capacity. I don’t tend to talk much on this blog about my life situation, but I’m a Mom and have an almost three year old. He goes to preschool 3 mornings a week, and one set of grandparents sees him one afternoon a week, and another grandparent for a full day. So, I basically run my business during those 26 hours. It can be, to put it mildly, difficult. I often wish I had a whole forty hours! WOW! I am so envious of you who do!

That said, I love my clients and I’m being presented with some wonderful challenges that I hope to share with you soon.

Very rewarding: one of my first clients emailed me a pic of the new raised beds they designed and made all by themselves! I am SO proud of them, and so HAPPY for them! It tells me that when I teach something, it works, and that it works for them further down the line. I don’t want to give my clients fish, I want to teach them to fish.

Terrarium Workshops are suspended for the warm weather months. Who wants to sit inside and make tiny gardens when you could go outside and be IN a garden?! Not I! Terrarium Workshops will return as the days get colder, shorter, and we begin craving that connection again.

And we are moving FINALLY! Today is Friday, but on Monday, we close on our apartment, and we’ll move in on the 27th. I can’t wait to settle into our new home. It’s a marvelous space, with lots of different micro environments, all of which I intend to fill with plants. I can’t wait to share those projects with you, as they happen.

Wiscon36 is next week, and I’m getting ready. Are you?

I mostly will probably be wandering about, please feel free to stop me and say hi if you want. I get a bit shy in large groups, but am friendly when stopped. I SWEAR!!!

I’m going to be moderating THREE panels!

Saturday, 8:30-9:45 a.m.
Biology and Engineering

Saturday, 4:00-5:15 p.m.
The Last Universal Common Organism as an Ocean-Filling Megaorganism

Sunday, 8:30-9:45 a.m.
Food as Fandom!

I’ll be at the Dessert Salon which you need a ticket for – that’s Sunday evening from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Cause, hello! DESSERT.

Other than that, I will be wandering about. I’m not sure if there is an “official” meet-the-artists gathering at Wiscon, but if there is, I’ll be there too, and I’ll update this page with that info if it exists.

The works I’m bringing are going to be my less conservative works. I’m pretty excited, and hope you are too!

The cacti are flowering in the studio. It's delicate, and thorny, all at once.

Intense. It’s the only word I can use to describe this past month, and how May is going to be.

My family is undergoing some really intense transistions, all while GALA continues to grow. It’s… hard. It’s the good kind of growth, but that doesn’t always make it easy.

Let’s see: So, in April, Julie of Browny International asked me to start giving workshops at her stores on Sundays. She owns several stores right at the corner of Lafayette and Bleeker and loves fostering new designers and artists of all kinds. I feel incredibly lucky to have met her. The idea is to have Terrarium Workshops every Sunday at 345 Lafayette. So far, they’ve been a blast. Each one needs a minimum of 3 people, signed up by the Saturday prior, for it to go forward. We cap them at 10 people.

Trying to get momentum on that has been pretty challenging – especially as it’s spring which means (Hooray!) and uptick in both landscape design clients and garden coaching clients! So my hours are busier than ever. Last weekend I taught some clients all about building planter boxes. We built a HUGE strange shaped one in their back garden. We made it extra deep as there’s a LOT of lead in their soil, and I don’t want the chance of the roots of their veggies uptaking lead from below the planters.

Garden corner, before.

My client hadn’t ever used a circular saw before, and it was thrill teaching her how to wield power tools with authority. She feels empowered to go forward with the rest of the plan herself now, and I’m so happy for her and her family! I can’t wait to see the pictures of delicious veggies!

Planter, built!

In the meantime, I’ve been designing two gardens simultaneously for other clients. Hoo boy.

And we’re moving.

Today is our last full day in my apartment. I was lucky to inherit this beautiful one bedroom – but it’s too small for a family of three. We may want to have another child – and it’s DEFINITELY too small for a family of four! So it’s been sold, and we are waiting to hear back from a co-op board on whether or not we’ve been approved to buy a larger apartment in another building. In the meantime, we’re going into a sublet.

It’s good, but it’s hard too. The building we are leaving… It means SO much to me. I grew up in this building (my mother still lives here), my husband proposed to me in the lobby, I gave birth to my son in my livingroom. It’s really difficult for me to leave here, and I feel excited by the idea of a new (larger!) home, but terribly sad to leave this place. Granted, I’ll still be here twice a week to see my mother – but I won’t be living here again. And that saddens me.

So that’s our April. Now for May.

Tomorrow (April 27) the movers come and will take our stuff to a storage unit, and we’ll move into our sublet.

On May 3rd, my son and I will fly out to LA for a week. Why? Well, my eldest Aunt is turning 90! The whole family is going to be out there for a big reunion, and to celebrate her life! I’m excited to see my cousins, some of my LA friends, and to spend a week in the California sun.

Then it’s back to NYC for a couple of weeks until May 23rd, at which point I’ll be traveling with my more speculative fiction oriented terraria out to Wiscon 35 to appear in the artshow there. I’m also moderating two panels, and am very excited to go to the largest, and oldest, feminist SF convention in the world! And I’m showing my art there! SQUEE!

Interspersed with all of that? Landscape design & installation, workshops on Sundays, and the stuff of living in NYC. It’s intense, as I said. Good, but intense.

Picking flowers, with my little boy. Spring, childhood, motherhood, and memory making. Even with everything going on, never forget to smell the flowers.

Spring is always an exciting time. The trees wake up, the bulbs break the topsoil, and the robins come to town. I’ve seen tons of robins this season, at least one blue jay, and a woodpecker, all in NYC’s beautiful parks.

I’m thrilled to announce that starting April 8th (Easter), GALA will be doing weekly terrarium workshops! Every Sunday, a workshop will be happening at a new store downtown called 51 Bleeker. The shop is going to be pretty amazing – all marvelous NYC new designers, and my terrariums.

Workshops are Sundays, 12-3:30 pm, and are $80. You get to make FOUR terrariums at the workshop, and you’ll get to take them home that afternoon. You’ll learn all about caring for terraria, in addition to constructing them. It’s a lot of fun, and the workshops are topped out at 10 people.

The shop is opening in the first week of April, so if you want to sign up for the first workshop on the 8th, for this week, head over to BrowNY International – 345 Lafayette (it’s around the corner) to sign up for workshops. After 51 Bleeker opens, you’ll be able to sign up there.

It’s a really marvelous opportunity and I’m super excited about it.

In addition – my schedule is rapidly filling up with Garden Coaching and Design clients. If you’d like to get on the roster and get that boost you need to get your garden started right this season, email me soon!

The Willow wakes, as her neighbor begins to stir.

It’s been such an exciting spring. We have been working out when to close on the sale of our current apartment, and putting together an application for a new co-op here in NYC. It’s long and involved, and will end up with our family of 3 moving from a small 1 bedroom, to a roomy 3 bedroom. I’m super excited, and just hoping that the co-op board likes us and approves us to buy the 3 bedroom.

It’s a big deal to move with a toddler, and sell and buy real estate! It’s been taking up a TON of time, but not so much that I won’t be out and about where you can see me!

This Saturday – March 17 – GALA will be at SUPER!Market selling terrariums again! I’m SUPER excited about it! The market was great the last time we were there, and I hope to see lots of new and old folks. I’ve got some amazing new terrariums to share with you all – more apothecary bottles, disk terraria, and more. I’m hoping my sempervium arrives in enough time that I have both dry and moist terraria to offer as well.

This is a great time to stop by with any gardening or growing questions you have, even if they are not terrarium related. Remember that I offer garden coaching, and I’m more than happy to share my knowledge with you!

SUPER!Market is located at 268 Mulberry Street, and runs from 11 am to 7 pm.

But that’s not all! On Sunday, March 25 from 1 pm to 4 pm (or sometimes a bit later) I’m running another terrarium workshop! You can learn more details about it HERE. This workshop is $40, and you’ll go home having made four terrariums of your very own! Cost includes everything – glassware, plants, planting substrate, and instruction.

I’m excited to announce that GALA has been accepted to the Art Show of the world’s largest and oldest feminist science fiction convention – WISCON! I am SO excited to share my work with other feminist lovers of Science Fiction!!! I also know a million people who go every year, and I’m super excited to see them and spend time with them. It should be a blast! WISCON happens from May 25 to the 28th, in Wisconson. Travelling terraria, ahoy!

And that’s all the news that’s fit to print – for now. I love you all, and will be back soon with lots more news – and I hope to see some of you at SUPER!Market and the Workshop!

So, I and a number of my terraria, will be at SUPER!Market on Saturday the 11th. It’s a really cool little weekly market of indie designers of clothes, jewelry, house decor, and more. Reasonable prices, new designers, what more could you want!

So, stop by!

Saturday 11am – 7pm
268 Mulberry St, New York NY

~ Nicole

fol·ly [fol-ee] 1. the state or quality of being foolish; lack of understanding or sense. 2. a foolish action, practice, idea, etc.; absurdity: the folly of performing without a rehearsal. 3. a costly and foolish undertaking; unwise investment or expenditure. 4. Architecture . a whimsical or extravagant structure built to serve as a conversation piece, lend interest to a view, commemorate a person or event, etc.: found especially in England in the 18th century. 5. follies, a theatrical revue. –

The Folly lies at the intersection between architecture, landscape, and art. The 18th Century follies were sometimes tiny but carefully placed, tricking the eye into thinking that it was seeing a huge ruin on the edge of a mountain. When approached, the viewer would find himself a giant investigating a Lilliputian ruin, and subject to the vertigo that accompanies that disorienting change in scale, of the body in the landscape suddenly transformed.Lewis Carroll later played with this idea in his seminal work, “Alice in Wonderland” – where the wonderland is the garden, and the follies consist of food, drink, outrageous people and more outrageous structures. As Alice goes through her convolutions, she wonders who she is, if she remains herself. If the body changes, if the relationship of the body to the exterior world is radically altered, who are you? Who are you when all your known references have gone missing?

Anna Mendieta, sometime around 1972

In later parlance, “folly” has become “follies”, a mixed cabaret, a theatrical production. So many early landscape architects were stage designers, not least of all Fredrick Law Olmstead, that the connection is far from tenuous, but rather deliberate.

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players: 
They have their exits and their entrances; 
And one man in his time plays many parts, … 
Last scene of all, 
That ends this strange eventful history, 
Is second childishness and mere oblivion, 
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything. 
-        Shakespeare, “As You Like It”

The Bone Follies seeks to frame a view inward, rather than outward, to displace the viewer in the landscape from standing on the land, to being part of it. Like the work of Anna Mendieta, the body becomes architecture, the bones of the spine paving stone, the arch of ribs walls, the eyes the home of seedlings. The body is the folly, and inseperable from the landscape it inhabits, the supporter of a teeming array of life, and the structure that we inhabit.

Sketches for the Bone Follies

What are you thinking about?