We've lived in our apartment for almost two years. We have this amazing outdoor terrace space (kinda a luxury in nyc!) that has been completely empty - nothing more than a large bathroom for our puppy - up until a week ago when we finally filled it will plants and furniture!
We got our furniture from Target (links in the bottom) and we went to King's County Nurseries for our garden. For anyone in Brooklyn, this is 100% where you should go - best selection & service. We spent a few hours planning and picking out our plants. The best part was cramming into an UberXL with a lilac tree, blackberry bush, tomato plant, 7 herbs, and a bag of dirt. Oh and Atlas, who couldn't sit still.
Now our terrace space is quickly becoming my favorite! Since it all came together last weekend, Tyler & I have spent every evening out there talking and eating dinner, and Ty works outside every morning! I feel like we magically added a new room to the house!
Garden & outdoor design is something that I knew little about until a week ago (lets be real, I still know very little). But from one beginner to another (look at me assuming), I DID learn some super helpful design tricks from the folks at the nursery near our home that I thought I would pass on to you guys! You can make these principles work whether your outdoor space is a yard, terrace, balcony, or fire escape (*questionmark* - is this legal in NYC?)
THREE "BEGINNER GARDENER" DESIGN TRICKS
Close & Open
Perhaps one of the reasons we like being outdoors (there I go assuming again) is because of the feelings nature can create inside of us. When I am on top of a mountain I feel a rush of freedom and possibility. When I walk through a forest, I feel surrounded and comforted. In our own homes (especially when they are locked inside of a block of cement :), it's challenging to feel that connection to nature. Gardens are an excellent way to try and recreate that beauty.
The best gardens try to recreate that feeling of enclosure. There are a lot of mathematical principals at play for landscape design (golden rectangles, regulating lines, etc.), but for the novice, the basic idea is "surround." Capitalize on high or eye level space & arrange pots and plants in a way (see next tip) so as to give the illusion you are surrounded. Balancing the amount of enclosure with open areas is important.
This guiding principle is the hardest to achieve at a high level, because well, most of us can't throw down thousands of dollars to SURROUND ourselves with pretty plants. So do the best you can with what you have! (Like you'll see in our pics, we clearly haven't achieved a *rain forest amount* of plants, and anyone who sits back there will probably not be tricked into forgetting they're in NYC ;) The next two tricks give you practical ways to make this idea of "surrounded-ness" happen faster.
Say No to Corners
The quickest way to get that "surrounded" feeling is to make the corners disappear. Since nature is organic, your backyard space should be too. Locate all the corners of your area and put your biggest plants in them. This is where potted trees or big bushes should go, the tallest and widest, to hide the sharp angles of the corners.
As you can see in our terrace, we placed our lemon and lilac trees in the sharpest most visible corners, and a little cluster of blackberry bush and tomato plant (which will hopefully get bigger) in another corner. We learned you can then fill in the space between the big corner plants with smaller on the ground or hanging plants. Ideally, as your plant collection grows, you will line every hard edge & angle with organic greenery.
Low to High
Outdoor spaces can easily look happenstance. However, if you organize the plants with the "short to tall" method you will be able to capitalize on that "surrounded feeling." If you stand at your window and look out, the shortest plants should be just beneath the window line (so you can see the tops of the green, but not blocking your view). As your eye traces out over your space, the height and size of your plants should grow until the back line of your property, which should have your taller trees, etc.
There are about 100 other things we could talk about like balance, harmony, texture, scale, contrast, & the list goes on. But again, we tried out these new ideas on a very small scale & have NOT perfected our garden by any means. I thought these were all super helpful ideas, especially for someone who hasn't put together a garden before! :)
Add any other tips you may have in the comments below!