Photo by Colleen McMahon via Flickr

Designing an urban garden presents unique challenges. Small spaces mean that every plant has to really count.

Yards surrounded by tall buildings and trees are often shadier than their suburban counterparts. Rooftops and decks can be windy and dry.

There’s precious little advice out there specifically geared to garden design for an urban space, so we asked four of our Brooklyn garden experts for their best tips for urban gardeners.


Photo by Shelby Bell via Flickr

So you’ve decided to turn that unfinished backyard into an urban oasis come spring. But how do you know which plants will thrive in our climate and put on a big show in a small city space?

Brownstoner asked three local garden professionals — James Stephenson of Artist Garden, Katherine Aul of Staghorn, and Jacob Hawvermale of Urban Roots — which plants are best for Brooklyn gardens.

Here are the top nine shrubs, trees and perennials these pros prefer. They will add color, texture and interest all year long.


      Photo via 462 Halsey Street Community Garden on Facebook

      The mayor recently announced that 34 temporary greenspaces would become official permanent gardens, while nine lesser-used sites would be built up for affordable housing. The news sparked mostly delight in local gardeners and advocates who once feared that hundreds of garden sites might be developed.

      One 30-year garden veteran, self-described as being “on the front lines of garden preservation,” emailed Brownstoner to express his joy regarding the announcement, calling it an “amazing way for the city to say ‘Happy New Year’ to us gardeners!”

      Here, he explains the multi-decade history of NYC’s evolving efforts to preserve community gardens:


      Brooklyn gardens are in their final flowering. How is your garden looking?

      As the air gets crisper but before the leaves start falling in earnest, we’d love to share your scenes of autumnal Brooklyn plantings. Send us your garden photos while you have the chance and we will publish them.

      Email photos to laura [at] along with your neighborhood info and any details of interest to Brooklyn gardeners. Or simply tag @Brownstoner in a twitter or Instagram post and we’ll embed your picture.