The Outsider: Viewing Garden in Park Slope

WELCOME TO The Outsider, Brownstoner’s weekly garden column, written and produced by Cara Greenberg. Find it here every Sunday at 8AM.


THIS GARDEN BEGAN as an outline on a napkin, sketched out by the homeowner. “The client is an architect and had very strong ideas about what he wanted,” says Sasha Newman of Little Miracles Designs, who was hired to turn the concept into a finished design and then to oversee fabrication and installation.

The round central structure, made of Corten steel, serves two functions; it acts as a retaining wall to hold up soil and support plantings, and also provides convivial seating for a group. It was Newman’s inspiration to use Corten for the structure, rather than the stone the client originally had in mind. “A thick wall would have been visually too heavy for a rectangular backyard 18-20′ wide,” he says. Instead, he suggested the material popularized by the sculptor Richard Serra and by its use on the High Line — an alloy that doesn’t rust through, but merely oxidizes on the surface for a coppery patina.

The garden is designed to be viewed from all levels of the house. Plantings were informed by contemporary currents in American landscape design, using primarily foliage plants that don’t rely on floral color but whose interest comes from contrasting combinations of texture. The garden is also, says Newman, “as close to zero maintenance as you can get.”

Details and more photos, including construction shots and a complete plant list, after the jump.

Photos: Sasha Newman

Curved sections of Corten steel, fabricated by a metal shop in New Jersey, were pieced together around a concrete base.


Quarter-inch river-washed pebble was used for paving the large expanses, with black Mexican beach pebble in an accent frame around the perimeter.


The client found the spherical cast-stone water feature “poking around the Internet.” A fountain in the center recirculates water from a basin through a pipe in the center of the sphere and back to the basin again.


Plantings include shade-tolerant ligularia and Japanese painted fern, as well as ornamental grasses ranging from yellow to jet black.


To disguise storage space under the stair leading down from the parlor-level deck, Newman used horizontal slats of ipe, a tropical hardwood.


There’s a dining area with a grill, and a small patio under the deck for the use of the downstairs tenants.



Lysimachia nummuralea aurea
Hackonechloa macra aureola
Heuchera Chocolate Ruffles
Coleus / seasonal
Ligularia dentata
Equisetum / Horsetails
Sedum Vera Jameson
Pennisetum alopecuroides
Carex buchananii / Brown, Cinnamon colored foliage grass
Calamagrostis Karl Foester
Dwarf Miscanthus
Descampsia flexuosa
Imperata cylindrica
Ophipogon planiscapus nigrescens
Amsonia hubricktii

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18 Comment

  • How cool is that.

    Is there really enough light for the miscanthus? Love to see a shot of the garden when it blooms out…

  • I take it the Corten Steel doesn’t get hot . . . because it seems the sun would heat it and make it difficult to sit on . . .

  • Unusual. Reminds me of Richard Serra. Seems serene and a pleasant space to sit at the table. I would think about somehow covering the rear of the neighboring building with deciduous harmless vines, if I could get away with it.

  • I see you already mentioned Richard Serra. I’d better read more carefully.

  • Wouldn’t the rust from the steel ruin the clothing of anyone who sits on it?

    • I had the same question — although I love the color of the patina, which will play so nicely against the plantings when they grow up. A little more green near the house would be nice. Or maybe a brightly colored dining set?

  • This is the ideal allergy sufferer’s garden.
    I admire the owners for doing something different and artistic.
    I think it is unattractive, but then, to each their own, I appreciate the design chutzpah of it.

  • Interesting idea – sort of like the landscape equivalent of those folks who decorate their historic homes with all white and beige modern furniture. Its hard to imagine removing all that ivy and leaving an exposed concrete block wall. Really takes a cold, modern aesthetic to the extreme.

  • i think this looks pretty f’in terrible. it looks very uncomfortable to sit on for more than a few minutes.

    like others said: won’t your clothing get dirty? won’t it get real hot in the summer?

  • I would have put a fire pit in the center, instead of a fountain.

  • I would have put a fire pit in the center, instead of a fountain.

  • Not really my thing. Austere, yet lacking the elegance of — say — a Noguchi design. Maybe when the plantings have grown up I’ll like it better.

  • Yes, that circle seems to be more for looking at than for serious sitting. I like looking at Serra’s work, so this is probablly nice to look at. Looks like they tried to go for a formal japanese rock garden wihout the serenity of those. Like many gardens, it is hard to picture how this will look with mature plantings. There were more kinds of plants listed than I expected from the pics, so there is going to be a lot of growing here.

    A fire pit is nice, but way more bothersome to the neighbors. Had a water feature in a yard outside my bedroom windows…liked the sound of water…thought the creaky metal sound was an old pump in need of repair until I was told it was the resident bullfrog who had just showed up some years before, and apparently hibernated under the small pond ice over the winter…then it didn’t bother me. When anyone in nearby yards started up with the charcoal, the back half of my apartment filled up with charcoal smoke, and I had to close the windows and turn off the bedroom ACs. So, water feature ismore neighborly than firepit. Was wondering how they were able to build up back yard half covering the cellar window in the house behind, necessitating a window well…wondering if they owned the building behind the yard, ow what.

  • Or if they had nice neighbors who agreed to it in return for them building in a window well…

  • Or if they had nice neighbors who agreed to it in return for them building in a window well…

  • wow.. this goes to show that an endless amount of money does not produce a beautiful looks like a generic institutional mall