Wednesday, September 23, 2009

SoHo roof garden

Once upon a time there was a new grey terrace in SoHo that needed a garden.

Ideas were discussed, pictures were sent, measurements were taken, drawings were drawn, visits were made, money was paid, planters were built, plants were scouted, soil was ordered.

Below, the cedar-clad planters arrived, swaddled against mishaps.

And were put into place. It was realized that a new awning would chop a planned birch in half, so the planters were altered and re-arranged

Irrigation was laid behind and into them, and they waited for their soil and plants, and to meet the gardeners.

The gardeners stood below and glared at the garden designer. They did not think the birches could possibly fit into the elevator. They were thinking of six flights of stairs carrying birches up every step. The garden designer stood her ground and insisted they would fit. She had measured. But she was a little nervous. The gardeners looked frightening. And a bit mean.

The birches were wrapped in soft cotton drop cloths and bent.

They fitted into the elevator, one by one. Then they were carried up a last, elevatorless, flight.

The grasses and flowers had heard a lot about the big city, and were very quiet.

Before they knew it, just after lunch, they found their roots in deep soil, and were drinking New York City tap water for the first time. There were birch leaves overhead. The leaves fluttered in the afternoon breeze and complained about being bruised.

A gardener was cleaning the pavers with more water.

Only the tallest prairie dropseed could see over the parapet and told the others about the view (people having lunch on the street). Some city bees came to visit. The perennials said they were used to stars on the North Fork of Long Island. The gentians at the birches' feet whispered that they were too small to see the city lights.

Below: Sporobolus heterolepis - prairie dropseed, native to Missouri, and found from Texas to Canada. Considered endangered.

Allium taquetii - blooms September. Native to Korea.

Agastache 'Blue Fortune'. A hybrid, but agastache is a US card holder.

Calamintha nepeta ssp nepeta - from southern Europe. This is one of my favourite perennials, because of its outstanding flowers and bloom time, all the way from the middle summer through frost, as well as its delicious, minty scent; but I cannot find more information about its potentially invasive properties. My own has reseeded like the blazes. They popped up all over the terrace.

It is however, the famous nepitella, used in Tuscan cooking.

Nasella tenuissima - Mexican feather grass. More climate change here: it used to be marginal, but is now surviving our winters.

Pennisetum "Little Bunny". Originated as a seedling of "Hameln", found by Jack Weiscott of Ornamental Plantings, Southhold, Long Island.

The grey terrace is now a terrace with a garden, and has come alive, ready to be lived in.


  1. I feel an ever-stronger need to see New York...

  2. beautiful birches, beautifully written

  3. I love seeing the before and after pictures, and I love the color of those grasses with the texture/color of the birch bark.

  4. how do the trees do over the winter in the pots? ...and do they get sort of rootbound but are alright even years later or do they get replaced every so often?

  5. lovely! and something so sweet about the conversation between the plants.

  6. Very motivating post (and blog!) as I am in the process of ordering soil and plants to finally grow something on my Brooklyn rooftop!

  7. I love how you wrote about the plants and their feelings. Beautiful.

  8. and they all lived happily ever after.

    note: no garden designers were harmed during the production of this rooftop garden.

  9. What a beautiful combination of plants.

  10. is seeable, in many ways :-)

    smallbutcharming...thank you, the birches...sigh.

    m...I like the before and after pictures too! Sometimes one forgets the before.

    BV - well, long as they have had time to settle in, and get enough water...Birches grow fast, though, which is not ideal, and do need to be root-pruned. The old saw-down-the-side trick. With judicious branch pruning, too.

    Thomas, thank about tree mats? :-)

    Paula - those plants do have quite a lot to say.

    Mel Content - lekker to have you with us, ek se! Thank you :-)

    Hi Lambert - exciting!

    Lily hydrangea - thanks, poor plants. I really do like them a lot.

    Donna, ha! Neither were any gardeners! Mutter, mutter.

    opera glass - thank you...I was happy with how it turned out. Sometimes it's a bit tense until you actually see everything in place.

  11. You are so smart to make images of the whole process. I always mean to, but in the frenzy, I forget. Nice to see you're using Fafard!


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