Garden Consultation

Harlem terrace, 450 square feet

COVID-Update: I am consulting and designing remotely, for gardeners near and far. For details please email me at myviljoen(at)gmail (dot) com.

My own gardens have been exacting and inspiring teachers. And they have been the joy of my life. A place to retreat, or to celebrate, to sit alone, to eat a quiet supper. To decompress, or to laugh with friends. Also a living pantry. And that is why I love designing gardens for others. Outdoor space is a privilege and we should make the most of it.

Cobble Hill terrace, 66 square feet

My own New York City gardens have been created from bare bones on three very different terraces and in one big backyard. I work on a modest budget, haul the soil, plant the plants, and tend them. And then live in them. They have been personal retreats as well as living laboratories, where I learn about the plants I now write about.

I understand first hand what challenges city gardeners face, from microclimate to weight restrictions and dollar-constraints. And squirrels. Always squirrels.

Until 10 years ago my garden design background belonged to the tip of the 1%, with budgets that encompassed tens of thousands. Occasionally hundreds of thousands. It was mind boggling but became normal. At a small design-build firm called Holly, Wood and Vine, I oversaw the creation of dozens of gardens ranging from aloof penthouse rooftops to intimate and shade-shrouded courtyards. When I transitioned to full-time writing and wild foods research (after being laid off in the recession), my garden design direction shifted.

My focus now is on empowering and coaching new gardeners by providing them with a schematic design, detailed plant lists and container dimensions (where necessary) and setting them loose - with guidance - to do their own shopping and implementation. While a garden will always cost you money and will always ask for your time, working with people who want to be in their gardens, and who want to interact with them, rather than have them as an impersonal but perfect backdrop, like meaningless investment art, is a very rewarding experience.

And it is the garden that really rewards the gardener, giving back more than what we put in, and teaching us every day

Carroll Gardens, 1,000 square feet

My own gardens have ranged from the first, tiny 66 square feet that inspired this blog and my first book, to a roomy 1,000 square feet. They have seen morning sun, all-day blazing rooftop sun, wind, deep shade, building shade, and lead in the soil. They have thrived. Gardening is exhilarating, never dull, and always therapeutic.

                                                   Carroll Gardens

When designing gardens for others, my experience gives me the insight and perspective to ask the right questions, to give informed answers, and to manage expectations. I know what plants work where. I don't know everything! That's not possible. Every garden situation is truly unique and the garden itself is usually the best teacher. There will be failures, and they will be instructive.

Windsor Terrace, 98 square feet

I believe gardens are to be lived in. I can help show you how.

Client garden, Flatiron District

Cosmopolitan flower gardens, native woodland courtyards, and pollinator-friendly plantings are all city possibilities.

Carroll Gardens

Would you like to grow your own salads? Or unusual indigenous edibles? Perhaps you'd like a truly American kitchen garden (and what does that mean?). How about a serviceberry orchard on the 17th floor (and what is a serviceberry? Or do you prefer blueberries?

Client garden, SoHo

Maybe you just like lilies. Or have always wanted your own city forest.


You may have full shade or full sun, or bits of both. High shade or deep shade.  Dappled shade. It all makes a very big difference to what and how you can plant.

Cobble Hill

What I Do:

Ideally I'd visit your space in person. Remotely, I do that with your help: You send me pictures or video, and also answer some basic but important questions that I send about aspect and microclimate: sun, shade, challenges specific to your site (such as deep shade pockets, orientation with regards to winter winds). I can then advise on which plants might do well, and answer your questions about plants you love or want. There is always a wonderful collection of plants that will work in your space. Consults last between 30 minutes and an hour-and-half, typically.

If you need a design, I then follow up with a schematic watercolor design accompanied by a written overview, detailed plant lists or planter sizes. Good gardens require good planning.

If necessary I also offer seasonal care outlines.

Finally, I offer practical coaching: how to plant, how to water. It seems simplistic, but the number one cause of plant death is user error. And it's usually about water. Too much (mostly), or too little. Understand the plant and its needs, and the gardening battle is won.

Rates upon inquiry.

Please get in touch via at myviljoen (at) gmail (dot) com