Reinvention

The action or process through which something is changed so much that it appears to be entirely new is known as reinvention.

Cultivate Catskill is continually working towards reinventing our village. We do this in many ways. You probably have noticed the flowers on Uncle Sam’s bridge this year. Not only have we added additional hanging planters but we planted a larger variety of flowers such that it appears completely different.

Similarly, instead of only two hanging baskets per light pole on Main Street, many of the poles now have four creating a different and much fuller look.

But perhaps one of the most striking examples of reinvention this year is Leggio Park. As most of you know, over the last three or four years, the raised bed gardens at Leggio have been used to grow vegetables, herbs and last year even featured Catskill’s first Alphabet garden. This year, we tried something completely different.

Thanks to a generous grant from Greene County and help from the Village of Catskill’s Department of Public Works and Greene County’s Buildings and Grounds, we’ve been able to transform Leggio to a place of beauty and contemplation.

It all started over a dinner conversation with a visiting landscape architect who then sketched a rough plan with a Park redesign. However, with all good ideas, challenges were encountered that necessitated some modifications to the original plan.

We started by moving the perennials that were in the raised beds to the edge of Factory Street. We were thrilled that not only did they survive, they looked great!

When we attempted to rearrange the configuration of the raised beds, however, we discovered that the beds fell apart during the move and thus could not be re-used. So we built a stone wall to create a more terraced look to the sloped land and added some steps connecting the upper portion of the park with the lower section. This was truly a team effort and we thank everyone involved in the project.

Flowering trees were added to provide some shade to a very sunny venue. To reduce future maintenance of the park, we replaced the grass with gravel that will still enable rainwater to contribute to our groundwater supply and reduce the need for future mowing. Additional perennials and shrubs were planted that will fill in and add color and texture to the garden.

Wood chips were added as mulch to reduce weeding requirements and help hold moisture and thus reduce the need for watering. The final touch was the addition of some large rocks that provide seating and add a zen quality to this redesigned space.

We hope you get a chance to experience this reinvented space as well as all the other parks we maintain include Blue Star, Policeman’s, Mott Street and Howard Street in addition to all the pots of blooms along Main Street. We welcome any additional volunteers to help with ongoing weeding and watering to keep everything green and looking nice. Together, we will keep Catskill blooming!

As a side note, two judges from America in Bloom will be visiting Catskill towards the end of next week. If you see them exploring the village, please make a point to welcome them by saying ‘hello’. We are proud of the work we’ve done to cultivate pride in Catskill and we hope you are too!

Building the Historic ’Purrservation’ Cat

Written by Margaret Nowack

It all started with a suggestion.

A member of Cultivate Catskill, during one of the only meetings I have missed, suggested that I create a cat for the Heart of Catskill Association’s (HOCA) annual Cat ‘N Around Catskill event the takes place between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Later, when asked, I agreed.

Those of you who have done a cat know that it is not simply painting a giant fiberglass cat. First, you must have a good idea, be able to verbally express that idea, and be able to sketch it on a two-dimensional template provided by HOCA. This alone was a challenge. I did ten iterations.

Normally, after a reception displaying the accepted ideas and sketches, sponsors rise up and pay to sponsor a cat. As I already had a sponsor, Cultivate Catskill, that part was easy. Since our group is keenly interested in historic preservation, as I am, I decided to build an Italianate house – one of the most common architectural styles in Catskill – around the cat.

After the idea and sketch are approved, you must choose your cat. They come in two positions, sitting and standing, both with saucy expressions and ample room for an awful lot of artist material. I took my standing cat straight off the reception table at the preliminary event, and left the seated one as the sole example for other artists. I was in a hurry! I had miniature bricks to make.

My cat was pure white, a clean canvas waiting for artistry.

Great artistry sometimes needs great preparation. After deciding on the exact size of the miniature bricks, I launched myself into brick manufacturing. Imagine after all these years, brick making has finally returned to Catskill!

I made a brick mold that made 150 quarter-inch thick bricks and 50 half inch bricks.

Brick ingredients were concrete coloring in yellow and red, a mortar fortifier and tile grout. It made strong and beautiful little bricks. I made over 1000 of them.

The bricks had to be a certain size for the cat.

Next came lots of ‘figuring’ with paper and cardboard templates.

Followed by affixing the bricks to the cat.

Window frames, flower boxes, flowers and other details were all made from a two part modeling clay called Apoxie. I used five pounds of it.Fussy work, windows! But worth it.Each of the seven windows has a story … and two have a cat.

The stones of the ‘foundation’ are real stones found here in the woods. The roof is real copper, made from very pliable flashing.Trying to patinate the copper under plastic wrap.Final touches on the flower boxes.

I’ve become very attached to the cat, and when it was finally finished and ready to be hauled off to the HOCA office, I felt something akin to postpartum depression. The days following his departure, I was listless and uninspired. Could it be that I missed molding tiny roses and geraniums? And adhering bricks with toxic construction adhesive? It’s possible. I look forward to seeing him on the streets in a couple of months!

Editor’s Note: All of us involved with Cultivate Catskill thank Meg for all her hard work and artistic genius. We hope everyone enjoys this Historic ‘Purrservation’ Cat during the summer months.

Reflections

The end of the year is always a good time to reflect on activities and results from the prior twelve months in order to help recharge energy for the future. For Cultivate Catskill, it was a very busy year!

Winter was the appropriate time to make plans, and plan we did! We held our annual fund raising mailing just before Valentine’s Day. Thank you to everyone who generously donated to support our efforts. Orders were placed for plants and baskets for our local flower beds, pots, light poles and pocket parks. Once the ground started to defrost, the leftover winter greens in the various pots along Main Street were removed to make way for the new growing season.

The emergence of spring was marked by Catskill’s first Roadside Clean Up held in April. Covering the entire town, we distributed trash bags from our local fire houses (Catskill, Leeds, Kiskatom and Palenville) to volunteers who scoured various village, town and county roadways picking up accumulated trash. With the help of the Town Highway Department and the Village DPW, we were able to restore some of the scenic beauty to our byways. That was quickly followed by multiple planting days. Thanks to our dedicated volunteers, flowers were installed in the various pocket parks and urns along Main Street. Baskets of petunias were also hung from light poles as well as installed on Uncle Sam’s Bridge. For the first time, an Alphabet Garden in Leggio Park was planted which included markers highlighting the names of various plants. Trunk Sales were also held once again.

Summer saw the plants grow and bloom, spreading color and joy throughout the community. But the work did not end there. Weeding and watering were key to keeping the flowers healthy as we also prepared for the arrival of the America in Bloom judges in July. While they gave us high marks for our floral displays, they cited the need for better code enforcement, municipal official support, and weed control. This time of year, work was also underway preparing for our first Caturday event which was successfully held in September.

With the advent of cooler weather in autumn, it was once again time to put the gardens to ‘bed’ in October while also installing ‘harvest’ decorations. In November, a wreath was decorated and donated to the Festival of Trees. We gathered greenery to make huge swags for Uncle Sam’s Bridge with the help of even more volunteers. Greenery and lights were installed along Main Street just in time for the Festival of Lights parade. They helped to make downtown even more festive for the holiday season. Bakeware and culinary skills were put to use during our annual Cookie Sale. For the first time, we also created and sold decorated wreaths which made this event extra festive.

As you’ve walked through the streets of Catskill over the past year, I hope you were not looking at its flaws but, rather seeing its potential. It’s been said that the only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary. If you like the progress that’s been made over the last several years and want us to continue this success, please work with us in helping to create a community that we all can take pride in. We always tend to fulfill our own expectations of ourselves, so let’s collectively set the bar high for the coming year. As we enter 2019, please consider helping us continue to look for and cultivate Catskill’s potential. Happy New Year!

Change

Change is inevitable. Experts say there are three different types of change: developmental, transitional and transformational. Seasons change. The month changes. The temperature changes. The weather changes. This time of year, leaves fall from trees as an indicator of our local transition into fall. You might have noticed some of our dedicated Cultivate Catskill volunteers cleaning up the pocket parks over the last few weeks as the plants transition from the growing season to one of rest and recharge.

Transitions are a great time to reflect on the past to assess what worked and what still needs more attention. The flowers along Main Street looked especially beautiful this summer. The combination of the hanging baskets coupled with the flowers in the black pots in front of the storefronts reflect the renewed vibrancy of our local area. The Alphabet garden added an extra touch of whimsy to Leggio Park, while Howard Street, Mott Street and Policeman’s Park all looked stellar. With an increasing number of open storefronts and visitors to our region, it is very rewarding to see people enjoy Cat’N around Catskill as they explore our local treasures. Recently, a politician remarked about the transformation that is currently underway in Catskill. All of our collective efforts are making a difference!

The pink, white and purple petunias that were planted in new planters on Uncle Sam’s Bridge were a great addition to our beautification efforts. Although we had ten planters this year, it’s a very long bridge that could benefit from even more planters in the future. The combination of the re-opened Black Bridge and Uncle Sam’s bridge is helping to highlight the beauty of our waterfronts which many locals tend to take for granted. The lantana ‘trees’ in the pots on Main Street and the plantings at Blue Star Memorial Park that anchor the both ends of West Bridge Street, helped to celebrate the gradual rejuvenation of the area.

The Department of Public Works did a great job watering the hanging baskets and pots along Main Street while Cultivate Catskill volunteers did our best to keep the pocket parks watered throughout the year. It would help greatly if business owners with planters outside their establishments would help to keep the plants watered in between DPW’s weekly watering. The plants would be most appreciative and reward you with continued blooms. In addition, if weeds start to crop up along the sidewalks, around the trees or against the buildings, a few minutes of weeding would help to keep the Village looking well maintained.

As we thank everyone who contributed to Cultivate Catskill’s efforts this year, we also continue to work on new developments. I suspect you’ve already noticed the decorations to mark the harvest season. These will be replaced with winter greenery in time for the Festival of Lights that is scheduled for November 23rd. Shortly after that, we are working to prepare for our annual Holiday Cookie Sale to be held on December 1 at the Community Center from 9AM to 1PM. We are also planning a Holiday Bazaar as part of this event where you can purchase a homemade holiday wreath to grace your doorway or home. Proceeds will be split between Cultivate Catskill and the Community Center. Cultivate will use any proceeds to fund new plantings for 2019, maintenance of existing gardens as well as plans to plant even more pride in our community.

We hope you will continue to support us as we strive to support positive change in Catskill. As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.” Please consider joining us as a Cultivate Catskill Volunteer or making a contribution to support our efforts. Thank you!

Weed Wisdom

All of the recent rain has resulted in very lush gardens. The greenery is beautiful… but if you look closely – or even not so closely – you are bound to spot a weed.

So what is a weed? There is no plant that bears the botanical name of ‘ weed’, although weeds certainly exist! The Old Farmer’s Almanac describes a weed as essentially a plant growing where you don’t want it. Other descriptions include:

  • A plant not intentionally sown
  • A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered … R.W. Emerson
  • A plant considered undesirable in a particular situation or one whose undesirable qualities outweigh their good points
  • A plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows…Doug Larson
  • A plant that is not valued where it is growing and is usually of vigorous growth.

This basically means that the term ‘weed’ is contextual – i.e. a plant in the wrong place albeit a farm field, garden, lawn, or park. Of the approximately 250,000 species of plants worldwide, only 3 percent or approximately 8,000 species behave as weeds that most people would prefer not to see in cultivated areas.

Some weeds are considered beneficial. Positive benefits include their aesthetic qualities, soil stabilization, addition of organic matter, and creation of habitat and food for wildlife ( e.g. nectar for bees). Other weeds are deemed to be invasive. Most weeds can be appreciated for their tenacity, their wildness, and the connection to nature they provide. Regardless, common traits include:

  • Abundant seed productivity
  • Rapid population establishment and spread
  • Seed dormancy which results in long term survival. Seeds go dormant but they sprout just as soon as conditions are right

Weeds reduce crop and/or ornamental plant yield by competing for water, light, soil nutrients and space. Thus the primary methods of management include prevention, mulching and regular weeding. Top weed control tips include:

  1. Never let them set seed! Remove weeds before they flower and produce seeds. On average, it takes 5 years to deplete a weed’s seeds if no additional seeds are added. Thus it may take a few years to get your soil weed-free. Annual weedy grass seeds die after 2-3 years but broadleaf weed seeds can last much longer.
  2. Mulch. It takes 2-3 inches of mulch to block weed seeds from sunlight so they do not germinate. Mulch also promotes better water retention, provides nutrients to the soil as it decomposes and helps to moderate soil temperature.
  3. Pay special attention to perennial weeds. With these, you’ll need to dig up any roots, underground tubers and rhizomes without leaving any fragments behind. New weeds can grow from pieces that break off and remain in the soil. It does help to cut off the emerged green part of a weed with a how or mower each time it grows. Without leaves, the underground plant parts will become weakened and may eventually die.

Common weeds (with links to help you identify them) include:

We’ve been talking about a weed as a noun, but it is also used as a verb meaning ‘remove or clear of weeds’. Many gardeners will agree that hand-weeding is not the terrible drudgery that it is often made out to be. Some people find it a kind of soothing monotony that leaves the mind open to develop new ideas or work through pressing issues.

If you’d like to help us reduce the number of weeds in the gardens and parks maintained by Cultivate Catskill, join us as we work to enhance the beauty of our area and help Catskill continue to bloom!

The wonders of water

“A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.” — Liberty Hyde Bailey

A special “thank you” to all the Cultivate Catskill volunteers who have spent countless hours planting, deadheading, weeding, mulching and watering the flowers around town. And an extra special “thanks” to the DPW workers who water the hanging baskets and pots along Main Street, a well as the Greene County workers who cut the grass in our parks.

As I was watering Leggio Park this morning, I had a chance to contemplate the wonders of water. Did you know that water covers 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and is vital to all known forms of life? It is a transparent, tasteless, odorless and nearly colorless chemical substance that is the main constituent of the Earth’s streams, lakes and oceans. It is also the fluid of most living organisms, including plants.

Like all life on Earth, plants need water to survive and grow. Indeed, like humans, water is the primary element that makes up the structure of plants. Human bodies are comprised of about 70 percent water, but in plants, this proportion can be as high as 95 percent. In plants, water is used for structure, photosynthesis, translocation and transportation.

Water helps plants move nutrients from the soil through its stems and leaves. It also keeps the plant moist, flexible, and helps the plant make its own food. Photosynthesis is what plants do to create their food and water is critical to this process. Water enters a plant’s stem (via the roots), and travels up to its leaves where photosynthesis takes place. Once in the leaves, water evaporates, as the plant exchanges water for carbon dioxide. The combination of sunlight, healthy soil, clean air, and water all work together to help keep a plant healthy.

So what’s the best way to water? One key is to focus on the root zone … not the leaves. Wetting the foliage is a waste of water and can promote the spread of disease. Also, remember to water only when needed. Too much water can be just as damaging to plants as too little. Make sure to water deeply and thoroughly. Lawns and annuals concentrate their roots in the top six inches of the soil. For perennials and shrubs, it’s the top 12 inches. Water in the morning to allow any moisture on the leaves to dry out. And to conserve water evaporation in the soil, mulch everything.

In Catskill, we are most fortunate to be surrounded by water in our lakes, streams. creeks and of course the Hudson River. But while 96.5 percent of our plant’s water supply is found in seas and oceans, only 1.77 percent is in groundwater. (The rest can be found in glaciers, ice caps in Antarctica and Greenland and a very small amount in vapor, clouds and precipitation.

The current dry spell is a reminder to conserve our drinking water and appreciate the life sustaining properties of this vital fluid. Consider installing a rain barrel to water your flower garden. Also, keep trash away from and out of our waterways to help ensure the beauty and viability of our ecosystem. Being cognizant of the role water plays in our environment, you can help us continue to Cultivate Catskill.

“June is bustin’ out all over…”

The title of the 1958 Rodgers and Hammerstein’s song from Carousel is appropriate as one walks down Main Street or Bridge Street in the Village of Catskill. The Cultivate Catskill volunteers were busy last month planting a swath of color in gardens, pots, urns and baskets. Thanks to plants purchased from Story’s Nursery and Story Farms (made possible through donations from local businesses and foundations) and the help of the Department of Public Works (DPW)), we’ve been able to add a splash of color to the sidewalks, pocket parks and Uncle Sam’s Bridge for the enjoyment of the residents and visitors to our area.

William Kent perhaps said it best with “All gardening is landscape painting.” Luther Burbank went a bit further when he stated “Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.” In my conversations with many people around town as we’ve been planting this season, there seems to be a consistent appreciation of the benefits of having an attractive downtown area. It’s gratifying when we see people enjoying lunch in the parks or hear visitors exclaiming how nice everything looks. The fiberglass cats with the added flowers around town seems to be a winning combination!

That said, “a garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.” — Liberty Hyde Bailey.

After a lot of effort expended last month planting the flowers, the work is not over. Now the watering and weeding starts. Thankfully, the DPW has agreed to water the baskets on Main Street and the planters on Uncle Sam’s Bridge. However, we are always looking for volunteers to help to water and weed the parks including Policeman’s Park, Blue Star Memorial Park, Leggio Park, Mott Street and Howard Street. By staying on top of the weeds, the focus can remain on enjoying the beauty of the colors and textures of the other plants. Lou Erickson correctly stated that “gardening requires lots of water, most of it in the form of perspiration.”

We recognize, however, that everyone is busy and/or may not have the time or inclination to help us with this ‘manual labor”. That said, there are other ways to get involved. As you can imagine, the purchase of all the plant materials costs a significant amount of money. Cultivate Catskill hosts a variety of fundraisers (e.g. the Trunk Sales – like the one being held tomorrow) to defray these costs but we would love to do more and extend the reach of our efforts. If you would like to help, please visit our website at http://cultivatecatskill.org to learn more about our non-profit organization, mission and how you can help.