Ramblings of a "New American" Gardener

Garden Diary: Early Brooklyn

April 27, 2013

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The new garden in Brooklyn is about one year old, though I believe it was still mostly bare of plants at this time last year. Above is a center view from the house … a view from the left below …


… and from the right. The ceramic face of Bacchus will be replaced by something larger in scale, though I don’t know what yet.


The boxes came through winter in good health and form, and they’re quickly putting on new growth.


The epimediums and sedums at the back of the garden give quite a lot of brightness for so early in the season, though the ground there is largely still bare, awaiting planting with Hakone grass (either the green species or the ‘All Gold’ cultivar).




I took Les’s advice and mulched the hell out of my Tetrapanax ‘Steriodal Giant’; it came through the winter with no damage, and I look forward to seeing it grow to monstrous size this summer.


Two unknown Pulmonarias appeared this spring, apparently stowaways with plants I brought in last year. They’ve added so much early interest, I may add more this spring.


But first I have to see which of the still invisible plants appear to be successful. Below Mukdenia rossii, Ligularia japonica, and a minature Liriope (or is an Ophiopogon?) make an interesting combination of color and form.


My shoe gives a sense of scale.


The three plants across the back are Seven Son Flower (Heptacodium miconoides)–destined to be more small trees than flowers. I’ll prune them into wacky shapes once I see better how they’ll grow.



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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Charlie@Seattle Trekker April 28, 2013 at 1:42 am

Your garden seems to be in wonderful shape and ready for a spring that is now rolling out in earnest. The design of your garden has such nice lines to it, love the photos. Walking through any garden is always so enjoyable, thank you for sharing.


James Golden April 28, 2013 at 7:29 pm

Thanks for visiting, Charlie.


Faisal Grant April 28, 2013 at 3:07 am

James, my computer’s on ‘slow’ today; all I can see unless I sit here for quite some time is your last photo! The charcoal/midnight blue of the fence is splendid, especially against the limes and yellows and burgundy and white.
I agree with you about the Bacchus mask. Something flatter and bigger would sit well.
I’m amazed how much has happened. Beautifully done.


James Golden April 28, 2013 at 7:55 pm

Thanks, Faisal. Susan Cohan suggested a piece of Haitian “oil barrel” art, which I’m considering, especially if it will quickly develop a coat of rust.


Helen April 28, 2013 at 9:55 am

I was wondering how your Brooklyn garden was progressing. Your black fences encouraged me to start painting mine a dark colour although they are dark brown and not black.
I have a love of Epimediums and it is nice to see hem in your garden. The last shot is quite striking


James Golden April 28, 2013 at 7:31 pm

I’ve been gardening in poor, compacted soil for so long at Federal Twist, I forget how vigorously plants grow in better conditions. The Epimediums are spreading at a rapid pace, far faster than I anticipated. The fences are actually a very dark grey-brown, not black.


Emily April 28, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Thanks for the pictures, James. It looks like this garden is off to a good start. And, I’m looking forward to seeing what “wacky shapes” you have in mind for the heptacodium.–Emily


James Golden April 28, 2013 at 7:33 pm

I have no idea, Emily. Heptacodium has such a gawky, irregular form, I guess whatever I do will be wacky.


carolyn mullet April 28, 2013 at 5:13 pm

Love the fence color. The rest looks very promising as well. I’m not up to date on your design decisions so forgive me if you’ve already covered this in earlier posts but have you considered staining the timbers a similar color giving the garden more unity?


James Golden April 28, 2013 at 7:34 pm

If I ever find the time, I do intend to stain the timbers the same color as the fence. Also the chairs. I’m so busy in the country, I probably won’t get to such major projects in Brooklyn until late summer.


Rob (OurFrenchGarden) April 29, 2013 at 4:04 pm

James the hakone grass would look superb. Particularly the Golden Hakonechloa, that yellow against the fence, just as the sedum rupestre yellow works perfectly. You got space for an urn James? I like this http://www.diggingdog.com/pages2/plantpages.php/g-0477


James Golden April 30, 2013 at 6:18 am

Nice urn, Rob. The sedum Angelina is so bright I’m wonder if it isn’t too bright. I put it in just because it was handy and intended to make a final decision later. But it’s grown with such vigor, and done what it does so well, I’m now reluctant to pull it out. So far I’ve been able to find only the variegated forms of the Hakone grass. I’m sure others will appear in the nurseries soon.


Michael B. Gordon May 1, 2013 at 5:39 am

The peeling bark of the heptacodiums will just get better and better contrasting against the dark fence. I also like the contrast and shot of color that the sedum Angelina provide.


James Golden May 1, 2013 at 8:07 am

The Sunburst Honey Locust have started leafing out and they remind me of why I decided to use this bright sedum. Their golden foliage balances the sedum’s color at the garden’s “ceiling” level. It’s quite a show from inside the living room’s rather monochrome interior. And I’m very happy with the Heptacodium.


michael B. Gordon May 1, 2013 at 8:03 pm

I love the part of gardening where you recall why you made a certain choice and you still like it. You forget all about it and it happens the next year. Then of course there are the “why the hell did I do that?” repeated year after year. I guess we hope for more of the former and less of the latter. The city garden looks wonderful! I’ll bet is a treat to look out those French doors every morning.


James Golden May 1, 2013 at 8:47 pm


At risk of turning this into a long dialogue, I agree. The garden, for me, is primarily a viewing garden, to be seen from inside the house, framed in glass doors almost the width of the room. It’s sort of like an aquarium without the water and fish. I suppose I’ll spend more time outside when the trees grow and their canopy gives more privacy.


Ross Hamilton May 2, 2013 at 5:45 am

Lovely, James. The line of angelica is inspired, as is the choice of heptacodium. The tetrapanax is thrilling, and it is still early spring.


James Golden May 11, 2013 at 6:08 pm

Thanks, Ross. You’re the origin of the heptacodium, you know. Sorry I missed your comment when it came in.


Les May 11, 2013 at 6:02 pm

I am glad my advice had benefit for someone. Please tell my son.

When I saw camellias and crape myrtles growing in Manhattan, I figured you could get away with a Tetrapanax.


James Golden May 11, 2013 at 6:10 pm

Now I’ve discovered it did more than survive. It’s spreading with vigor. I may let it go for a year. Will I be making a mistake? Jaeger, listen to your father. He’s a good man.


Mel August 17, 2015 at 10:43 am

Hi , love the Brooklyn garden ! What color paint did you use on the fence ?


James Golden August 17, 2015 at 5:41 pm

I used an opaque “Slate” stain from Home Depot. It looks almost black on the wood.


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