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A tropical garden in New York City? Es fantástico! This garden is focused on the specific needs of the clients, a family of three, to engage with the landscape. They gave me carte blanch when it came to the design of their outdoor space and I wanted to give them a hint of Cuba, a favorite vacation destination of theirs and where the husband, artist Carlos Mateu, hails from. Of course, creating a tropical garden in a north facing, semi-shaded yard, with a partial canopy from an 80 foot maple tree in the adjacent property, presented a bit of a horticulture challenge.


Through the judicious use of structural evergreens, sub-tropical and tropical looking temperate plants, a lush, vibrant, and colorful palette was achieved. Species used include cold hardy bananas, giant elephant ears, ornamental grasses, oak leaf hydrangeas, palms, and a variety of cannas, which are brought in to overwinter.


The gardens layout plays off of the existing iron deck on the first floor. Accessed by a spiral staircase, there are 2 separate seating areas linked by a serpentine stepping stone path. The first seating area off the path, takes its cue from the shape of the stair, with a brick floor laid out in a spiral pattern. Here, Adirondack chairs, in bright mango orange, help to create the perfect tropical lounge, complete with an adjacent landing pad that accommodates a coffee table in the summer which can convert to a fire-bowl for those cool, fall nights.


Continuing along the path, passing through a curtain of giant, 6 foot tall elephants ears, is the second seating area. Enclosed by wooden ties and with a combination gravel and stone floor, it is screened off from the rest of the property by the luxuriant foliage of 2 hardy banana trees, but still exposed to the sun - perfect for having a Café Cubano in the morning or a glass of wine and an intimate chat at dusk.

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