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Garden Visit: At Home with Designer Julie Weiss in Manhattan

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Garden Visit: At Home with Designer Julie Weiss in Manhattan

October 1, 2021

After more than 10 years of living with a shared rooftop garden in lower Manhattan, designer Julie Weiss decided to let the plants win.

“I love the wild, overgrown feel,” says Weiss, who was Vanity Fair’s art director from 2004 to 2014. “It’s a contrast to the city.”

Weiss, an LA native, lets the garden take on a life of its own. Wavy grasses and lavender look billowy and soft against the city backdrop, with all those sharp right angles on the Woolworth Building and the Brooklyn Bridge in the distance.

During an early autumn visit, we enjoyed the panoramic views that stretch to both the Hudson and East rivers:

Photography by Nicole Franzen for Gardenista.

Weiss anchors the garden with hardy herbaceous perennials that bloom deep into October. Purple agastaches and lavenders mix with wild grasses, hydrangeas, and roses. And there&#8\2\17;s the white nicotiana (at left) that she plants by the door for its &#8\2\20;beautiful, tropical scent.&#8\2\2\1;
Above: Weiss anchors the garden with hardy herbaceous perennials that bloom deep into October. Purple agastaches and lavenders mix with wild grasses, hydrangeas, and roses. And there’s the white nicotiana (at left) that she plants by the door for its “beautiful, tropical scent.”
Divided into four outdoor &#8\2\20;rooms,&#8\2\2\1; the space has lent itself to countless dinners, intimate drinks and summer soirées.
Above: Divided into four outdoor “rooms,” the space has lent itself to countless dinners, intimate drinks and summer soirées.
Weiss likes how each of the four outdoor &#8\2\20;rooms&#8\2\2\1; can accommodate several of the building&#8\2\17;s occupants simultaneously but privately.
Above: Weiss likes how each of the four outdoor “rooms” can accommodate several of the building’s occupants simultaneously but privately.
Water tower as rooftop sculpture; a common New York City sight.
Above: Water tower as rooftop sculpture; a common New York City sight.
Keen on planting abundant and &#8\2\20;tough&#8\2\2\1; perennials, Weiss anchors the space with roses, lavenders, and late-flowering tardiva hydrangeas. Annuals including zinnias, cosmos, and dahlias (Shown) add color and late-season interest.
Above: Keen on planting abundant and “tough” perennials, Weiss anchors the space with roses, lavenders, and late-flowering tardiva hydrangeas. Annuals including zinnias, cosmos, and dahlias (Shown) add color and late-season interest.
Weiss lines the perimeter with lacy tardiva hydrangeas, &#8\2\20;a great white hydrangea that does well with the wind on the roof.&#8\2\2\1;
Above: Weiss lines the perimeter with lacy tardiva hydrangeas, “a great white hydrangea that does well with the wind on the roof.”
Secret garden: a pergola and chairs.
Above: Secret garden: a pergola and chairs.
Two chaises amid the pots. At eye level, all you see are pots of lavender, grasses, and hydrangeas.
Above: Two chaises amid the pots. At eye level, all you see are pots of lavender, grasses, and hydrangeas.
A spot to contemplate the city (preferably while drinking a glass of wine).
Above: A spot to contemplate the city (preferably while drinking a glass of wine).
The Jane Watson Irwin fall perennial garden at the New York Botanical Garden inspired the overall look and feel of Weiss&#8\2\17; rooftop space.
Above: The Jane Watson Irwin fall perennial garden at the New York Botanical Garden inspired the overall look and feel of Weiss’ rooftop space.
 With the rooftops of lower Manhattan spread out like a velvety quilt, &#8\2\20;the setting is spectacular,&#8\2\2\1; says Weiss. Couldn&#8\2\17;t agree more. Can we come back in the spring?
Above: With the rooftops of lower Manhattan spread out like a velvety quilt, “the setting is spectacular,” says Weiss. Couldn’t agree more. Can we come back in the spring?

N.B.: This post is an update; it was first published October 2015.

For more on rooftop gardens, see:

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