Archive for the ‘Somewhere to Visit’ Category

I am always on the look out for noteworthy small parks, community gardens and respites from the concrete jungle. Just below 14th Street on 8th Avenue where Greenwich Avenue begins, there is a triangular park called Jackson Square bordered on the south end by Horatio Street.


.23 acre NYC Park

A little history for you from the NYC Parks Department’s site: “The triangular shape of the park is a result of the diagonal route of Greenwich Avenue, the oldest known road in Greenwich Village. Greenwich Avenue originated as an Indian trail and was called the Strand Road by Dutch colonists. Forming the other two sides of the triangle, Eighth Avenue and Horatio Street date to 1811, when the New York legislature approved the Manhattan street grid, known as the Commissioner’s Plan. When and why the site came to be called Jackson Square is unclear. Most likely it was named after Andrew Jackson (1767-1845), the seventh President of the United States.”


A dogwood tree in blossom (foreground). Boxwoods surround the cast iron fountain.

The ironwork at the entrances and the perimeter fencing is original to the park’s beginnings, circa 1872. There are several pin oaks that are recorded as having been planted in 1930’s. The cast iron fountain was installed in a renovation finished in 1990.


8th Avenue Entrance to Jackson Square

There are many nice plantings in this .23 acre park. There are several groupings of variegated Solomon’s seal, a perennial plant that is wonderful in shade gardens. It’s easy to grow and will slowly spread throughout the years.


Solomon’s seal grouping

The structure of Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum) is delicate with its arches and hanging bell shaped flowers. It will bloom from early spring until autumn (when foliage will turn golden).


Solomon’s seal with its sweet bell shaped flower.

This planting caught my eye on the Greenwich Ave side:


This grouping has Cherry Laurel (Otto Luyken) in the back left blooming with its white bushy flowers. The leaves are a lush dark green with a nice luster to them; it is an evergreen shrub and looks fantastic in the background of this planting. The evergreen shrub in the lower left is a Pieris Japonica (Forest Flame), with its white spring flowers in bloom, its new foliage is flame red and then fades to green as it matures.

On the right side are Hostas (Garden Treasure) with their green middle and yellow edges. A shade-loving perennial, they are a great way to add color to your garden. Hostas come in a wide range of colors from an avocado green to a light blue-green with many types of variegated options. The blooms that appear in late-summer are white or lilac colored. Mixed throughout the planting there are also spring bulbs: daffodils, tulips and muscari.


Hostas, Boxwoods, Ferns near the fountain

Several coffee shops flank Jackson Square so grab a cup to go and go relax on one of several benches!

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Pinus thunbergii ‘Thunderhead’ at the Arboretum at Penn State

I had the opportunity to speak to landscape contracting students at Penn State this past week about starting my business and working in New York City. The differences between working in the country and city are many. While visiting campus, we were able to partake in the tradition of enjoying the creamery and also had a chance to walk through the H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens at the Arboretum at Penn State.

The first phase of the Arboretum was completed in 2009 and includes a demonstration Garden, event lawn and overlook pavilion. The fragrance and rose garden is partially completed but is not currently open to walk through. The next phase is construction of the children’s garden which will include a conservatory, education center, Medieval garden, orchard and much more. The plans look amazing and I can’t wait to see it come to fruition.

A Water Garden Surprisingly Still Lush and Full in October

There is plenty to see in the botanic garden this time of season. The original plantings are starting to grow in nicely. Fall color is in full swing now and the Viburnum ‘Winterthur’ stood out with brilliant red leaves and showy blue berries. The gardeners had fun decorating with pumpkins and gourds throughout the garden and there was an entire area planted with festive Chrysanthemums and Kale mixed in with Gomphrena and Salvia still hanging on to their late summer blooms. If you are in State College or plan to go to a football game, take 30 minutes to enjoy the garden and you won’t regret it.

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Alan Klein Supervises Planting at Elle Decor’s 2012 Modern Life Concept House at the Dillon on West 53rd Street

NEW YORK, NY, May 11, 2012 – International design authority ELLE DÉCOR will produce the second annual Modern Life Concept House opening on May25th at The Dillon on West 53rd Street in one of the property’s exclusive townhouses.  Renowned international designer and judge of BBC’s ‘House of the Year’ Michael Tavano has tapped Jeffrey Erb, to design and install the plantings for the 600 sq. foot courtyard, the only outdoor space of the property.

“Green space and outdoor living are elements which have a profound impact on the quality of modern life in an urban environment.  We are thrilled to work with Michael Tavano to create a vision of innovative living and contemporary design concepts for this urban landscape,” said Jeffrey Erb. “A great landscape designer is to an outdoor space what a great architect is to a home,” added Michael Tavano.

Michael is an internationally renowned interior designer, product designer, home fashion stylist, visual merchandiser, table designer, judge of BBC’s House of the Year series.

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I had the great fortune to celebrate the start of spring at Brooklyn Botanic Garden this past weekend. It was still too early to see the Cherry Blossoms in the main promenade, but there were more than a few early bloomers offering a dazzling display of Spring color. The Magnolia stellata (Star Magnolia) grove outside of the main conservatory was breathtaking. I could go on and on about the sweet fragrance and the heavenly white blossoms floating magically on the bare branches, but you should really go see it for yourself.

One early blooming Cherry tree, Prunus ‘Okame’ also offered spectacular pink blossoms that drew a crowd of admirers. Camellia ‘Bernice Boddy’ gave brilliant pink blossoms along the walk leading into the Japanese garden. In the summer of 2006, when I volunteered at the BBG working with the children’s garden, I fell in love with Lagerstroemia indica ‘Natchez’ commonly referred to as Crepe Myrtle. The bark stands out in the spring garden and is covered in smooth patterns in varying shades of cinnamon and tan. The best specimen I have ever seen of L. ‘Natchez’ is growing outside of the main conservatory.

Daffodil hill was a sight for sore winter eyes while Cornus mas (Cornelian Cherry Dogwood) brightened a garden full of Boxwood and Chamaecyparis. One unusual bloom I came across was the pale yellow flower of Edgeworthia chrysantha (Paperbush). Edgeworthia is in the same family as Daphne and is used to manufacture very high quality paper. The summer leaves are arranged in palmate fashion similar to the shape of a Rhododendron.

Spring is here whether you like it or not. Embrace it and smell the flowers because they won’t last very long in this heat. Though it isn’t my favorite season, I am learning to appreciate spring for its fleeting beauty.

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For all of you wondering how you can join us to get your hands dirty and get your garden on….this is for you! In the end of August 2011 New York City was girding for an evacuation of low-lying areas from fear of flooding due to Hurricane Irene.  For most of us city dwellers the storm was relatively anticlimactic, bringing only a bit of rain and wind.

The Courtyard of Hartley House in Hell's Kitchen

Jeffrey Erb Landscape Design provided a pro bono consultation to our neighborhood community center, Hartley House, one week before Irene’s visit. During that meeting, one of our chief concerns was for a pair of Ailanthus trees growing in the courtyard which had never been pruned properly.  This invasive species, known for being unstable, raised fears for the wellbeing of surrounding historic buildings of Hartley House, and for the children attending afterschool and summer programs in the courtyard.

If you are already a reader of Erbology, you know how this story (and storm) ended, as chronicled in When Heaven Came Crashing Down on September 7, 2011.  Thankfully no one was hurt, and the property damage was minimal.  The courtyard plantings suffered the worst with multiple beds and plantings being demolished and requiring removal.

We are ready to start the next chapter for the courtyard. Alan Klein has taken the initiative as chairman of the newly formed Hartley House Garden Committee. This group is tasked with a fundraising effort to help restore and replant the courtyard between the main building of Hartley House and the original 1800’s carriage house hidden behind.  Jeffrey Erb Landscape Design is donating a new design and installation materials while Alan works closely with Hartley House staff members on fundraising for this effort.

We welcome contributions and support of all shapes and sizes. Volunteers will be needed for our June planting (check back soon for dates and times) and contributions of any amount will be greatly appreciated. Don’t miss this chance to be involved and to give back to an amazing community organization.

The Carriage House Stairway and West Planting Bed

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It’s entirely possible to walk down the same street in New York City every day without noticing certain buildings or architectural features. New Yorkers are skillfully taught to tune out their surroundings to maintain sanity. This morning I walked down 44th Street on the south side of the street as opposed to my preferred north side due to a construction project. As I continued down the block I glanced across and noticed the most extraordinary roof garden and pergola perched on top of the New York Yacht Club.

The New York Yacht Club on 44th Street, Manhattan

The New York Yacht Club is a beaux-arts style architectural masterpiece. The architects Whitney Warren and Charles Wetmore designed the building in 1899-1900 before their first big commission to work on NYC’s Grand Central Terminal. With plenty of work on early skyscrapers and hotels and private country homes under their belt, Warren & Wetmore developed a prestigious resume of projects.

The Roof Terrace Was an Original Feature to the Yacht Club

As shown in the photograph from 1901, the roof garden was part of the original concept of the building. Today the same pergola design remains with neat rows of boxwood hedges lining the edge of the terrace facing 44th Street. Part of my surprise in seeing this terrace comes from the fact that there are very few roof gardens in this part of midtown. The ornate building features galleon-style windows along the first floor which are dripping with chains, seaweed and various nautical motifs. The garden sits like a little gem set inside a piece of jewelry.

See it in person: The New York Yacht Club is located at 37 West 44th Street between 6th and 5th Avenue on the north side of the street.

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Ornate wrought iron railings, gates and tree-guards are common in New York City. However, as I strolled through J. Hood Wright Park today, I noticed the most artistic example of metalwork I have seen in a while. Around the edge of a large planting bed full of mature trees and grasses was a fence with inset panels depicting beavers, mice, pumpkins, raccoons and other creatures. The relief work is inventive and completely appropriate to have adjacent to the children’s playground (which is cleverly modeled after the George Washington Bridge).

Fence by Arlene Slavin in J. Hood Wright Park

Arlene Slavin is the artist behind this delightful fence. It turns out Ms. Slavin is talented in painting and sculpture with a diverse portfolio to boot. Her commissioned works can be found in train stations, schools and zoological parks. Ms. Slavin currently resides in NYC where she was born and raised.

A Beaver Cleverly Crafted into the Fence by Arlene Slavin

A Pumpkin Finds a Home in the Fence

See it in person: J. Hood Wright Park is located at 173rd Street and Fort Washington Avenue in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood. Originally the site of a mansion owned by Mr. Wright, a wealthy banker from Philadelphia, the park came into being in 1925 when the closest green space at that time was over a mile away. The park now features handball, volleyball and basketball courts with stellar views of the George Washington Bridge and a dog-walk. What more can you ask for from your park?

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