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  • Writer's pictureKat Cervoni

The Cultivation, Issue 13

Updated: Oct 21, 2020

July 28, 2020

Inspired Ideas for Tending Your Home and Garden

Staghorn Small Backyard Garden Design
Pictures of perfect-looking outdoor spaces can often leave us wondering, "How'd they do that?" In this week's issue, we explain our process for creating Insta-worthy gardens. 

Editor's Note

Hey, y'all! This week we're trying something new and sharing our design-build process. More than just a before-and-after photo series, we're giving you details about the site challenges and the client's wishlist, along with our solutions for both landscaping and hardscaping. This project is located in a tiny, triangular plot in Manhattan's West Village. But, it's full of ideas and recommendations that will work in small space gardens anywhere. Need help with your outdoor space? We've got remote designing down pat. Take a look at our offerings at




How'd They Do That?

West Village Backyard

Even by New York City standards, this West Village townhouse's backyard was extremely small at roughly 220 square feet — and oddly-shaped, too. From toe-stumping patio pavers to out-of-control vines, the space had a laundry list of problems that needed addressing.

The garden in its original state.

Key Issues:

  • Limited functional space

  • Uneven patio surface with pooling issue

  • Unattractive and inconsistent fencing

  • High-maintenance weeding and care needs, due to patio construction

  • Overgrown, unwanted vines

  • No lighting

  • Unsightly view from the interior

Nevertheless, we saw plenty of potential and knew a smart plan would have a massive impact on the space.

The Design

We start every design project with an inspiration board that reflects the client's goals and our initial ideas. This step enables us to clarify scope of work and aesthetic direction.

An inspiration board in the early stages of design development. 


  • Create a functional, beautiful, and low-maintenance space that offers beautiful views from all vantage points.

  • Incorporate plants without sacrificing limited ground area

  • Provide lighting to extend usability after dark

  • Build with materials and a style that is in line with the home's 1843 exterior

A rendering of our proposed design with the final layout and scope developed.

After a few rounds of development, we landed on a final design that checked all the boxes, and then began installation.

The Installation

We reused the original bricks and relaid them in a classic herringbone pattern. 

First, we tackled the patio by carefully removing each brick and placing them on a temporary pallet to make way for new sublayers (gravel and sand), level correction, and compaction. We used a vibrating plate compactor to make sure everything was settled and level.

Next, we used a polymeric sand aggregate between the bricks. The sand/silica mix is great because it's somewhat permeable so it allows for drainage but prevents weeds from sprouting in the crevices.

The installation team frames up and builds out the new fencing. 
The garden team begins prepping the cantilever planter. 

We had two goals for the plantings: keep it low-maintenance and an incorporate evergreens. For perennials, we chose dryopteris ferns, which are evergreen to semi-evergreen; carex evergold or sedge, an evergreen grass; and heuchera, which is also semi-evergreen and has the bonus of small spikes of flowers during summer. These plants all thrive in part-shade conditions. They maintain a bit of color through the winter and soften the wood- and brick-dominated space.

The Finished Garden

Ta-da! Photo by Anthony Crisafulli for Staghorn Living.
A close-up of the cantilevered planter and low-maintenance ferns, sedge, and heuchera. Photo by Anthony Crisafulli for Staghorn Living.
A birds-eye view of the space. Photo by Anthony Crisafulli for Staghorn Living.

We hope you enjoyed our new twist on The Cultivation. If there is a garden you love and want to know how it was done, let us know by emailing us here. Want to catch up on previous issues? Click here to read through all of our prior editions.

See you next week.

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