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.


Even city dwellers need a little green in their lives. A selection of plants can make your backyard, deck, rooftop, countertop, or planter box feel like an urban oasis. If you’re not experienced in plant care, however, the idea of raising your own crop of ferns and flowers can seem daunting.

If you’re wondering how to get started with your urban garden, this post is for you. We’ve spoken to the most skilled green thumbs in Brooklyn — the gardeners and landscape designers of Brownstoner’s Home Pros. Following are our experts’ top tips for choosing the right plants and keeping them healthy.

Tip #1 – Don’t overwater your plants

“Selecting plants based on the natural sunlight they’ll be receiving is key, even more important than watering.  Overwatering is the quickest way to kill a plant, so feel the soil to gauge whether it’s thirsty. In this space, a palm tree, philodendron and snake plant all do well with plenty of light. That said, snake plants are versatile and are great low-light plants, making them ideal for city dwellers.” – Lisa, Leaf and June

Photo by Erica Gannett.


WELCOME to The Outsider, Cara Greenberg‘s Sunday garden column for Brownstoner. KNOW OF ANY BEAUTIFUL BROOKLYN GARDENS? (Sure ya do!) Contact

THE LONG, NARROW BACKYARD is a challenge garden designers face in Brooklyn more often than not. The owners of this one, 22′ wide and more than three times as long, approached James Stephenson of The Artist Garden with the notion of two patios plus lots of planting space. They were looking for a clean, modern look that would blend with their indoor aesthetic.

Working with oversized pieces of thermal bluestone, Stephenson laid out a plan for a central inner patio that serves as an outdoor family/living room, and another toward the rear of the property that provides overflow entertaining space for larger groups.

A central pergola made of iron and cedar is an architectural element that will also become a shade structure when the wisteria vines planted in each corner climb up and over.

Don Statham, an Upstate NY-based garden designer, collaborated on the plantings, which include what Stephenson calls “epic” columnar oak trees that will eventually create privacy walls on either side of the central patio. Everything is planted in the ground; there are no raised beds or containers.

The south-facing garden, with in-ground drip irrigation, is essentially low-maintenance.

More detail and photos after the jump.

Photos: James Stephenson