Garden Consultation

Harlem terrace

COVID-Update: I am consulting and designing remotely, for gardeners near and far. If you are a New York City restaurant owner I am offering free one-hour consults about weather-hardy plants  and their cultivation-requirements for your outdoor seating.

 For details please email me at myviljoen(at)gmail (dot) com.

Gardens are a place to retreat, to celebrate, to sit alone, to eat a quiet supper. A sanctuary where you decompress, or laugh with friends. They can be a living pantry. And gardens can be inspiring teachers. If you would like a garden and do not know where to begin, I can help you. And if your garden is making you cry and pull your hair out, well, I might be able to help with that, too. 

My own gardens, in diverse New York City spaces, have been the joy of my life. And that is why I love conjuring up gardens for others. Outdoor space, no matter how small, is a privilege and we should make the most of it. 

Cobble Hill terrace (66 square feet)

While I have designed dozens of gardens for clients, my own have been created from bare bones on three very different terraces and in one big backyard. They have been retreats as well as living laboratories, where I learn about the plants I now write about. I understand first-hand what challenges gardeners face, from microclimate to weight restrictions, to soil problems, and dollar-constraints. I know (and love) plants. I have even killed some. It happens, and it is instructive.

Carroll Gardens

My focus is on empowering and coaching new gardeners by providing them with a schematic design, detailed plant lists, container dimensions (where necessary), care guidelines, and then setting them loose - with guidance - to do their own shopping and implementation (although if you prefer the work to be done professionally, I can help project manage that aspect). I find 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 - very rewarding.

And it is the garden that really rewards the gardener, giving back more than what we put in.

Marie viljoen garden book

My 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 personal and professional experience give 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

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.

Harlem terrace

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 (masked, and socially distanced during the pandemic). 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 gardening turns from combat to cooperation. And if you really just need a trouble-shooting session, we can do that, too. 

Rates upon inquiry.

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