Gardening Tips From the Rooftop Balconies of New York

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A delicious new book, called Rooftop Gardens: the Terraces, Conservatories and Balconies of New York is a bit of architectural/garden porn. It's a compilation of photos and descriptions of some very stunning and sophisticated balcony gardens, high above the steamy streets of the Big Apple.

Every picture is enough to make you green with envy. But there is also something green to learn from many of them.

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The authors behind the book come from serious New York wealth so these are pictures of places that mere mortals wouldn't normally see. Hence the gardens depicted seem to belong to the lives of the rich and the very rich and are designed by some well-known landscape architects.

But there is always something to be learned from these masters of the art, even if their end goal was not to create the most environmentally correct garden on the block. There are lots of good ideas that can be gleaned and applied to more modest balconies or rooftops.

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For a rooftop or a balcony, most planting will be done in pots, large and small. While not every structure will support pots of these size, the idea of large and small plants and using varying shapes is important. Also it is interesting to note that trees can thrive in pots. That's good because they provide some shade and visual height.

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Finally someone addresses the issue of shade. It's one thing to sit up there, it's another to fry. This lovely pergola will be covered by vines, probably grapes, or they could be wisteria and will provide a delightful place to have an al fresco lunch for friends.

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These dramatic tree trunks form a good barrier along the balcony. Not only do they add some shade cover, they are also an interesting way to block off an area for some privacy.

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Don't forget to plant herbs in some of the planters. Lavender, as shown here, smells wonderful, attracts bees and has beautiful purple flowers in spring. Cooking herbs such as basil, coriander, and parsley may not look chic enough for this balcony but they are pretty handy and yummy to have around. Rosemary is a perennial so it lasts through winter and grows huge, they could use some here.


Bamboo grows tall and fast (and it is very eco). So it is an easy and lovely choice for boxes and planters. In a short time you have wall covers for an ugly backdrop, lovely shaped leaves that blow in the wind, and almost instant privacy.