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
Equisetum / Horsetails
Sedum Vera Jameson
Carex buchananii / Brown, Cinnamon colored foliage grass
Calamagrostis Karl Foester
Ophipogon planiscapus nigrescens
If you’ve missed any previous installments of The Outsider, you can catch up by clicking here.