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NYC Brooklyn Garden makeover before/after

Todd Haiman Landscape Design
January 17, 2017
last modified: January 17, 2017

This project begins and ends with having a wonderful, enthusiastic client that has been a joy to collaborate with.

We were contacted by this client in 2015 looking for a complete overhaul of their rear brownstone garden in Brooklyn, New York. The client had inherited this garden from the previous owner and after living there for several years, longed for an upgrade more suited to their lifestyle, aspirations and needs. After we designed the garden in early winter 2015, building phase and installation was scheduled for late winter/early spring 2016.

Needs were: new perimeter fence, masking of surrounding urban noise, storage within the garden, managing of stormwater runoff, a grilling and dining area with additional 2-3 destinations or “rooms”. Design aspirations were: to create a journey through the space, apply sustainable practices and use of any reclaimed materials. While inspiration came from many trips the family made to the french countryside. it was equally important to maintain a sense of place given the urban setting the property existed within.

Rendered illustrations of proposed garden

Before photo

To create “white noise” and muffle the urban sounds of clustered buildings, neighboring air conditioners, distant car horns, emergency sirens we designed and commissioned two large fountains from Tintori Castings in Accord, N.Y. Many pollinator specific plants (shrubs, perennials and annuals) were planted to entice birds, bees and other insects to share the landscape— essentially bringing nature in!

Fence work. Masonry work

A new perimeter edge running both sides of the garden was created by refining a stock fence—thereby creating a custom designed twist with a cost effective option. At the far end of the garden, we identified 125 yr old brick (at a local stone yard) that matched the age of the family’s 1890 brownstone residence to use for the rear wall. The brick was laid in a header and running bond characteristic of that time period. Our contractor ANLO Property Services, Garden City, N.Y. did an exceptional job building the fences, walls, laying the pavers, edging, and attending to the small details.

We were extremely fortunate to have two mature tree specimens (30’ Prunus subhirtella/Weeping Cherry and 25’ Lagerstroemia indica/Crape Myrtle to work with onsite. These provided an established look to what was a completely new space. The third tree unfortunately needed to be removed, so we replaced that specimen in a more effective location within the landscape.

The blue barn door serves as a folly within the garden. The folly, a classical landscape element, defines the lounging space and creates a unique focal point. We designed this with our exceptional carpenter friend Jeffrey Catalano, who build this along with other elements for the garden. Many paint swatches were reviewed with our client in various lighting situations (dusk, full sun, overcast), in the end we chose was Behr Gettysburg SC-113.

Tumbled travertine pavers on a compacted gravel bed replaced the previous non-porous pavers creating effective drainage, replacing the stormwater run-off with a surface that allows precipitation to percolate into ground at grade.


Taxus (Yews) and Clethra alnifolia (Sweet pepperbush) formed a traditional green foundation around the dining area, with Asarum (Wild ginger) as a ground cover and Decumaria (Woodvamp) as a trained vine ascending the wood fence. As you move further from the house, the plants become less formal. Various microclimates exist in this garden. An example being the mature Crape Myrtle which doesn't leaf out until late Spring, where understory plants have full sun until June, then dense cover through rest of season.

Mertensia virginica/Virginia bluebells were added throughout the garden in late fall along with various bulbs for an anticipated spring explosion of flora. We (and client) are looking forward to this season as the plant material matures within the landscape.

All photos ©Todd Haiman Landscape Design

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