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Archive for the ‘Sidewalk Sensation’ Category

2015 was a whirlwind of a season. With a long harsh winter, we had a lot of catching up to do to keep existing gardens looking great. Jeffrey Erb Landscape Design created and installed some fantastic new rooftop and terrace gardens which never made it to our website. Here’s a look back at the 2015 season as we are gearing up for 2016.  Don’t be afraid to be bold this season. Don’t get stuck thinking about trends as you design your space. Always be true to your surroundings, the architecture, the lines and the preexisting site elements that you cannot change. 

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Flowering Cherry and Chain-link Fence

As legend has it, the rough neighborhood on Manhattan’s west side became known as Hell’s Kitchen from a nickname given to the area by local police in the 1870s. The name was created when a rookie cop commented to his more seasoned partner, “This place is hell itself.” “Hell’s a mild climate,” his partner replied, “This is hell’s kitchen.”

Cherry Tree Blooming in Hell's Kitchen Park

Though the neighborhood coudn’t be more different today, the name has stuck and the locals have no interest in changing it.  Many things connect the area to its roots and traditions, not the least of which is a lovely little park situated on 10th avenue between 47th and 48th streets bearing the same moniker — Hell’s Kitchen Park.

Spring Japanese Flowering Cherry

Upon first glance the park serves the neighborhood with a sitting area, planting beds maintained by community volunteers, a play area, basketball and even handball courts. But this park also has a secret that bursts into full view for a brief period once a year. The park is lined with beautiful Cherry trees which provide the most beautiful contrast to the urban background.  The blossoms of these trees herald the coming of another spring; albeit this year a slightly early one.

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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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The Courtyard of the Mamilla Hotel

Very rarely do I visit a garden that I think is perfect. However, this was the case when I walked through the courtyard garden of the Mamilla hotel. Perched at the edge of the old city in Jerusalem, the Mamilla was designed to blend historic buildings with cutting edge modern design.  Moshe Safdie, the project architect, succeeded in creating a stunning building worthy of standing next to the walled city. Italian designer, Piero Lissoni, collaborated on the furnishings and interiors.

Suspended Swings and Canopy of in the Mamilla Courtyard

With a full restaurant and bar, the rooftop is a great place to have a drink and enjoy killer views of Jerusalem. The mirrored bar on the second floor is oozing with ambience, but the courtyard on the lower level of the hotel is what I found most captivating. Built in a triangular space, the courtyard features a sleek black trough fountain, mirrored walls, romantic lighting, suspended swings and whimsical furniture.

Mirrored Wall Design and Trough Fountain

The courtyard is a place that you want to spend time in, not just look at. Though it is a small space, the layout and furniture arrangement allows you to find your own niche while enjoying the garden. The arched mirrors built into the architecture of the walls make the space come to life while the swings hit the right notes of surprise and quirkiness.

Night Shot of Trough Fountain

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Habima National Theater in Tel Aviv

I am hard-pressed to call Tel Aviv a beautiful city from an architectural or landscape architecture perspective. Many buildings are rundown and in disrepair, giving  new meaning to the term “concrete jungle.” The beauty of this city comes from the people, their history, the food and general lifestyle. Many of the streets have large tree-lined promenades sandwiched between two lanes of traffic. The promenades are wide enough for bike lanes, pedestrian walkways and a multitude of small playgrounds and swings for children.

Gates at Habima Courtyard Designed by Dani Karavan

Amidst the chaotic streetscape stands the Habima National Theater located at the end of Rothschild Street and Ben Tsiyon Street in Tel Aviv. The courtyard (referred to as the New Culture Square), which is still under construction, features a gorgeous sunken garden which captivated my imagination. Designed by the Israeli sculptor, Dani Karavan, the garden dances between the lines of formal and whimsical design.

Sunken Garden in the Courtyard of Habima

The garden sits a good 3 feet below the main courtyard level and features a small cactus plot, a grove of trees under planted with an amazing lumpy turf (which I cannot identify) and a parterre-like flower garden at the other end filled with Petunias, Snapdragons, Begonias and Marigolds. It is fun to see these “summer” annuals growing during winter in Tel Aviv.

Cactus Garden at Habima

Parterre-style Garden at Habima

The theater itself is worth seeing and Rothschild street (one of my favorites) is worth an afternoon stroll to see some nice examples of Bauhaus architecture. More to come on my journey through Israel!

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Blinding autumn color of a Japanese Maple.

I was inspired to stop to take a picture of this amazing display of fall color.  The orange flame pictured above is actually a mature Japanese Maple.  Further down the street were two larger specimens of the same hue that were even more vibrant.  Japanese maples sometimes feel overused in the landscape but when you see this you can’t help but admire them.

The two trees in the foreground are Sugar Maples (Acer saccharum) and they do well in offsetting the bright orange of their Japanese cousin.  I love the way the green needles of the White Pine in the background creates a solid backdrop to really showcase the more vivid fall colors.  It is equally important to create a good backdrop in the landscape so that specimen plants can take center stage.

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