Archive for the ‘Urban Garden Design’ Category

Where have all the flowers gone and where are they going next? We had a busy spring planting and installing lots of new projects in addition to seasonal plantings for existing gardens. With several projects in midtown and more on the Upper West Side, our gardens continue to spread across the city from penthouses on Central Park to backyards and entry plantings in Chelsea all the way down to the financial district. Until they make it to our website, enjoy a peek at some of our latest project.  Some gardens are newly planted and some are still in progress. Either way they put me in the mood for summer!

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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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Mounding Santolina Growing through a Boxwood Hedge

Ever since I traveled abroad to Florence as a student and saw masses of Peonies bursting over the edges of a tight Boxwood Hedge at the Bobolis gardens I can’t get that image out of my head. This concept, has a special place in my heart as a landscape designer. I came across the above image online and instantly fell in love with the garden. There is something so delicious about the way the mounding Santolina unassumingly fills in the border defined by the tight dark green Boxwood. This landscape is about texture, line, and contrast….everything I love about garden design. Sometimes all you need is that one inspiration image to get the gears turning…

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NYC Terrace Newly Planted in Preparation for Listing

Staging your outdoor space can be one of the best ways to set your property apart when listing it for sale. In my experience, exterior spaces often get the short end of the stick when it comes to staging, and it’s a missed opportunity. Especially in cities and urban environments, buyers want the exterior of their home to look and feel just as fabulous as the interior.

Alyssum, Yucca, Heuchera and Nemesia Add a Splash of Color Outside the Main Living Room Windows

We recently staged a penthouse terrace where we maximized the appeal and visual interest of the space. Of course, if you already have existing elements, it is best to incorporate them into the final design whenever possible. We added to existing furniture and brought in coordinating pieces, planters and accessories to warm up the space.

Existing Furniture Was Rearranged to Maximize the Layout of the Garden

We focused on plantings that had the most impact and color for this time of the season. Many deciduous plants are still pushing leaves and we used a combination of evergreens and deciduous shrubs to get the best results. The view from inside the apartment was also key. When a buyer enters the apartment and looks out the window, I want them to see color, depth and a space that they can incorporate into their lifestyle.

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The seductive appeal of a makeover is ingrained into our lifestyles. TV shows shower us with instant transformations leaving us drooling and lusting for something new. With buds bursting and spring in full swing, you may be itching for something different in your garden. Here are some easy mini makeover projects that will help spruce up your garden without breaking the bank.

Overgrown Entry Garden in Chelsea


Some homeowners have an aversion to pruning because they are afraid to hurt the plant, or just don’t know where to start. Pruning is a necessary horticultural technique that will help your plants grow with the best form. The townhouse pictured above, in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood, has a gorgeous entry garden with a well-designed plant layout. However, the plants appear unkempt and are in need of a good pruning. The Euonymus growing on the fence and on the façade of the house needs trimmed while the Japanese Maple needs corrective pruning for crossing branches. Remember, the first things to look for when pruning include broken branches, crossing branches and competing leaders in trees. Brush up on your pruning skills for trees and ornamental shrubs with these informative guides. It’s such a simple thing to do, yet still often overlooked.

Beach Pebbles Make a Great Filler in a Walkway

Glass Pebbles Can Add Depth to a Walkway


Consider adding a gravel walkway in your garden. Walkways add loads of visual interest to landscapes. They can delineate garden beds and offer definitive structure to otherwise large areas of soil or lawn. For a fresh take on a gravel path, consider mixing in a few glass pebbles along with beach pebbles to add luster and depth.  If you already have an established walkway, think about adding a different border. Use the same material as the main walkway but lay it in a different pattern or size for extra emphasis. It’s a simple trick that can add a lot of appeal.


For a moment, forget the flowers blooming in your garden.  Focus on the foliage instead and ask yourself the following questions. Do the leaves have contrasting shapes and colors? How about the size of the leaves, do they vary in arrangement and texture? The truth is that foliage is just as important as flowers when selecting a plant palette. Flowers bloom for finite periods of time while the foliage is present for the majority of the season. If the leaves of your plants are all hitting the same note, it may be time to add some fresh species to the mix.

Cool Season Planting with Contrasting Foliage


Avoid the common mistake of adding one of every kind of annual to your garden bed. Choose two colors to work with and repeat them throughout your garden. Foliage plants act as neutrals and add sophistication to seasonal plantings. Above, Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Ogon’, Pieris japonica ‘Flaming Silver’ and miniature Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Gold Mop’ were used to complement the yellow Pansies in this cool-season planting.


Revamp the layout of your planting bed. Transplant shrubs and divide perennials that feel out of place. You’d be surprised how much of a difference transplanting a few existing plants can make. In general it is a good idea to plant like species in clusters to evoke a more naturalized feel. Plantings repeated throughout the landscape tend to make more impact. Spring is the best time to selectively edit out any plants that didn’t meet your expectations last season.

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Last year April flowers brought May showers…so I am anxious to see what March flowers will bring this year. Growing up I remember Daffodils blooming at Easter, not before St. Patrick’s day. Everywhere I look something is blooming. From my calculations it seems like plants are operating three to five weeks ahead of schedule, which means if you haven’t  started thinking about your garden you are already behind! Check out these shots of some early blooms in Central Park and around the city.

Hamamaelis vernalis in Central Park, February 4, 2012

Crocus Blooms Covering a Lawn in Quaint Sunnyside Gardens

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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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Planters at Grace Plaza at Night

Yesterday evening I walked by Grace Plaza located at 43rd street and 6th Avenue in the heart of midtown Manhattan. Though the renovations on this plaza were completed several months ago, this is the first time I saw the space at night. My first impression was skewed by the overwhelming abundance of light fixtures present. I’ve written on the positive effects of uplighting in a garden, but Grace Plaza has up, down and all around lighting.

Accent Lighting Under Metal Benches

I applaud the plaza design from Moed de Armas & Shannon Architects which is quite restrained and classy. The benches and integrated granite seating work well with the overall layout. Even the STK Steakhouse blends into the architecture of the space. Each large granite planter has integrated lights pointing towards the paving as well as uplights focused on the trees. Each tree has additional downlights attached to the branches which act as spotlights. I found that more than a few of the downlights are poorly positioned and shine in your face as you walk by. That is a big no-no for me in garden design. Lighting should enhance elements of a garden, not blind you.

Additional Uplights and Granite Benches With Integrated Lighting

I take into account that the positioning of the downlights may be a maintenance issue, but it’s important nonetheless. It seems almost every bench, wall, handrail and feature of the plaza has some kind of integrated lighting. Make no mistake that the detailing is very well done, it’s just the overall effect that I wish was adjusted. Perhaps in summer when there is more greenery the lighting will seem more toned down. Stay tuned for an update come May.

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View of the Bahai Gardens to the Mediterranean Sea

As the third largest city in Israel, Haifa has plenty to boast about. Rolling hills provide stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea and a more distant view to Akko (or Acre). 19 perfectly manicured terraces, which make up the Bahai Gardens, rest on the northeast slope of Mount Carmel. The land is prime property. Thankfully this sacred treasure is preserved and shared with the public.

Bahai Gardens and the Shrine of the Bab

The grounds and surrounding buildings serve as the world center of the Bahai faith. The Shrine of the Bab is the focal point of the garden with its stately gold dome. When you consider what was achieved in Israel’s climate and topography, the gardens are extremely elaborate. However, the simplicity of the design and central symmetry make the garden undeniably photogenic.

Looking up the Terraces to the Top of Mount Carmel

A Path Made From Crushed Terra-Cotta

 Lush formal gardens follow a central axis through all of the terraces. The plant palette is relatively simple and includes: English Ivy, Santolina, Yucca and Palm trees. Crushed terra-cotta and decorative gravel are used for pathways and accents. The garden is filled with white globe lights which serve as a contrasting reminder of a prophet who was imprisoned for many years in total darkness. According to our guide, the many eagles and other statues in the gardens are merely decorative elements.

Less Formal Section of the Bahai Garden

My favorite part of the garden was off to the side. It was much less formal with inviting paths that curved around the slopes of Mount Carmel. Unfortunately, the public is not allowed to stray off of the central path. Many of the steepest grades in the garden were planted heavily with what appeared to be English Ivy. I snapped this shot to show their soil retention system which is critical to this hillside garden. Beyond these little patches where the plants need to grow in, the gardens are maintained magnificently.

Soil Retention System at the Bahai Gardens

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Jeffrey's Childhood Garden Created for a 4-H Project

When I think about 2012 I am excited by a lineup of fantastic projects. I look forward to tackling new design challenges and creating even better gardens. I never miss the opportunity to reflect on how lucky I am to do what I do. I love my work and I love sharing it with others. From my humble first backyard bed my father built, to a magnificent Manhattan penthouse terrace, the gratification I get from completing a well planned garden is always rewarding.

Planting a Knot Garden with Germander

From a very young age I spent summers working in gardens behind our house. It all started in a 10′ x 10′ raised planting bed which I cared for as part of my local 4-H program. No education can replace the experiences I had watching my Castor Bean (Ricinus communis) prosper, or clipping my Germander (Teucrium chamaedrys) into a small hedge. It is the knowledge I gained from years of gardening that brought me to the place I am at today.

Planting Annuals While Volunteering at a Local Park

I now realize that my fingernails will perpetually have soil underneath them and my farmer’s tan will always grace the back of my neck. They are merely visual reminders of my passion for plants and landscape design. I wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. Life is too short to do something that doesn’t make you happy. Once you know what that is, don’t let it go!

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