Brooklyn status, for Diana (on mobile phone)


Diana Studer of Elephant’s Eye recently asked about the Brooklyn garden. Here it is, Diana.

With the Garden Conservancy Open Days coming up June 28, I’ve been focusing all my attention on the country garden. Brooklyn has had to get by with a few minutes each week. Here it is after a day of rain. The Sunburst honey locusts have gotten top heavy again and need trimming back. They also need stronger supports until their trunks gain strength.


Fortunately the garden is small and so jam packed with plants it can get by on its own for a while. I may have to pull plants out next year, but not now for sure. I did add some Hakonechloa macra to the back bed, though it’s not visible here. The bronze fennel is a surprise; last year’s small plants have inflated into small cloud trees.  Maybe not what I want every year, but I take pleasure in them now.


Here’s the narrow, shady border. I haven’t shown the Tetrapanax papyrifera ‘Steroidal Giant’ on the sunny side; it was killed to the ground in last winter’s cold; now it’s coming up in several places and promises to become a monster. I’m hoping to put off dealing with it until next spring, when I have to dig most of it up and contain it within some kind of metal barrier.

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23 thoughts on “Brooklyn status, for Diana (on mobile phone)

  1. Good to see James. I have been waiting to see the Gelditsia.
    Mine which are so similar are very well staked. Two big ugly 25×50 time stakes. So it’s interesting to see yours are bending over. Don’t think I would like that.
    Mine have put on some thickness in the trunk, but not a lot really. So I will worry how long it will take for them to be strong enough to remove the stakes. Might be a few years away.
    Your seem to have quite lush growth, but here on the other side of the world, and in a very dry environment, the leaf growth is much less.
    Best wishes

    1. Kerry, I severely pruned the Gleditsia several times last summer and a major pruning is overdue now. I plan to bring taller, stronger bamboo stakes back from the country to get them straight and upright again.

  2. It is a jungle out there, James! The Brooklyn garden is looking beautifully lush. I question whether the space is large enough to accommodate 4 Gleditsia ‘Sunburst’ trees. If I remember correctly, there are also 3 Heptacodium trees along the back of the garden. In my own garden, which is also relatively small, I am finding I am editing the garden for less plants. I have some difficult decisions ahead about some trees as well. I am reassured that every time I have subtracted (so far) I have not regretted it. Good luck with the Open Days. I wish I could be there. I am looking forward to seeing how the Brooklyn garden evolves over time. You are fortunate to work in such different gardens, with different problems to solve and different opportunities to realize.

    1. Michael, yes, it is a jungle. I still hope to keep all the trees, but thin them and restake them with much taller and stronger bamboo. I need them to make a privacy canopy so I can feel comfortable in the garden. I know I’ll also have to simplify the plantings, which are literally bursting out of their confined spaces. But I want to see what does well as the garden becomes shadier.

  3. The Brooklyn garden looks absolutely great!! I have been waiting to see pictures of the progress. When I first found your site I checked out all the archives. The big garden is enchanting, but the smaller garden is more my size. Can’t wait to see the garden during Open Days. I have been looking forward to it all year.

    1. Thanks, Cindy. Are you planning to come to the June 28 Open Day? If you do, get my attention. I’ve learned that I’ll be constantly busy answering questions and won’t be aware of who’s arriving.

  4. Thank you!

    Yesterday we were in our other future garden, sadly looking at wrong trees, which are going to have to come out. But, it will give me some open spaces to do something happy and suited. We have 3 humungous Brazilian pepper trees and half another from next door – each on its own is far too much for a smallish town garden.
    He who weeds our gravel paths – wonders how you keep your gravel quite free of unwanted greens?

    1. I don’t think I’ve had that problem yet since I used a heavy fabric under the gravel, but I do have seedlings coming up. So far, I just pull them out. The seeding is bound to get worse over time. I’ll probably make judicious use of a glyphosate weed killer, just on the gravel.

    1. Thanks, Thomas. I’ve noticed that the side plantings have large voids, small dark “caves” where light barely gets in, that dark contrasting with the large, varied textures of the foliage. The feeling is much more satisfying that the planting at the back, which is all surface, no voids, and too crowded. I’m feeling my way into this, and see the need to make some changes. Yesterday, I also tied the trees back to the fence to get them upright, so now light floods the garden. Once the canopies grow and adjust to that change, some of the moodiness will return.

  5. I love this green, shady space; if you don’t want fennel for ever more you need to make sure you remove all the flowers before they seed (they won’t all come up bronze either). You can dry the flowers Italian style to use with roast potatoes, mushrooms or grilled meats so they’ll be put to good use.

    1. Great idea, Christine. Thanks for the suggestion. I really like the dark clouds of fennel against the black walls. I have to decide it that is something I want to maintain. But what am I saying. The garden will change on its own!

    1. I’m growing more and more fond of that bronze fennel. I try to grow it in the country garden, but it’s a favorite of ground hogs, which eat the delicate tops, ONLY the tops!

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