The Outsider: Reader’s Garden in Clinton Hill


    WELCOME to The Outsider, Brownstoner’s weekend column exploring how Brooklynites design and use their outdoor spaces. Written and produced by Cara Greenberg, you’ll find it here every Sunday at 8AM.


    A BRAVE BROWNSTONER READER has come forth with inspiring photos of his own backyard, a swath of greenery wrested from the overgrown weed patch he and his wife found when they bought their townhouse in 2008. Thank you, Sam Erickson (you know him as ‘wasder’) and Rachel Smith!

    With two young kids, they wanted romping room — “a biggish expanse of grass, possible because we get a lot of light in our south-facing garden,” Erickson says. They spent $2,000 (of a total outlay of about $5,000) for the delivery and installation of sod, including grading and proper drainage, by Dragonetti Bros. They salvaged pieces of bluestone “from all over the neighborhood” to make a patio at the rear.

    With the help of some day labor and friends, they built long raised planting boxes along either side of the garden out of 4″x4″ railroad ties. In the beds on the shadier side of the yard, they planted azaleas, rhododendrons, and hydrangeas; on the sunny side, lilies, roses, and herbs. Toward the rear of the garden, they put in a single weeping cherry.

    “You don’t have to hire a high-end designer,” Erickson says. “We don’t have gardening backgrounds, but we are enthusiasts. We’ve learned as we’ve gone along. My wife decides what to plant, and I enjoy watering, mowing, and pruning. It’s a nice stress release.”

    More after the jump.

    Photos: Sam Erickson


    Mowing the lawn takes 10 minutes with an electric or push mower. Roses are in bloom on the right and hydrangeas on the left in this recent photo.


    Hydrangeas thrive at the rear of the property, where there’s a bluestone patio and seating area. Fences along the sides were existing; the lattice fence along the back wall is new. Furniture from the Viva Terra catalogue.

    An old Empress tree [pawlounia tomentosa] blooms in April in a rear corner of the lot. The homeowners used salvaged bluestone to build a stacked platform around the tree.


    The backyard is shared with tenants on the ground floor.


    Pots and window boxes of annuals and herbs do well on the sunny deck off the parlor floor.

    The ‘before’ shot, above, gives little indication of the junk, including piles of brick, that had to be hauled out before they could even contemplate landscaping.”It was virtually impassable,” Erickson says.

    Planting boxes under construction along either side of the garden.


    Sod going in.


    Hydrangeas and roses, both Brooklyn stalwarts in June.


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