This is the tentative season but the Brooklyn garden continues to hold its own. Left to right the keepers are Panicum virgatum ‘Cloud Nine’, Tetrapanax papyrifera ‘Steroidal Giant’, Cotinus coggygria ‘Velvet Cloak’, Black bamboo.
Some evidence of maturity in the small Brooklyn garden belies its true age–only 16 months since planting started, merely a toddler garden. I wonder if I’m in for a bout of the “terrible twos.”
Patterns of use, or nonuse, are beginning to clarify the nature of the Brooklyn garden. I was reminded of that yesterday when we made our first visit to the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, the new building on Benjamin Franklin Parkway where Albert Barnes’ extraordinary art collection is now on display. In the lower lobby, and extending up through two levels to the roof opening, is a striking glass-enclosed garden planted with ferns and several tall Ginkgos and Sweet Gums rising through the building. Most definitely a garden to be looked at. There’s no way to enter it.
Looking into the garden pool … see the fish?
I’ve been busy at the Federal Twist garden and almost totally neglected the Brooklyn garden this summer. A few minutes of cleanup now and then. That’s about it. So how’s it doing?
Overflowing, abundant, voluptuous–the garden grows. My neighbor’s rose made me add voluptuous. I have no roses in my garden, but in such close quarters, it appears I’ve borrowed one. Yes, voluptuously it droops, limply, wet with rain.
This garden is more for viewing than sitting in. After a year with it, I’ve realized I see it much more from inside than outside. It’s like looking into a lighted aquarium.
It’s the fourth wall of the living room, where we spend most of our “city” time, and it’s a constant source of entertainment and pleasure. Another room, but a room outside. Its exposure to neighboring houses may encourage this rather passive garden enjoyment. I speculate we’ll spend much more time outside when the four-square framework of Sunburst honey locusts grows into a high, lacy canopy, lending a sense of open privacy we lack now.
Too much prospect, too little refuge.
As I look at these photos, I’m amazed how different the space appears encased in the frame of this image. The garden looks crowded reduced to a six-inch-wide photo; in reality it doesn’t seem crowded at all. Perhaps this has something to do with the foreshortening of the camera lens, the flattening of three-dimensional space?
Looking toward the house wall with its simple geometric forms and straight lines, some sense of proportion and three-dimensionality is restored, even in a two-dimensional photo.
I don’t mean to say I never go outside. I go out for a few minutes in the morning, usually just before running out of the house to go to work, and I do it again when I get home. Just a short visit to do whatever it is gardeners do in such “in between” moments. Lately I’ve been cutting last year’s grasses and weeding.
There are more and more things to see as spring advances …
… Astilboides tabularis …
… Mukdenia rossii …
… Hydrangea petiolaris climbing the wall and about to blossom …
… Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snowflake’, the amazing double-flowered form, which probably will grow much too large for this garden …
… a form of low honeysuckle and a pretty clambering ground cover whose name I forget …
… Sedum angelina, Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’, and Ajuga ‘Dark Scallop’ blooming …
The bare soil needs a low-level ground cover. It will become invisible when the plants grow to size, but a low carpet of Mazus reptans, ajugas, and other diminuitive spreaders will be a good thing, both for visual appeal and to keep down weeds.
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.
My Brooklyn garden–still very much a work in progress–is featured in the Spring issue of Leaf magazine. Click on the Leaf cover above to read and subscribe to Leaf. Click on any images below to enlarge them.