Friday, August 14, 2009

Befores and Afters: New York Roof Garden

Nearly there. A few more tweaks and then regular looking after, and this project will be complete. Pictures can't tell the whole story, of course, nor may the whole story be told. Suffice it to say that seeing something come to life from a painting on thick, handmade French paper, is very exciting.

Moving from the silence of my little apartment, where the early schematic brushstrokes are made, where calculations are pored over, or from tense email exchanges and engineering directives, from a chaotic job-site to an actual garden, involves a lot of people making a lot of decisions, and solving a lot of problems:

A client, architects, a garden designer, project managers, carpenters, accountants, building managers, engineers, stone masons, gardeners, nursery owners, perennials growers, tree farmers, irrigation technicians, electricians...

Below, last year, winter:


Below, nine months ago.

The new baby. It needs to do some growing, of course, and plenty of TLC. On the right is part of a beech hedge. Come the new growing season I hope to see them fill out a lot more. They have just been trimmed at the tops, and I think I wrote before that they are from Buffalo, where they have overwintered and hardened off, via Oregon.

To the left of the ipe walkway - which must still be oiled - is a huge skylight for walking on. Disconcerting if you're wearing a skirt and the room below is full of construction workers..

Yesterday, bamboo being planted on the lower terrace... transform last year's dreary outlook, below:

To this. This level is rather minimalist, but it will warm up with furniture and fabrics.

My favourite part is under the water tower, which was a dead, lost area when I first saw it.


Japanese forest grass in a raised bed with drainage mat placed under the soil mixture.

The upper level's western side, before.

And now. Customs cushions needed.


  1. Mmmm...pretty! I have another question - which bamboo did you choose?

  2. That's quite - no, absolutely - stunning. And not a caterpillar in sight....

  3. not a very hungry caterpillar in sight, but we definitely saw the chrysalis become a . . . gorgeous new york butterfly

  4. Thank you for sharing this with us, it looks stunning. The inhabitants are so lucky!

  5. Merci, mon amour :-)

    Dinahmow - Phyllostachys aureosulcata 'Spectabilis'. Phew.

    Thanks Frank!

    ...and thanks, Rachel...none. Not yet anyway. Some aphids, though, if that helps...

    Nancy, yes, lol.

    Thank you, Fern.

    Hi Gianna - yes, it's an apartment I would not mind inhabiting.

  6. Magnificent! Bright greens, redwood and steel... what a wonderful city combination. It's a vertical, rather than a sprawling, garden. I live in the country.. yes, Molie lives along a river.. and so my garden sprawls all over. But there is something so comforting about your gardens that reach to the sky and seem to envelope the people in them but also your garden seems to pull the sky down to the roof/patio and the people below.

    molie in CT

  7. Dear Marie,

    Love your roof top gardens! I am looking into doing a small modern rooftop garden myself but quite at loss about the best way to do it economically without spending big bucks on drainage etc.

    Am living in a tropical country with lots of sun and rain. Any advice?

    Thank you.

  8. Hi Woong

    I am afraid I don't have the time to answer casual individual requests - there are too many variables for me to give you good advice briefly, especially as you are in a different country...I recommend using books/websites that deal with tropical climates and speaking to local nurseries or artisans.

    Good luck!

  9. A real inspiration, thanks for sharing your pics. I'd like to know what bamboo you used as I'm looking for a similar plant along my back fence.

    1. It was yellow groove, I think, Queenie. I no longer use bamboo in gardens. It's invasive in ground and it becomes very clogged in containers.

  10. Incredible garden. What is the variety of bamboo you planted? How has it thrived, particularly in winter? Am thinking of doing something similar (but at ground level) to help cool off a stone wall that absorbs a lot of heat in summer and would appreciate any advice.

    1. See comment above: yellow groove. I have not seen this garden for years so do not know how the bamboo is now, but choose a cultivar or species hardy to your USDA zone, like this one. I no longer use running bamboo as it can be invasive. Clumping bamboo behaves better. How about espaliered fruit trees, instead?


Comments on posts older than 48 hours are moderated (for spam control) . Yours will be seen! Unless you are a troll. Serial trollers are banned.