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Welcome to the Garden!

Bloomingdale Garden is a tiny patch of green in public space on New York City’s Upper West Side.

Located in containers and tree beds along the sidewalk of 219/217/215 West 106th Street, the garden occupies less than a hundred square feet, but provides a welcome splash of color to the neighborhood.

My name is Matthew Cavalletto, and I’ve created this site to showcase the flora and fauna that make their home in and around my garden, and to answer some common questions asked by passers by. I’ll also share some notes about my experiences as a gardener, in hopes that this will encourage other people to create their own pocket gardens anywhere they can.

The garden is named Bloomingdale, a traditional name for this area of New York City’s Upper West Side.

An Unwelcome Volunteer

Typically I’m excited to find unexpected plants cropping up in the garden; I know many people would classify these surprise visitors as weeds, but I’m usually happy to find something new that’s vibrant enough to make a go of it in the challenging environment of our sidewalk containers.

However there are a few exceptions, and when I noticed that a “tree of heaven” (Ailanthus altissima) had cropped up in one of the big grapevine planters, I knew it had to be removed. This invasive species not only has a tendency to crowd out other plants, it’s a preferred food source for the spotted lanternfly — spotted lanternflies flourish and produce more eggs when tree of heaven is present, and then go on to attack other nearby plants.

This unwelcome volunteer has now been banished to the city’s organics recycling bin, and I’ll keep an eye out for any siblings that may be lurking nearby.

Paper Wasps

There are a handful of these paper wasps visiting the garden this week; they’re hunting through the leaf litter for insects to massacre and bring back to the hive, where they will be shared with the queen and brood.

These tiny carnivores will help keep other insects from multiplying out of control, and both will in turn provide food for birds. It’s part of the natural cycle, so I’m happy to have it playing out here on our sidewalk.

Scaffolding Extension

I spent more than an hour last week, rearranging all of the planters on our sidewalk, dragging them back and forth to create a pleasing arrangement for the season ahead — then looked out my window the next morning and discovered that the facade-repair project next door was extending their scaffolding twenty feet further to cover part of our building, blocking the sunlight to that end of the garden.

And they say the scaffolding will likely remain in place for a full year!

I’ve now managed shift most of the planters down the block, but still need to tackle the espaliered tree that has its branches woven inextricably into the iron fence… moving it will require cutting off a significant number of branches, but if I leave it in place, it will probably die due to lack of light.

It’s very frustrating.