Archives for the month of: December, 2013

December in the Hudson Valley, time to sip hot chocolate and look at the snow outside. Chocolate… got me thinking about Lucky Chocolates an artisanal chocolate store. This summer (it seems like a long time ago now) I was on my way to Lucky Chocolates when I glanced up and noticed some large planters at roof level; the owner Rae, explained there is a roof garden above the store and she obligingly let me take a peek.

Roof Garden Lucky Chocolates Store

Lucky Chocolates. The best!

The roof garden is connected to a spacious rental apartment on the second floor of the 19th century building and was built three years ago when Rae lived in the apartment and wanted some outdoor space. At the entrance to the roof garden there is a raised deck area which provides privacy and shade.

Roof Garden Deck

View of the roof garden terrace from the deck

The deck was built by Nick Gugliametti who also constructed the bamboo screens.

Roof Garden furniture

A place to eat ‘Al Fresco’

Roof Garden Bamboo Screens with Boston Ivy

Boston Ivy growing on bamboo screens

Boston Ivy Parthenocissus tricuspidata grows up the screens from the alley below, stems are attached to vertical surfaces by sticky pads at the ends of tendrils.

Roof Garden  with Boston Ivy berries

Boston Ivy foliage and berries

In summer, tiny green flowers bloom followed by small black berries (food for birds).

roof garden, mint growing in a recycled container

A useful herb, Mint

Mint flourishes, growing in a reclaimed drinks cooler.

Roof Garden Plastic Pots with Sedum plants

Plastic pots are a lightweight choice for a roof garden

These vintage white pots contain various Sedum plants.

Roof garden deck

The deck from the terrace

Stepping down from the deck, the terrace is covered in pea gravel, a lightweight material that weighs less than soil and grass.

Roof garden lawn in raised bed

Mini Lawn!

However there is a small lawn in a raised bed, usually kept neat by hand-trimming with scissors! Roof Garden Chair and pea gravel The sides of the deck are enclosed by metal railings which are integrated with wooden box planters, custom built by carpenter, John Malloy.

Roof Garden Marigolds in Planter

Marigolds – lovely hot colors

The box planters have an 8″ layer of soil and are suitable for heat tolerant annuals such as marigolds, cosmos and zinnias.

Roof Garden Marigolds and Zinnias

Marigolds and Zinnias

Roof Garden Annuals in Pots

A pretty mix of annual plants

Rae explains “It’s been a good year for the annuals and there are lots bees up here. It’s nice to have lots of flowers because the bees are dying out and we need bees for pollination.”

Roof Garden Lantana in a pot

Pink Lantana flowers

Rae especially likes the Lantana “Lovely small blooms and leaves, exotic unusual fragrance.” Like many gardeners, Rae is concerned about the natural environment and the roof garden does have several environmental benefits.

  • Provides wildlife habitat
  • Storm water runoff is reduced (rain water is absorbed by plant material)
  • The roof temperature is lower (sunny roofs may be heat traps)
  • The roof surface is protected which increases the longevity of the roof
Roof Garden Japanese maple in a box planter

Japanese Maple foliage glows in the sunlight

Larger box planters contain 2′ of soil and are lined with rigid foam with foil on one side, this  insulates the soil from temperature extremes. The Japanese maple tree is thriving in one of these planters. Rae uses store bought lightweight organic soil and adds seaweed emulsion or organic plant food once a year, also Miracle Grow as needed.

Roof Garden Sempervivum succulant plant

Sempervivum grows at the base of the Maple in the planter

Rae has seen hummingbirds and squirrels on the roof garden and would like to add a water fountain for the birds. Future plans include a drip irrigation system. This roof garden is a private place to relax and enjoy nature and at the same time, provides a habitat for wildlife.

Roof Garden view of maple trees

A view from the deck – Maple trees look spectacular in the fall

Roof Garden Lucky Chocolates Sign

Follow the signs…

Lucky Chocolates is located in the village of Saugerties historic district at the top of Partition Street.

Oriental Bittersweet berries. Source:

Oriental Bittersweet berries are often used for fall decorations.

Last weekend I noticed the orange berries of Oriental Bittersweet are everywhere, beside roads, in yards and in the treetops.

Oriental Bittersweet vine with berries at the top of a tree. Source:

The berries are visible in the treetops in fall and winter

I learnt about Oriental Bittersweet at a presentation by Barbara Bravo  called “Invasive Plants in the Hudson Valley”. (An ‘invasive’ is a plant or tree that is not indigenous to the US and is an aggressive grower which adversely affects the natural ecosystem).

There are two types of Bittersweet vine in the US; the Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculata) which was introduced in the 1860s from China, Japan and Korea and the American Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens).

Oriental Bittersweet smothering a tree. Source:

Oriental Bittersweet smothering a tree.

Oriental Bittersweet is an invasive vine growing 66′ tall which crowds out other plants and trees, including American Bittersweet. The woody vine wraps around trees and kills them, while the weight of the vine can smother and topple mature trees. It is more vigorous than the American Bittersweet and spreads by underground roots and from berries which are eaten and dispersed by birds and mammals.

Oriental Bittersweet, woody stems girdling the trunk of a sapling. Source:

Woody stems girdling the trunk of a sapling.

Oriental Bittersweet stems. Source:

Oriental Bittersweet stems

Oriental Bittersweet can be removed by cutting back the vines and digging up the roots. Or a systemic herbicide can be used (glyphosate or triclopyr); cut the stem about 1″ above the ground and apply the herbicide to the stem, always follow directions on the label. Make sure no berries are left behind and burn or dispose of them in the trash.

Oriental Bittersweet foliage. Source:

Oriental Bittersweet foliage

Oriental Bittersweet berries encased in yellow husks. Source:

The berries are encased in yellow husks before they ripen in the fall

American Bittersweet is rare in the wild but is available from nurseries. It grows 30′ high, is not invasive and is much more manageable. It looks slightly different than Oriental Bittersweet. Identification; the leaves have a pointed tip, the berries are a darker red and are in clusters at the ends of stems that extend beyond the leaves. For advice and help identifying American Bittersweet, contact your local Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Sources of American Bittersweet vines:

For professional removal of all invasive plants, contact Poison Ivy Patrol, they use non-chemical removal methods

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