Garden Consultation

Harlem Garden

COVID-Update: I am consulting and designing remotely, for gardeners near and far. If you are a New York City restaurant owner I am offering free one-hour consults about weather-hardy plants  and their cultivation-requirements for your outdoor seating.

For details please email me at myviljoen(at)gmail (dot) com.

Gardens are a place to retreat, to celebrate, to sit alone, to eat a quiet supper. A sanctuary where you decompress, or laugh with friends. They can be a living pantry. And gardens can be inspiring teachers. If you would like a garden and do not know where to begin, I can help you. And if your garden is making you cry and pull your hair out, well, I might be able to help with that, too. 

Cobble Hill

My own gardens, in diverse New York City spaces, have been the joy of my life. And that is why I love conjuring up gardens for others. Outdoor space, no matter how small, is a privilege and we should make the most of it. 

                                                      Carroll Gardens

While I have designed dozens of gardens for clients, my own have been created from bare bones on three very different terraces and in one big backyard. They have been retreats as well as living laboratories, where I learn about the plants I now write about. I understand first-hand what challenges gardeners face, from microclimate to weight restrictions, to soil problems, and dollar-constraints. I know (and love) plants. I have even killed some. It happens, and it is instructive.

My focus now is on coaching new gardeners by providing them with a schematic design, detailed plant lists, container dimensions (where necessary), care guidelines, and then setting them loose - with guidance - to do their own shopping and implementation (although if you prefer the work to be done professionally, I can help project manage that aspect). I find working with people who want to be in their gardens, and who want to interact with them - rather than have them as an impersonal but perfect backdrop, like meaningless investment art - very rewarding.

And it is the garden that really rewards the gardener, giving back more than what we put in.

My gardens have ranged from the first, tiny 66 square feet that inspired this blog and my first book, to a roomy 1,000 square feet. They have seen morning sun, all-day blazing rooftop sun, wind, deep shade, building shade, and lead in the soil. They have thrived. Gardening is exhilarating, never dull, and always therapeutic.

When designing gardens for others, my personal and professional experience give me the insight and perspective to ask the right questions, to give informed answers, and to manage expectations. I know what plants work where. I don't know everything! That's not possible. Every garden situation is truly unique and the garden itself is usually the best teacher. There will be failures, and they will be instructive.


Cosmopolitan flower gardens, native woodland courtyards, and pollinator-friendly plantings, are all city possibilities.


Would you like to grow your own salads? Or unusual indigenous edibles? Perhaps you'd like a truly American kitchen garden. How about a serviceberry orchard on the 17th floor (and what is a serviceberry, anyway?)? Or do you prefer blueberries?


Maybe you just like lilies. Or have always wanted your own city forest.


You may have full shade or full sun, or bits of both. High shade or deep shade.  Dappled shade. It all makes a very big difference to what and how you can plant.


What I do: Assess your available space in terms of aspect and micro-climate: sun, shade, challenges specific to your site (such as deep shade pockets, orientation with regards to winter winds), and advise on which plants might do well, and where to find them.


While on-the-spot suggestions in an hour-long consultation can be helpful, I love to provide schematic designs, plant lists, and seasonal care outlines. Good gardens require good planning.


Finally, I offer practical coaching: how to plant, how to water. It seems simplistic, but the number one cause of plant death is user error. Understand the plant and its needs, and the gardening battle is won.

Rates upon inquiry.

Please get in touch at myviljoen (at) gmail (dot) com

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