Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tribeca garden

This was Monday. Three men, Kevin, Nick and Joe, heaved and sweated and pulled and shoved and sawed and pulled and pulled. The blues played loudly over the terrace's speakers...They were removing three large fir trees (to be replaced by crabapples) from their planters and the roots did not want to leave their Tribeca pad. I was sympathetic. It was day one of a major garden makeover, before we went shopping yesterday. It's not glamorous, it's not fun; it is very hard work. But it is quite rewarding at the end of the day, when everything is clean again and a semi-blank canvas starts to present itself. Makeovers are always harder than starting fresh, because existing elements of the garden must be incorporated without looking odd, and someone else's "vision" needs to be ERASED, I mean transformed, as subtly as possible.

Below, this is Nick, today, representing some new gardening blood recently hired, sawing at the very potbound roots of a Japanese maple. One of the challenges of container gardening, with container-grown plants. He said rather carefully, This is more brutal than the type of gardening I was taught.

I know, son, I said, welcome to New York! And blessed him for being taught at all. It is a pleasure to work with people who love plants, and he does. He speaks fluent Spanish and Portuguese and Paulo, our resident Brazilian, beamed all day in response.

Fast forward: the Swiss chard perking up in the kitchen garden after a thorough soaking. The new boxwood hedge in the background immediately changed the space and made it more intimate.

The two espaliered Mackintoshes were retied to their cross-pieces and upright supports with velcro ties: easily removed and super-strong. It gave me a new appreciation for this art of tree-training - I stood up there for about two hours taking off the old plastic ties and making sure the trees would remain supported in wind. It is a sweet thing to be balancing on a high floor, looking down at the traffic patterns below, the thunderclouds above, the silver Chrysler Building gleaming in the distance in a shaft of sunlight, and then to refocus on the apple branch 8 inches from your is one of the best ways of belonging to the city.

Sir Fred's custom-made planters looking lovely.

Below, gardener Linda planting the perennials beside the area where the dining table will be. The irises drooped initially but again, a nice drink perked them up.

Roses, gaura, hardy geranium, Japanese iris, nicotiana, common sage and good old lavender.


  1. Just out of curiosity, what's the price range of a store-bought apple espalier of that size? I have an apple & pear espalier and am curious.

    See it at:’s_and_my_esapliers.html

  2. I'd have to kill you after telling you...:-)

  3. Rather interesting POV of your gardeners...

  4. Yeah, I was thinking the same thing...

  5. Your terrace is coming along beautifully. You know, it looks much longer than just 12 and a half feet? There is a lot of room there, and you are doing wonderful, creative things with it. Very pretty colourful images too. Thanks!

  6. Ah, Lavinia, I wish that were my terrace :-) That is more like 2,000 square feet. Maybe one day.

    I design gardens for other people. The company I work for, Holly, Wood and Vine, provides me with all "my" gardeners...

    Breeg and Beence: well, we're used to seeing each other sweat and don't get at all excited by it, :-)If that's what you meant.

    Anonymous: I agree entirely.

  7. By the way, I forgot to mention that I love the flower pictures - especially the purple one, gracefully leading off the shot, very coral-esque, no depth of field, quite nice. :-)

  8. Thank you...Iris ensata, aka Japanese iris. I cropped it, :-)

  9. What a fantastic choice of plants in those custom-made planters, they look amazing. From your photos I can really start to appreciate what city gardening is all about. Your clients must be very, very pleased with the finished project. x

  10. Thank you Louise...and I hope so!


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