Posts Tagged ‘gardens’

Gardens can only be as successful as the amount of effort and care that is put into maintaining them. We installed planters and plantings for a lovely couple renting an apartment in the West Village in the beginning of July. Under the tutelage of Jeffrey, the clients set out to care for the plants themselves. Since they are renting the space and there is no hose bib or external water source, the only cost effective option was to hand water the plants. As you can see from the pictures snapped in September, they are doing a phenomenal job. This terrace which once used to feature more dead plants than alive has been revitalized. Now it’s a place to snuggle on a warm autumn evening or gather with friends for an after work drink.

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My family loves to migrate to Sarasota, Florida over the winter months. I too have made this journey many times. Besides the pristine white beaches, seemingly endless new construction and island hopping  to keep you occupied, one of my favorite gardens lies right in the heart of Sarasota. The Marie Selby Botanic gardens is truly a gem and is well worth a visit. Created by Marie Selby herself, the now 14 acre grounds capture her love for gardening.

Path through the Mangrove Trees

Breathtaking Banyan trees dotted around the property have orchids placed cleverly among the branches to heighten the drama of the gardens. Spanish moss in the overhead canopy takes you back to a bygone era with a simple wisp of the breeze. The formal gardens and central lawn somehow connect seamlessly to the surrounding naturalized clumps of Mangrove trees and packs of seagulls resting in the adjacent beaches.

The Giant Orchid Sculpture at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

 The glass conservatories are home to an array of unusual orchid species. With a focus on epiphytic plants, the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens has a wealth of articles and research dedicated to orchids, bromeliads and a host of tropical plants. Their website is an excellent resource for tropical plant care and culture. Visit them here: http://www.selby.org 

A Fringed Cattleya Orchid inside the Glass Houses at Marie Selby

  Marie Selby was tied to the oil industry through her father as well as her husband. The successful Selby Oil and Gas Company merged with the Texas Company halfway through the 20th century to form what we now know as Texaco. Marie and her husband, William, were very influential residents in the Sarasota community. For a more complete history, read about them here: http://www.sarasotahistoryalive.com/people/william-g.-and-marie-selby/ . I wonder what her response would have been to the oil spill of 2010!


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Brook Lawn Farm Market, Outbuildings

Forgive me for diverging from my focus on urban gardens and rooftops, but I must share some photos from my visit to Pennsylvania this past weekend. It does in fact tie into the work I do here in New York City. My parents own and operate Brook Lawn Farm Market in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The farm was started by my grandparents who purchased the land in the heart of Lancaster when they were married.

Click here for more info: http://agmap.psu.edu/Businesses/1218  They grow the best peaches and sweet corn in Lancaster. The farm is strictly produce, and is the reason I participated in 4-H as a youngster.

For the past two years I transported fall pumpkins, gourds and decorations from Brook Lawn into NYC to jazz up my client’s gardens in Autumn. The fall colors and textures really enhance the gardens at a time of year when they start to look drab. This is also an excellent way to bring interest into shady backyards which cannot support the typical mums or other fall annuals which still need sunlight to look good. While I was in Lancaster this weekend, I snapped some shots of baby pumpkins and gourds. It is amazing to watch them forming on the vines as the blossoms fade. Brook Lawn saves the seeds of the best gourds and pumpkins every year and have established an amazing collection of things you cannot find anywhere else.  

Blossoms on Pumpkin Plants

Jeffrey Erb Hunting for Pumpkins

Baby Gourd

Baby Snake Gourd, Will Grow to 3' Long


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 This rental rooftop garden, in Midtown West Manhattan, utilized the client’s existing planters and plant materials. We came up with a new layout to make the existing plants stand out better.

Gardens are always growing and changing, and since everything is containerized, we have the opportunity to tweak the layout throughout the growing season. As different plants bloom we can move them forward to highlight their visual interest. We also used risers to elevate some planters to add more interest and movement throughout the garden. Varying heights is just another way to make this garden feel more eclectic.

 Plant textures and foliage colors are really important in a container garden. Contrasting textures provide a backdrop for  showy flowers without overpowering the space. It is easier to mix varying leaf types in a small garden without looking too busy. Floriferous gardens filled with every type of annual from the garden center often turn out looking like that old print dress mom has in the back of the closet that needs to be thrown out. Keep it simple, and classy.

Varying Foliage Texture Helps this Container Garden Succeed

A Mixture of Plants With a Midtown View

Solar Shoji Lamps Help This Garden Come To Life At Night


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Fall is a tricky time for gardening. With cooler evenings, and more frequent rain, gardens tend to prepare themselves for winter while their owners continue tramping around in their sandals fearful to unpack their cool season sweaters. I see this every day walking around New York City; impatiens linger in forlorn planters while hardier vines fill in spots now left empty from earlier summer spectacles.  

The first day of that crisp autumn air always sets off my annual alarm that says it’s time for apple cider, spiced chai lattes, pumpkins, squash, and all things accompanied by the refreshing seasonal changes. Fall is also time to refresh you garden, and a few changes can add just enough zing to last your landscape through frost.

Try these simple tips:

  1. Add Lights for Evening. Temporary luminaries are terrific for outdoor events, while solar lights are a more environmentally friendly long term option.
  2. Have fun! Don’t take the garden so seriously. Enjoy the harvest and all things bountiful, mix it up a little and add color or seasonal interest where you may not do so for the rest of the season.
  3. Look for contrasting foliage instead of short lived blooms as a backdrop for the garden (leave the mums behind)
  4. Paint a snow scene without using the white paint. Can you paint a fall scene without the typical hues of yellow orange and red? Consider an alternative pallette with rich burgundy, brown and olive. Or how about pink and lime green. Think of ways to translate this into your plantings, and outdoor accessories. 
  5. Skip the flowers and go straight for the berries. Callicarpa americana (Beautyberry) is a personal favorite, and is readily accessible garden centers.


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