Living in New York City offers rewards not found anywhere else, yet with this high-energy pace comes a crucial demand for balance and relaxation. Every New Yorker can benefit from a serene retreat, a peaceful oasis from the outside world. The ultimate refuge is your very own "green" space where sunlight, plants, flowers, walkways, waterfalls or pools, statuary, trellises—or simply a colorful flower box in the window—create a delightful escape. An impossible wish in the concrete jungle? Not at all. The artisans who turn these dreams into reality are garden designers, horticulturists and landscape architects. Experts in both art and science, these professionals create natural havens in any type of space, from country homes and estates to luxury rooftop gardens to custom plant stands. Garden and landscape designers use plants and masonry to plan, design and construct exterior spaces—in the city or the countryside.
  • More than Planting
  • Where Do I Start?
  • On Cost
  • Will a Designer Also Maintain My Garden?
  • Permits and Professional Considerations
  • Top Plants for All Seasons

Planning a garden paradise for your balcony, terrace, rooftop, window or enclosed city backyard is a job for professionals, as many technical elements are involved. Garden designers create water and soil systems that are unique to city landscapes, and their craft requires a complex blend of botanical knowledge, construction expertise and creativity. Customer comments to The Franklin Report reveal a common thread among the professionals included in this section: artistry combined with a passion for creating the ultimate natural space to suit each client’s unique habitat.

The most general decision to make about your city garden or country landscape is what type of purpose it will serve. Are you a cook who loves using fresh herbs and greens and would like to build an herb, vegetable or cutting garden? Have you discovered the joy of exotic plants and wish to install a greenhouse for your orchids? Or are you dreaming of a superbly designed terrace with benches and several layers of growth? With your overall purpose in mind, take stock of the space available in your city home. If you want to create a balcony or rooftop garden, are you primarily interested in shrubs, trees, vines, or particular colors and breeds of flowers and plants? Is privacy—building a hedge to separate your terrace from your neighbor’s—an important issue? Do you prefer the informal charm of an English cottage garden or the elegance of a neoclassical French one? Nurture your ideas by looking through home, garden and architecture magazines before you contact a garden designer.
Foremost in a garden designer’s mind is building a garden that can be enjoyed year round. As a specialist in city gardens, the designer will have many ideas for you, but if you have done some research and fallen in love with specific plants and flowers, you will be a step ahead in designing the perfect landscape for you.

The pricing system for garden design varies from firm to firm. Some designers charge an hourly rate; others determine a flat fee after analyzing the job. Like other professional services, garden design companies will produce a written agreement for the client that lists what will be done and what it will cost. It is not unusual for these agreements to leave room for flexibility in scheduling and pricing, should unforeseen circumstances, such as bad weather delaying the work, affect the job.

Services provided by garden designers vary from firm to firm. Many companies provide a complete package of design, installation and maintenance, and thus establish a long-term relationship with the client. Other professionals are limited to design and consulting, and subcontract for installation and maintenance. Like interior designers, garden designers, horticulturists and landscape designers work closely with clients on a one-to-one basis to bring their creative ideas to fruition.

A garden design project may require a permit from your building management. Designers are well-schooled in this process and some will even intervene with a super-strict co-op board to get your plans set in motion. No license is required to be a garden or landscape designer, and these green specialists come from a variety of educational backgrounds, including degrees in horticulture, study programs affiliated with arboretums and botanical gardens, degrees in sculpture and other studio arts and lifetime experiences with plants and nurseries. Landscape architects, many of whom focus primarily on the hardscape aspects of garden design rather than on horticulture and maintenance, have degrees in the field and are licensed. All the men and women drawn to the garden design profession, especially those devoted to the challenges of city landscapes, undoubtedly share the view of Thoreau, who wrote, "In wildness is the preservation of the world."

  • Trees and Shrubs:
  • Japanese Maple: Great shape all year, especially in winter, with excellent fall color.
  • Kousa Dogwood: White lowers in June, exfoliating bark that looks good all year. Bears fruit and wonderful color in the fall.
  • Oakleaf Hydrangea: Great bark, huge white lowers in July and overall excellent foliage.
  • Star Magnolia: Silvery bark, fragrant lowers in April. Insect-free and sturdy.
  • False Cypress: Very interesting evergreen variety that adds much to winter gardens.
  • Perennials:
  • European Ginger: Shiny, heart-shaped foliage for great evergreen groundcover.
  • Fountain Grass: Beautiful in every season—even in winter landscapes.
  • Lenten Rose: An evergreen with dark, leathery leaves. Flowers from March through May.
  • Silvery Sunproof or Lily Turf: Purple lowers in the fall, with brightly variegated foliage all year. Very hardy and pest resistant.
  • Yucca: Bright color and beautiful form all year, excellent in dry conditions.
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