The Joys and Challenges of City Gardening

We live in an apartment in NYC with a long stretch of garden in front of our 6 storey building. On the opposite side of the street is a similar height building which also takes up the whole street or block. Our garden faces east so we get the morning sun up until the early afternoon, there are few pockets of extended sunshine where there are gaps in the building opposite. The garden had mostly evergreen shrubs and three large holly trees at the entrances to each building. Around three years ago I decided it was time to add some much needed colour to the garden.

The first Autumn I planted spring flowering bulbs such as daffodils, various lilies, alliums and crocuses but not tulips as I read that squirrels love them and as we have lots of those creatures that wouldn’t have been wise. For some reason many people like to feed the squirrels in our area by throwing assorted nuts into the gardens of surrounding buildings so that their dogs will have something to bark at when they are walking by?!However even though squirrels are supposed to dislike daffodils they still chop their heads off ?!

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So I did my research on east facing gardens by visiting other gardens such as The New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, observing gardens and parks in the city and looking at various online sites, there are several very helpful ones; I especially like Better Homes and Gardens as they suggest the best companion plants to grow. I also consulted with my Mum and would ring or visit some local garden centres/nurseries such as Hicks in Long Island, which is great for families as they organize seasonal activities such as a haunted hayride at Halloween, they also have a cafe, another nursery is Halls in New Jersey where the staff are very friendly and helpful. We don’t own a car but on any occasion that we’ve had to rent one for a trip we always make time to visit the nearby garden centres. I also visit my local Home Depot, we are lucky to have two close by. Home Depot is handy for buying compost and garden basics. In the last two years I’ve ordered plants online from Bluestone Perennials as sometimes a particular plant is not always available from the garden centre. Since getting our garden established another inspiring place that I love to visit is The Highline in Manhattan, NYC. They have also used some of the plants that I list below such as Coral Bells, Jack Frost to name but a few.

Some of the Plants that have done well

Coral Bells/Heuchera 

These have been very easy to grow and are also easy for a novice like myself to divide. They come in lots of different colours too and have year round interest which is another plus. They look nice planted with Astilbes pictured on the right, another plant that lasts a long time.

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These variegated grasses have dainty lilac flowers which then change to berries, are very hardy and also easy to divide. They are great for planting alongside our railings and close to the entrances of our apartment buildings


Hydrangeas and Peonies have also bloomed well.


Over the years I have added various ground covers to keep the weeds down and fill in spaces. The Jack Frost {part of the Forget-me-not family} was a Mother’s Day gift from a few years ago, so I am always happy to see it emerge in early Spring. The groundcovers are all doing well now but they did take a year or two to get truly established.

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Clockwise from top left White Nancy,  Ajuga, Creeping Mrtyle and Jack Frost

A few more plants to mention; below left Fothergilla which we got at the  wonderful overflowing with amazing plants Hadley’s Garden Centre near Amherst, MA. At the same centre I got Clethra/Sixteen Candles also doing well. On the right is one of our Bleeding Heart plants which have thrived in the shade of the holly trees.

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Last year I planted three old fashioned, scented rose bushes at different parts of the garden. I wasn’t sure how they would fare as they like lots of sun but so far so good. David an employee at our Home Depot Store suggested I add epsom salts to the roses during the growing season which I think helps, later I have read mixed reviews on said practice.


Garden Mishaps

Along the way I’ve learnt some important lessons regarding gardening such as be careful when you move a plant as with the Scotch Broom pictured below. It was getting too big for its spot so I dug it up and moved it to a bigger and what I thought was a sunnier space and it died. Also I love lavender however I cannot grow it in our garden, it just hasn’t thrived no matter where I planted it or even when I added some sand to the soil. One of my college friends saw my comment on Facebook lamenting my lack of success with lavender and suggested I try Nepeta Six Hills Giant as an alternative and it has taken off. Thank you Hermione for the recomendation.


As the summer progresses I will add more garden updates as different flowers bloom.

This entry was published on June 27, 2015 at 6:25 pm. It’s filed under city gardening and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

5 thoughts on “The Joys and Challenges of City Gardening

  1. I can feel the joy in your city garden, Anne! It’s such a lovely, colorful oasis in your neighborhood, bringing smiles and joy to all of your neighbors and those who pass by. Your efforts as a city gardener add such beauty to the world! ♡

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Dawn for that feedback coming from you that is high praise indeed as you have a beautiful garden 😄. It is nice when outside gardening that people do stop and say how much they enjoy the flowers and enquire after plant names. We’ve had buckets of rain lately so am impressed that no plants have been washed away so far.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So pretty. I love Heuchera too. They add so much color.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So true, do you have a favourite one? They also have some great names unfortunately the only one I can think of now is Palace Purple.


  4. I do . I have one I have had for a long time called Rachael. It’s a wine colour and lots of ruffles.

    Liked by 1 person

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