Friday, May 28, 2010

Flora of the Day: Clusterhead Bellflower

Clusterhead Bellflower (Campanula glomerata 'Joan Eliot') has handsome blooms, typically bell-shaped, blue flowers from spring to fall. It should be planted in sweeping drifts in the perennial border or naturalized under trees. It takes sun/part shade. It reaches a height of 18" and can be invasive. During its blooming period (May-June) in Maine, it is spectacular; however, the rest of the year, it is undistinguished. I noticed the blooms this week. Wow!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Alternative Berlin: Friedrichshain Part 1

Winter Day
I live in the Friedrichshain section of Berlin Warschauer U/S-Bahn station). Formerly part of East Berlin, Friedrichshain is known by Berliners as the "Alternative" neighborhood: a kind of bohemian young person's hang out. It certainly has its share of young people, music venues, clubs, bars, restaurants, and cafes; but, it is also rich in history. From its working class beginnings in the 1920s to its current trendy cosmopolitan sophistication, Friedrichshain has been a magnet for eccentrics and the avant-garde.

Simon-Dach-Straße is the heart of Friedrichshain where one can find the latest in fashion and the current food craze. It is one of the liveliest places in Berlin, and for its residents, it can be very noisy from all the human activity that occurs on the streets. In the summer months, I need to wear ear plugs to sleep.

On Saturday mornings, I recommend the outdoor food market located at Boxhanger Platz (a block from Simon-Dach Straße and Kopernikusstraße). Try the fish stall where you can order fresh grilled trout. The trout (die Forelle) is the best I have had anywhere in the world, no joke! You can eat it on a bun or with a small salad. For dessert try the stall that only sells Kuchen (a type of German cake) baked right there. I prefer the
Pflaumenkuchen (plum cake). Very tasty (Sehr Lecker). Also, if you're in the mood, pick up a bouquet of flowers. One thing about Germans, they love fresh flowers and there is almost no shortage of flower sellers. You can find flowers for sale at almost every U/S-Bahn station, shopping arcade, grocery store or open air market.

On Sundays, Boxhanger Platz has an overrated flea market. Lots of tourists and junk for sale. Avoid it if you can. Instead, head to a restaurant for a Berliner Sunday brunch. You haven't had brunch until you've done it Berlin style. It's something! Brunch is all you can eat, and includes meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, breads, salads, fish, pastries, cakes, pastas, casseroles, etc. The price of brunch usually includes a glass of sparkling wine and/or juice. Brunch starts around 10 am and ends around 4 pm. Prices range from 7-10 euro. Go early and go hungry.

Flora of the Day: Peony

These herbaceous peonies have been revered in the Orient for 2,500 years. These plants often outlive the gardeners who planted them, and bloom in late May and early June in Maine.

Flora of the Day: Siberian Iris

Siberian Iris's (Iris sibirica) are easy to maintain and have few problems. They are excellent flowers for cutting and spectacular when massed in a large border. The dried pods are also handsome. They are just beginning to bloom in Maine.

When I arrive in Berlin next week, I will begin posting plants found in that city.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Flora of the Day: Coreopsis

Coreopsis are sunny flowers ideal for borders. They are great additions to any garden design, blooming most of the summer. Coreopsis make great garden edging as well as nice cut flowers.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Blumenthal Business

Last week, the New York Times reported that Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut's Attorney General and Democratic candidate for the US Senate, had misrepresented his Vietnam war record or lack of record.

After the story broke, the Connecticut Democratic State Convention selected Mr. Blumenthal as its candidate for the Senate. Mr. Blumenthal offered a statement concerning his "few misplaced words," but he did not apologize or simply say that he was sorry for his long history of misrepresentation. No one is perfect, and a simple "I am sorry" would have gone a long way.

Moreover, the State Democratic Convention could have refused to nominate any senate candidate, and let the Democratic voters decide the issue in the August primary. In light of Mr. Blumenthal's less than honest statements over the last decades, the Convention would have been wise to let the voters make the call on Mr. Blumenthal's fitness for office. Instead, the state Democratic politicians decided to close ranks and selected Mr. Blumenthal. If the State Convention had let the state Democratic voters decide Mr.Blumenthal's suitability for office, the issue would be vetted during the primary campaign and to some extent mitigated. To be sure, the issue would still remain for the Republicans to use in the November general election, but at least a consensus of voters had made a decision on it.

I guess the State Democratic big shots thought they could nominate anyone in thoroughly blue state. The sheer arrogance! Let's see what the voters say in November.
I think Maureen Dowd got it somewhat right in her opinion piece last week.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Welcome to OneFootInBerlin

Why "OneFootInBerlin"? Well, it seems to be a good time to start this blog as I embark on my return to Berlin Germany (not to be confused with Berlin Vermont) on June 1st. I live, work and study 4-5 months a year in Berlin, and reside the rest of the year in the beautiful City of Portland Maine. Initially, I thought I would share my experiences as an American living abroad in Berlin: a kind of Henry James travelogue. But why limit myself. This is my Blog and why not also discuss broader issue such as politics, art, music, film, sports, health, gardening and literature. In short, create an online forum to discuss topical issues from a person who happens to be living part-time in Berlin.

A little about myself. I have a degree in Landscape Architecture but decided to forgo my interest in design and botany to study Law: good move from a monetary perspective but not so good for the soul. That is to say, while working as an attorney, I met a lot of people both as clients and colleagues with dubious moral and ethical character. To be sure, I met a lot of honorable attorneys with high standards; but alas, they were the exception and certainly not the rule. If I ever have the opportunity to write a book, I will call it "Effective Scapegoating Techniques for Practicing Attorneys or How to Achieve Career Advancement at the Expense of Others." (I adopted this title from an April Fools Day tweet, but that's another story for a future post.)