The Cultivation, Issue 14
Updated: Oct 21, 2020
August 4, 2020
Inspired Ideas for Tending Your Home and Garden
I find that the biggest challenges often lead to the most innovative design solutions. They force me out of my comfort zone and into a creative mindset in a way that more straightforward projects simply don't. This was certainly the case for the Brooklyn rooftop project we're featuring this week. Private but shared, the space needed to have enclosures but feel open. The clients wanted plants that would look lush yet require little maintenance. The planters had to be stable and secure but also lightweight. Finding the sweet spot between these extremes pushed us to seek out new ways of thinking and new sources for materials and furnishings. Read on to see how we found the balance.
How'd They Do That?
A Shared Rooftop Garden Grows in Brooklyn
From high winds to weight restrictions, all rooftop projects have their complications. This project in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood had an especially thorny set of conditions to contend with due to the fact that the building — a condominium with four units — had deeded a certain amount of rooftop square footage to three separate apartments. Six-foot vertical fencing had been installed to divvy up the spaces. The result was a series of dark, cramped outdoor "rooms" devoid of airflow or greenery. The challenge became how to delineate the spaces and offer privacy without creating a walled-off labyrinth effect.
Cramped, corral-like feeling from existing 6' high privacy fencing
No existing plantings
Minimal breeze, light, and airflow
No shade or cover
Unattractive utilities that needed to be hidden
Bland, aged hardscaping
It was clear from the start that the existing fencing would have to go. That meant we had to come up with a solution that separated the space and delivered adequate privacy while allowing for openness and views.
We chose an open fence–trellis hybrid, plus strategically-placed plants and containers, to create privacy and screening while introducing color and softness.
A beautiful look and inviting feel to each of the three individual spaces
A cohesive design that also allows for individuality for each area
Lighting to extend usability after dark
Privacy screening but also openness
Lightweight and free-standing furniture, planters, and fencing
Before breaking ground, we carefully measured and taped out the boundaries to ensure accurate square footage for each space. This gave our clients a chance to visualize their new spaces.
Next, we began building out the dividers. We used common cedar for the structures because it is lightweight and long lasting — at least 10 years and often up to 20. Each post was secured into a steel bracket that was bolted to the concrete pavers. Together with the weight and rigidity of the planters, the structures were completely secure without having to be connected to the building.
Because of sunny and windy conditions, and the clients' preference for minimal maintenance, we chose a grass-heavy planting palette and embedded an irrigation system. Calamagrostis Karl Foerster provided a 4' tall green screen for the HVACs and utilities. We chose prairie dropseed as the underplanting for the shady river birch trees. We went with honeysuckle and autumn clematis for the fence/trellises because they grow quickly and flower abundantly. We added catmint throughout for long-lasting color and ease-of-care.
We finished off the project with low voltage lighting.
The Finished Garden
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.