What could have possessed Edith Wharton to call New York CIty's brownstones "drab"? We know two flowering cherry trees that would politely beg to differ.
Flanking a prim Victorian facade of the sort Wharton once described as "chocolate-coloured coating," the trees introduce visitors to garden designer Judy Kameon's version of an Upper East Side black-and-white garden. Her LA-based firm, Elysian Landscapes, has a client list that includes Sofia Coppola, nightlife impresario Sean McPherson, and the Beastie Boys' Mike D. Kameon's familiarity with the challenges posed by an East Coast climate dates to when she lived above John Gotti's social club in Little Italy. "I lost the apartment when the government seized the building," says Kameon.
Images via Elysian Landscapes.
Above: A window box and two L-shaped planters, painted glossy black to match the townhouse trim, are packed with ornamental cabbages, junipers, and variegated creepers. "This is the daily entrance, the part of the garden that says 'Welcome home,' so I wanted to make it really lovely and inviting," Kameon says.
Above: The plant list, updated seasonally, is built around a backbone of perennials that includes Juniperus procumbens 'Nana;' Hedera helix 'Glacier;' Euonymous fortunei 'Silver Queen' (a 1-gallon pot is $16.99 from Green Earth), and Heuchera 'Purple Palace,' which is available for $12.48 per plant from Brighter Blooms.
Above: The daybed (which is from Kameon's Plain Air furniture line) on the fourth-floor balcony is where the client, a film producer, reads scripts.
Above: The garden's palette echoes the cityscape, with Plain Air chairs and a custom table inspired by a vintage piece in Kameon's personal collection.
Above: The lavender flowers of Verbena bonariensis "float like wands," Kameon says, to create a visual counterpoint to the mounded ivies. Verbena Bonariensis is $7.50 per plant from White Flower Farm.
Above: The planters are made of fiberglass in a shade matched to Benjamin Moore's Dill Pickle paint color. "You want the planters to feel full and lush; it’s nice to have things spill over and break an edge," Kameon says.
Above: Planted in the terrace containers are Hedera Helix 'Gold Child' ($10.50 per plant from White Flower Farm; ornamental purple cabbages, Salvia officinalis ($6.95 per plant from White Flower Farm); Thymus citriodorus ($2 per plant from Amazon); Pinus flexilis 'Vanderwolf's Pyramid' ($24.95 for a three-year graft from Amazon), and Acer palmatum 'Crimson Queen' ($20 for a 1-gallon pot from New Life).
Above: A curtain of bamboo screens the back patio from the building behind. Pseudosasa japonica (a 2-gallon pot is $25 from Shweeash Bamboo) is a popular bamboo in the United States; it's wind-resistant, tolerates both sun and shade, and creates a dense, 15-foot-high hedge.
Squeamish about bamboo? See Bamboo, the Re-Think.
Above: The built-in table and banquette are custom, and upholstered in blue Sunbrella fabric, inspired by the plum colors and blue-gray tones of the bluestone patio. "Every inch of the garden spaces gets used," Kameon says. "I've been to Halloween parties here, and to a barbecue in the rain, where we all huddled under the umbrella. And in the winter, they've built snowmen."
For more of Judy Kameon's tips for entertaining in the garden, see Holiday Table En Plein Air.
This is an update of a post originally published March 26, 2012.