Monthly Archives: July 2012

Pagoda under a serious moon


I recently stitched this pagoda canvas.  A good friend of mine adapted the design from an Elizabeth Bradley kit.

A. Colt

Here’s a close-up of the stitches I used. Nothing fancy here, except the Oriental stitch on the eaves, and the T-stitch on the pagoda walls. Notice the bright green gecko (lizard) on the roof and an alligator in the pond. These creatures are common sights in South Florida, where I live.  And let’s not ignore the Man in the Moon-that’s some sharp chin!

A. Colt

I always say finishers add all the nifty embellishments that really make a project unique. My finisher for this piece found a bead that picked up the colors in the water.  Nice touch.

And when the finisher sent it back, she also included a fantastic embellishment for a New York Christmas taxi ornament that I am working on. The wheels even turn!

© Erin McGrath and, 2012 – 2016.


Arboreal Delights


After the walk through the old-growth forest, I headed back to the cafe for some refreshments, and somewhere along the way, I came upon this amazing Chinese tree.

At the  cafe, unfortunately, there was only one cashier that day, and a zillion people waiting in line to pay, so I passed on the rehydration, despite the hot sun that was rising ever higher in a relatively cloudless sky.

A tip to the wise:  if you ever decide to visit NYBG:  bring your own water, as there are no drinking fountains along the trails and paths.  None I could see, at least.

I decided to avoid the tram route up the Berenson Ornamental Conifers, and took the back way there.

This eventually took me past an old and recently restored stone mill.  It was built by the Lorillard family in 1840, who had brought their tobacco milling operation to the Bronx in 1792, to take advantage of the Bronx River to power their equipment.  This gorgeous mill can be described architecturally as a vernacular industrial building, made of schist quarried on the site.

Here’s a pic of a 500-million year old outcrop of the local gneiss and schist, in a glacier rock formation known as the Wamsler Rock.

As the sign says, this area is planted and in the early spring is flush with crocuses, irises, squill and snow drops–now that is something I would love to see.

Along the way, I was particularly smitten with this ancient Black Oak.  Would you believe it was a mere sapling during the American Revolution?  Pretty incredible, in my book.

Absolutely stunning.

It took awhile and a lot of walking but I finally found the Berenson Ornamental Conifer Garden, a landscaped patch of mature shade trees that include century-old blue Atlas cedars, a 75-year old Montgomery Blue spruce, as well as miniature white pines, and a variety of dwarf conifers.  If you touch some of these huge trees with the palm of your hand, you can actually feel the sap running through their trunks, and, if you are quite still, absorb some of their incredible, peaceful energy.  Take my word for it.

I love evergreens and particularly the Japanese cypresses, abundant here.

My favorite is the Golden Hinoki, which you can see below, along with a selection of other plants that caught my fancy.

Here’s me checking out the Hinoki situation.

And here’s the famous and rare snake tree.

Let’s not forget Mr. Wabbit.

And Mr. Butterfly.

You won’t find this in Florida!

So there, in the Bronx, is an absolute treasure trove of plants, trees, rare salamanders, and small mammals. In December, they do a Holiday train exhibit in the same conservatory space where Monet’s Garden was presented, and replicate famous Manhattan landmarks, such as the Empire State Building, with completely organic materials.

Well done, New York Botanical Garden!!!! Bravo!  And I hope you enjoyed taking, as much as I did, this little tour of a very special part of New York City.

© Erin McGrath and, 2012 – 2016.

Images may be republished under

Placidly Seeking Emerson


After seeing the Monet garden exhibit, it was time to enjoy the rest of the place.

There is nothing like being in the presence of mature specimen trees, particularly if they are well-tended, and have had plenty of room to spread out their branches, amidst acres of beautiful lawns and lovely gardens.  Not to mention the opportunity to actually walk through the last remaining patch of old growth forest that remains in New York City.

That, in particular, is probably a trigger for the inner pantheist lurking within most visitors to the botanical gardens, a sense of connection to “unimproved” Nature that comes out when away from machinery, steel and glass, suffocating concrete, teeming hordes, and the pervasive noise of what passes for urban civilization.

It’s why such places continue to exist.

But first, it was time to buy a hat, as the sun was climbing higher in the sky, and it was getting hot.  So I ambled down to the NYBG shop.  You can locate the shop, as well other places I visited, here.

I bought an embroidered cap, which was a little more expensive than the others on display.  Isn’t my cap fabulous?

Since the NYBG is such a big place, I had to have a plan, as I had no intention of taking the packed tram on a sterile, motorized tour, that would rush by everything, with some tour guide’s disembodied, canned voice droning on, pointing out the sights.  I just hate that sort of thing.  It’s important to be able to stop, when you feel like it, to smell the roses.

(Coincidentally, a week after my visiting Peggy Rockefeller’s Rose Garden, the following article appeared in the NY Times.  It concerns the research performed at the NYBG for roses that can thrive without chemicals.)

Anyway, I decided to take one of the trails (which follow paths once used by the Wiechquaesgeck, a Lenape tribal group wiped out by the early Dutch colonists) that runs through the 50-acre, uncut old growth forest, known as the Native Forest, then finish things up with a leisurely stroll through the decorative conifers section.

Here’s the start of my walkabout.  Notice the split-rail fencing that borders the trail.  Eight thousand feet of fence have been installed during the restoration that is now underway.

Some of the sights I came across while inside the old growth forest included a lovely waterfall, courtesy of the Bronx River, a cute fire hydrant, and a bridge that was once featured on Sesame Street!

Much of the Native Forest is being replanted with native species, as part of the ongoing restoration – such as red, white, and black oaks, tulip trees, sweet gums, and spice bush.

One can also find American Elm trees along the Spicebush Trail in the forest. These beautiful elm trees have been spared Dutch Elm Disease, and are considered sacred relics of what used to be here. Few trees compare to the beauty of an American elm—its overall form, bark, and buttress roots.

During my hike through the Native Forest, I sat for a while on a log that had been converted into a sort of roughly hewn bench.  Though I didn’t manage to take pictures of any of them, the music of the forest birds was absolutely divine.  (Later, while taking a break at one of the pagodas elsewhere in the park, I even caught a glimpse of a red-tailed hawk zipping by.)

What a contrast to the thumping  sounds blasting out from the car radios, earlier, when I was entering this place!  It’s human nature to make a lot of noise, but maybe part of getting a little older is realizing that stillness and quiet and appreciating the beauty of one’s surroundings is more enriching that carrying on loudly, like some frantically clueless chatterbox.

I suppose this is why I’m so temperamentally suited to needlepoint stitching, which I can sit (or stand) and do, in focused and contented silence, for hours at a time.

Next, I’ll show you pictures of the conclusion of my walking tour:  the majestic ornamental conifer garden and evergreens, including a stunning black oak tree that was a sapling at the time of the American Revolution, a gorgeously restored stone mill, a rock formation that dates back hundreds of millions of years, and other goodies!

© Erin McGrath and, 2012 – 2016.

Images may be republished under

Impressions of Tranquility


Hi everybody, I’m back from my latest NY trip.

I thought I’d share some pics of a walk I took through the New York Botanical Garden, (NYBG) to see the special Monet garden exhibit that is being held this summer and through the fall.

Here’s a sign for the facility, by the pedestrian entrance, called Mosholu Gate.  It’s just steps away from the Metro North stop.

Entrance sign

And, of course, there’s also a sign for the star attraction.

The Money Sign

Inside, the gardens–a 250 acre park actually– were unbelievably beautiful, smack in the middle of the Bronx, a place not known  for its pastoral serenity.

Evergreen under a white cloud puff

More sights along the trail known as Garden Way.

An initial, tantalizing glimpse of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.

Dome of Haupt Conservatory

There are some beautiful hedged gardens outside the Haupt Conservatory, which replicated part of Monet’s garden in Giverny.  The scent of lavender, thyme,  rosemary and boxwood and other aromatic plants filled the air.

Once inside the conservatory, I first came across a tropical space, which is not part of the Monet exhibit proper.  It, of course, reminded me of good old Florida, home sweet home!  Notice the large, mounted photograph that provides an illusion of plants reflected in water.

Tropical hothouse

Outside, there was a large rectangular pool of shallow water.  It had lots of recreations of Monet’s famous water lilies.

Can you see the Japanese Koi  swimming in this one?

And other aquatic plant forms too…

Doesn’t this lotus plant look like a shower head?

Anyway, back inside, I found Monet’s famous Japanese bridge.

Nicely done, I must say.  By the way, if you’re interested in stitching a canvas of this bridge, you can find one here.

Okay… don’t know about you, but I’m already exhausted!  We’ll continue our tour through the gorgeous NYBG on my next post.

See you then.

© Erin McGrath and, 2012 – 2016.

Images may be republished under

It’s a wonderful town


Artist Unknown

I’m heading up to New York in a couple of days, so I’m posting an image of this vintage canvas to mark the occasion. The canvas renders, in a stylized form, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and, of course, the World Trade Center.  It’s a beautifully simple homage to Manhattan. While there, I’ll be seeing old friends and best of all eating GREAT food in and out of the City.  As a special treat on this trip, I’m also looking forward to my “highlight” visit to the New York Botanical Garden.  I can’t wait to pay a visit to their Monet exhibit, where they have recreated the beautiful Giverny gardens, plants, and the  famous bridge.  The exhibit encourages aspiring visual artists to sketch, paint, or photograph this inspirational garden. COOL!

© Erin McGrath and, 2012 – 2016.

Two for the Road


These two adorable tree ornaments are taking a road trip to a customer who special-ordered them.  They are part of a series of 18 Christmas tree designs by Kelly Clark.  Looking at this entire collection, I must say, it takes a lot of self-restraint to order just two!

© Erin McGrath and, 2012 – 2016.