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.

Field Mushrooms

These little mushrooms popped up in one of our treebeds earlier this week, and will likely be gone in the next week or so, after they’ve finished releasing their windblown spores. But their web of mycelium will remain underground, where they help to break down dead plant matter, exchanging water and nutrients with plant roots in vast networks of underground fibers extending under the sidewalk.

I don’t know enough about mushrooms to be sure, but I believe these are examples of “Shaggy Parasol” a type of mushroom known as chlorophyllum, and I’m glad I caught sight of them during their brief visit aboveground.

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.