The Lucky Gardener


Here is another garden transformation we completed in Brooklyn, NY as part of the HGTV series, Urban Outsiders. G. biloba Gardens, my landscape Design/Build company, was hired as construction contractor for six episodes of the series.

Because of the production schedule, we had only 6 days to complete the entire renovation.

This space, about 8′ deep  x  25′ long, is in Brooklyn Heights, along the Promenade.

Bare concrete walls and a concrete slab floor was the view the new owners inherited.

A simple and cozy design, by show host Matt James, changed the mood from alley way to Mediterranean.

The view of the back of the space shows a sitting wall and built-in cedar storage.

Snow What?
March 24, 2011, 16:11
Filed under: garden design, masonry, patios, snow pattern

The joy of Spring was put on hold yesterday as a mild snow storm made its way through our neighborhood, dropping 2 very un-welcome inches on our hopes for a quick season change.

Luckily, snow falling on warming soil doesn’t last very long and this storm followed that pattern mercifully.

The snow did provide some short-lived thrills to those lucky enough to get out to see it. Being one of those ‘Lucky’ few, I was treated to some images of melting snow interacting with the gardens and structures around my studio.

Can you guess what you’re looking at from the first photo? Maybe the second?

Meet Tom
March 23, 2011, 15:21
Filed under: garden design, Wild Turkey

I was awakened from my midday office snooze by a haunting call of the wild. Though absent from the property since last Spring, the sound was immediately familiar to me. Mating season had come for Wild Turkeys, and this big Tom Turkey was looking for his women.

Seeing me through the windows of my office literally got his feathers all ruffled up. He did his macho-bird dance to stare me down in this impromptu face-off. A staring contest ensued, and I, playing the dominant yet compassionate card, blinked first giving him his victory and a swelled pride to match his dramatic feather display.

Normally a flock of 13 or so wild turkeys inhabit the woods around the office. Common sightings of the flock squawking across a road, or sleeping in trees (yes, these weird birds can actually fly) throughout the summer definitely add to the fun observing local fauna.

The gobbles, clucks, yelps and cackles of the turkeys is most associated with Thanksgiving, but these, our native Turkeys, do their dancing in the Spring.

Quick Change, Artist (ically)


A few years ago, I was hired as Construction Contractor for a British Production Company doing a gardening show for HGTV, called “Urban Outsiders”, in Brooklyn, New York. The show’s premise was that host Matt James, a well-respected gardening expert/columnist in Britain, would come to the States and transform horrendous-looking city backyards into places of beauty and calm for their distressed owners. We did 6 episodes, 4 in Brooklyn and 2 in Manhattan.

Urban Outsiders, Brooklyn New York – Jon with Crew (above)

Show host, Matt James, with Jon (below)

Before and After’ pictures are always fascinating, so here are some of the gardens we built for the show. More to follow.

(Before, above) A typical backyard chosen for the show

(After, below) Magical transformation of the space

Spring Has Sprung
March 10, 2011, 12:58
Filed under: Uncategorized, Wild Turkey

All of a sudden, the snow is gone and our gardens are coming alive. Warmer weather and heavy rains have washed all but the most stubborn patches of the snow away. The air smells rich in life, delicious humidity replacing the dry crackling atmosphere in which we’ve been subjected for so long.

My first walk in the yard since New Years, surveying the damage and debris left in the wake of a severe winter, I was drawn to the flower beds and the sight of the earliest spring-flowering bulbs appearing through the mulch. Probably two days from opening fully, the first color from Crocus, Snow Drops and Winter Aconite flowers (see below) made me smile.

The Hellebores, this one known as The Lenten Rose’ couldn’t have picked a better time to start its flower cycle. Lent started yesterday and the light green tips of 2011 growth just appeared. The plants will flower for a month or more, then spend the rest of the season offering unusual foliage and seed heads.

Daffodil tips also appeared, showing the telltale sign of late season snow cover, a band of yellow on the leaves where the bulbs were hidden by snow from what little bit of sun we’ve had. The green upper section of leaves were able to make the chlorophyll to ‘go green’, by being clear of it.