ISSUE 8  |  The Power of Scent

Rehab Diary: Jo Malone’s Fragrance Garden in Brooklyn

February 24, 2015 11:00 AM

BY Cheryl Locke

The Scenario: A 3,140-square-foot lot in Brooklyn’s Gowanus neighborhood (home to one of the country’s most polluted waterways and notorious for its toxic stench) was sending tens of thousands of gallons of rainwater runoff into the city’s sewer system and the nearby Gowanus Canal every year.

The Challenge: To transform the Gil Hodges Community Garden into an eco-friendly neighborhood gathering spot that also filters and reuses storm water.

The Solution: London-based perfume maker Jo Malone teamed up with Design Director Yvi McEvilly of the New York Restoration Project (NYRP)  and NY-based landscape architect Jason Yadlovski to create a fragrant community garden that attracts butterflies–planted with daphnes, sweet bay magnolia trees, and salvia–with raised vegetable beds and hardscaping to filter and capture rainwater.

The new garden has both a meandering fragrance walk in honor of its sponsor and an extensive rain catchment system to divert 150,000 gallons of water from the canal. Let’s take a walk around:

Photography by Rob Stephenson except where noted.

Above: Overseen by the non-profit New York Restoration Project, the makeover included raised beds, decomposed granite pavers, and a bioswale, a landscaping element that diverts rainwater. The curbside bioswale, located along Denton Place, neutralizes harmful runoff, and cultivates native species. 

For more about bioswales, see Every Garden Needs a Wetland.


Above: Photograph via Jason Yadlovski.

Here’s how the park looked before restoration and after contamination by Hurricane Sandy’s floodwater in 2012. The restoration was made possible by funding from both Jo Malone and the Department of Environmental Protection


Above: During spring, volunteers coordinate the planting of squash, tomatoes, and herbs, and the harvest is shared with anyone who helps, including nearby restaurant Runner & Stone

Above: Photograph via Jason Yadlovski.

The garden is also an everyday urban oasis designed for yoga, reading, and relaxing. A birch reading grove and patio are tantalizing escapes.

Above: Photograph via Jason Yadlovski.

Stepping stones, made from the site’s existing concrete, lead visitors on a fragrance walk, inspired by sponsor Jo Malone, an Estée Lauder-owned company. 

Above: Photograph via Jason Yadlovski.

The fragrance walk takes visitors past a strongly scented variegated daphne (L).

Above: A bed of of salvia attracts butterflies and bees.

Above: Gil Hodges Community Garden is at 534 Carroll Street, about three blocks away from the Gowanus Canal. An art and music program will resume in spring. Events are open to the public and free of charge. Check the calendar here.   

Interested in exploring the greener side of New York City? See: