Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.

Friday, May 14, 2010


I don't install or maintain gardens for other people, but I do coach home owners who want help with design, plant selection, and horticultural considerations in and around New York City. These are people who want to garden themselves or who want to offer new ideas to the person who currently maintains their garden.
I do on-site teaching, with lots of ideas, questions and answers thrown around. Being a Garden Coach is a little like my first career as a Psychologist; I start with the personal interview to determine what the client wants and needs. I help the client see old views in new ways.

In looking back over images of some local jobs, I notice two great themes: containers and height.
It's not enough to have a fence separating you from your neighbors. The containers need to be big enough to support plants that can climb, cling, or otherwise reach the sky. This 'New Dawn' rose
(above) may not bloom
all summer and surely
won't offer complete
privacy, but it will make
you feel as if you're in
an enclosed space. Or
achieve height with a
standard, a tree,
grasses, bamboo.

The owners of the two
homes below stood in
doorways, looked out-
ward and asked me
what to do in their
gardens. I encouraged
them to first look
backward to their entry-
ways and select all-year-
round containers with
plants tall and large
enough to stand up to
the solidity of the home.If I were clever enough I could now go into Photoshop and superimpose the right containers on the original image. Alas.... I am not.

This terrace gardener fell to the temptation that has also afflicted me from time to time: too many, too small pots. There's a very easy cure. Bigger pots, fewer pots, consolidate, and at the same time make more walking/sitting room on a terrace with limited space.
You say this is totally obvious? Maybe, but we get so used to our surroundings that some times we need to be brought short by some outside expert. Think hair stylist, interior designer, makeover specialist.

A condo owner with this fabulous naked space in Chelsea felt some concern about the metal corrugated walls surrounding the stairs, fans, AC. I saw the wall as perfectly capturing the feel of other rooftops, water towers and odd structures. Containerized bamboo photographed on the street just three blocks from the condo looks like one of many possible solutions to soften, but not hide the wall.

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