Archive for the ‘Curbside Catastrophe’ Category

While I was in Hoboken for a client meeting this week, I walked through the riverfront streets to get a feel for the town. Observer Highway,
also known as Washington Street is lined with beautiful cafes, shops, pubs, retail stores and the famous Carlo’s bakery. The charm of the center of Hoboken is that it has a mix of older buildings that have details you don’t see in new construction.

Charming Brick Apartment Building In Hoboken, New Jersey

Some of my favorite parts of the city are the little communities like Tudor City on Manhattan’s east side and Sutton Place, just below the Queensboro Bridge, which showcase buildings with beautiful brickwork and delightful details. During my stroll I came across this beautiful brick apartment building which had a similar kind of appeal.

Something is Fishy About this Landscape

I immediately noticed the first planting bed which was very under-planted. The few Impatiens in the bed were a nice thought, but it looks like it is only half done. Secondly, I noticed the odd shape created by the outline of the grass. If you look with a creative eye, you can almost make out the shape of a whale. Further along the property I found more strange shapes where mulch and planting bed met with grass and sidewalk. There was no flow or logic to how these parts of the landscape related to each other.

A Poor Example of Making the "Positive" and "Negative" Elements of the Landscape Connect

It is a good reminder that you must consider the relationships between positive and negative elements in the landscape. Consider the grass to be the “positive” space, which is dominant to the eye, and the “negative” space to be the mulched planting beds. Always design the shape of the positive space first. The negative space, which should be less focal to the eye, is secondary in design.

Someone who maintains this entry planting forgot this basic rule of thumb. I would suggest less focus and effort on the flowers and investing in some sod to fix the layout of the lawn and planting beds. To maximize your curb appeal and investment, make sure the structure of the landscape makes sense before you start adding annuals.


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The best way to bring fall color and interest into your garden is through your planting containers. New York City landscapes are all about the container garden. Containers come in hundreds of different materials, colors, finishes ,and textures. Selecting the right plants for the right container to match the right setting can be overwhelming (check back for an upcoming article on rules of thumb for planter selection). This past week, I observed two different planters. One is located in Midtown Manhattan, and the second is located in Manhattan’s Financial District.



 The Midtown planter lacks fall interest. Observe the Begonias, Sweet Potato Vine, and Boxwood thrown together without attention to the season. The color scheme is better for Valentine’s day, and though I am a believer of color blocking, the red and pink flowers are a cheap shot at creating a colorful planter. The plant combination of the lower Manhattan planters are much more interesting. The texture of the Red Fountain Grass mixed with the Variegated Geranium and Coleus provide a more understated effect. The yellow Coreopsis flowers provide just enough color to punch up the planter. Remember, for Fall, use less flowers and focus on varying textures of plants through the foliage. Do not limit yourself to Chrysanthemums and Cyclamen, there are plenty of other options out there. The Jeffrey Erb favorite failproof fall  planting includes: Autumn Fern (Dryopteris erythrosora, Muhlenbergia (take your pick of species), and American Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens). 

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