Susan Welti of New York-based Foras Studio talks F&F readers through this super-chic garden designed to be viewed from the buildings around.
Our brief was to create an easy-care garden with year-round appeal and room for play and relaxation for a couple and their three young children. Their home, an elegant brick townhouse in New York City’s West Village, had recently undergone an extensive renovation and the garden needed to be brought up to a similar level of polish.
Since the space was exceedingly exposed to view from above and already very shady, our general approach was to create interest within the garden rather than to screen it from view by planting trees. A lawn was high on their list of priorities, but shade and maintenance demands precluded real grass. Artificial turf, surprisingly life-like, has proven to be an excellent substitute in the four years since its installation.
Indigenous bluestone paving and a river rock “beach” provided areas of alternate surfacing, and off-white powder-coated corrugated steel paneling was used as fencing, the curves of the corrugation echoing the curves of the planting beds and the pale color reflecting light into the space. A cast-concrete water feature and stuccoed retaining wall with timber bench helped to keep interest within the space and away from the looming surroundings.
Phyllostachys nigra and Viburnum rhytidophyllum were used as screening in the foreground of the garden, filtering the views from within the house and allowing the space to unfold gradually upon entering the garden. Masses of Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ and Anemone tomentosa ‘Robustissima’, complemented by ferns, Camellias and a native Magnolia virginiana, gave the space a simple but subtly feminine feel and the bloom requested by the wife. The family’s three young daughters have taken full advantage, using the huge Hydrangea blooms as impromptu summer hats.