Repeat after us: Shou sugi ban. Devised as a way to make wood less susceptible to fire and to keep away insects and rot, this longstanding Japanese method involves torching your building materials. The results are long-lasting and hauntingly beautiful. And now charred wood is widely available for domestic use.
Of course you may install an enormous live tree in your sixth-floor apartment: Police will escort the crane down the street, traffic can be diverted, and neighbors are welcome to gawk at the sidewalk spectacle.
With its airborne toxins and hot-off-the-asphalt climate, a city is one of the harshest environments for plants on Earth. But urban gardeners need not despair. There are still plenty of plants that will thrive:
Some people make it look so easy. On late summer afternoons, Christine Chitnis heads to her community garden plot in Providence, Rhode Island to tend her vegetables—toddler in tow. "This part of my day is so idyllic," she says. "Vik is such an easygoing soul, he's happy to eat some dirt and hang out while I fuss with my plot." Here are her secrets to creating a kid-friendly garden:
We spotted a clever and stylish instant herb garden wall via Bambula. All it takes to recreate the look is some white paint, a few black accessories, and herbs. Doesn't green look fabulous against a black and white backdrop?
"It's kind of a little postage stamp, but coming from New York I think this feels gigantic and amazing," clothing designer Courtney Klein says of the backyard garden in San Francisco that she and her husband created from scratch over the past year.
Cilantro has been winning popularity contests for centuries, earning mentions in Sanskrit texts and in the Bible. Ancient Egyptians buried their dead with cilantro. And nowadays, health scientists concur that the herb could help stave off the afterlife by packing in the vitamins.
When she was renovating her townhouse apartment in Cobble Hill, garden designer Julie Farris also wanted a roof garden. She had big plans: for family barbecues, a play area, flowerbeds, and lounge furniture. Oh, and it had to be low-maintenance. Here's how she pulled it off:
We're of the opinion that the best time to be in the city is when everyone else has decamped. Rooftop sunsets, twinkly balcony lights, the first ripe container tomatoes—you're ours this week. Hop on the subway and join us on our urban escape: