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Steal This Look: Modern Townhouse Garden on a Budget


Steal This Look: Modern Townhouse Garden on a Budget

April 23, 2012

A common dilemma after you renovate a house is there’s little money left to fix up the garden, which the contractors left looking like a war zone. Here’s a stylish–and frugal–plan for a sunny backyard.

The reason this garden works so well is symmetry, says landscape designer Susan Welti of Foras Studio. She created the low-maintenance scheme a few years ago for a Brooklyn couple whose townhouse had a typical rectangular backyard (20 feet wide by 36 feet deep). The garden has withstood the test of time–and long been one of our favorites (we first spotted it in Domino Magazine)–so we asked Welti to tell us how you can adapt it for your space.


Above: “It’s a simple idea, with an interior grid, a bluestone patio. and a hedge on the perimeter,” says Welti. “The trick to get it to work in any given space is to finesse the measurements. Lay it out, and if your eye tells you it’s not right, adjust it. Proportion is the important thing.” Image via Foras Studio.

Above: Step one: hardscape. To unify the space on a budget, work with what’s already there. An existing bluestone patio inspired Welti to set pavers in crushed bluestone. Bluestone Pavers (L), are $8.99 to $9.99 (depending on size), from DFM. Crushed stone prices vary. One yard of stone typically covers 162 square feet to a depth of 2 inches; to calculate, visit Bedford Stone.

canvas-red-gardenistaAbove: Vintage butterfly chairs belonged to the clients, a graphic designer and an architect. A red Butterfly Chair, made to the specifications of the original BFK, is $318 from Circa 50.


Above: The rose on the fence is New Dawn, a vigorous climber. (It’s $19.99 from David Austin.) “This is a garden with blasting sun, so you need something that is really robust,” Welti says. Image via Mooseys.

700_foras-brooklyn-garden-gardenistaAbove: Welti’s design calls for six identical planting beds–each measuring roughly 5 feet square–placed equidistant from one another. “It doesn’t have to be six beds; it could be three beds, or four,” Welti said. “Geometry is really satisfying to see, so make sure you have a nice size path and good size beds, so everything is comfortable to walk on or work in.” Image via Foras Studio.


Above: In the back corner, Welti planted a Japanese maple for the clients. “I wanted them to have a tree of their own,” she says. “There were trees in the yards all around, so we got something smaller.” Acer palmatum ‘Sango Kaku’ has coral bark; a two- to three-year-old tree is $39.99 from Kigi Nursery. Image by Judy Craghead, via Flickr.

700_foras-gardenistaAbove: The vintage patio table and wire chairs belonged to the clients. Image via Foras Studio.

biscayne-chair-iron-accents-gardenistaAbove: For a similar look, the Biscayne Wire Chair is $490 at Iron Accents.

700_foras-1-hydrangea-gardenistaAbove: For the beds, Welti chose plants–boxwood clipped into balls, Solomon’s seal, Russian sage, Mexican feather grass, and hydrangeas– that would co-exist harmoniously and stand up to heat.

Above: To shape boxwood, consider Topiary Trimming Shears by Burgon and Ball; available in two sizes, for $23 or $44.75, from Garden Tool Co.


Above: Hydrangea ‘All Summer Beauty’ will bloom blue in acidic soil, pink in alkaline. It’s $18.95 at Wayside Gardens. Image via Wilkerson Mills.

Above: For modern inspiration, Welti turned to Russell Page’s The Education of a Gardener, first published in 1962. (N.B.: A 2007 paperback edition is $14.71 from Amazon.) “In the book, he daydreams about his ideal property, which he describes as a workmanlike space with a series of geometric beds, so he can experiment easily and practically,” Welti says. “I have always loved that passage.” So have we.

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