COVID-Update: Until lockdown is lifted, I am consulting and designing remotely. For details please email me at myviljoen(at)gmail (dot) com.
I love plants and I love gardens. My own New York City gardens have been created from very bare bones in four very different spaces: three terraces (the one above was in Harlem), and one big backyard.
But I grew up far away, in South Africa, where my love of plants began in my mother's two gardens (there is a good chance I gardened before I spoke). In my childhood garden in Bloemfontein (cold winters, hot, rainy summers) I learned to grow plants from seeds and bulbs, and later, as a teenager in a new Cape Town garden (dry summers, wet winters), I created my first design - a herb garden for my mom. I have always loved edible and useful plants.
Fast forward to living in New York, where I worked at a garden center for two years while recovering from whooping cough (I was an opera singer then, and coughing and singing were a bad combination). In New York I learned a new plant language and fell in love with native flora. And I learned to design rooftop gardens. I never went back to opera. Instead, I moved on to a garden design-build firm where I became the head of design, seeing through the creation of new gardens from planning and designing stages, to plant buying and practical implementation.
Since then I have designed dozens of gardens for New Yorkers, ranging from expansive penthouse rooftops to intimate and shade-shrouded courtyards.
My own gardens have ranged from tiny (the now-iconic 66 square feet!) to roomy (1,000 square feet). They have seen morning sun, all-day blazing rooftop sun, deep shade, building shade, and lead in the soil. They have thrived, and I survived. 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 and to give informed answers. 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!
I believe gardens are to be lived in. I can help show you how.
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.
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 via my Contact page.