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Perspective: 10 Classic Layouts That Enhance The Highlight Of The Townhouse Garden

Small space, infinite possibilities. Behind every city townhouse lies a garden. Some are long and narrow, others short and squat. No matter the size, a well-designed garden is an oasis in a city (especially in August.)

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Here are 10 classic layouts to accommodate dining, lounging, and play in a townhouse garden.

Three-Part Harmony

In London, a typically long and narrow garden is split up into three separate areas to create a sense of spaciousness. “Steps of painted concrete with brick lead from the area by the back door up to the garden proper,” writes Kendra. “The stairs are a focal point in themselves and support tubs of salad leaves and tumbling tomatoes in summer. A tree fern also adds to the sense that this lower part of the garden is not just a preamble for the rest.”

Clean, Simple, and Low-Maintenance

In Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, New Eco Landscapes designed a clean and simple backyard, “laid with local bluestone pavers that require nothing more than an occasional sweep with a broom,” writes Barbara. Besides the shrubs, the beds are planted with drought-tolerant blue carpet juniper and Hollywood juniper; ground cover of ajuga and pine-bark mulch keeps the weeds down. The long cedar bench on the right has a row of spring-loaded lids that allow easy access to store cushions and other gear.”

A Stairway to Heaven

A staircase seamlessly links a second-floor deck to a ground-level garden in Brooklyn’s Flatbush neighborhood. Designer Brook Klausing designed a new deck and staircase made of steel with ipe decking and stair treads. “We had to put in a concrete pillar big enough to support a four-story building,” he says “Literally when we were digging the holes for the foundation, the city required an engineer be there to supervise.”

Double-Duty Retaining Walls

Garden designer Lindsey Taylor (a Gardenista contributor) created inviting spaces for dining and lounging in a Brooklyn garden, specifying retaining walls be built to a height just right for guests to perch on.

A Study in Symmetry

The reason this Brooklyn backyard 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).

A Shady Story

Designers Anishka Clarke and Niya Bascom of Brooklyn-based Ishka Designs work with instead of against a big, preexisting Japanese maple tree that cast dense shade over a Crown Heights garden. “We liked the idea of creating contrast, with the very organic shape of this off-center tree and a uniform paver and stone patio,” says Clarke.

Two-Family Privacy

On the ground floor of a Brooklyn townhouse is a rental apartment. To provide privacy for both tenants and landlords, garden designer and Gardenista contributor Lindsey Taylor created soft screening with lightweight fiberglass boxes planted with Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’.

Mini Woodlands

“Located on a quiet block in Brooklyn, the brownstone was designed so the entire back wall, on both the parlor and ground floors, opens to the yard,” writes Lindsey Taylor. For more, see Garden Visit: At Home in Brooklyn Heights with Artists Maria Robledo and Holton Rower.

Backyard Play

In Manhattan’s West Village Alison Cayne eliminated a grade change in her backyard to create a garden that’s equally able to accommodate her son’s basketball-playing friends or 45 for dinner (and there’s even a boules court).

Slatted Shade Pergola

Sean Lewis and Jesse Terzi, partners in Brooklyn’s New Eco Landscapes, designed a cantilevered wooden pergola to shade the dining table and define the space in a townhouse garden in Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill neighborhood.

Lovely garden | Contemporary garden design, Small garden design, Garden  design

If you’re designing a new garden or rehabbing an existing landscape, get started with tips and inspiration from our curated guides to Garden Design 101. From Shrubs: A Field Guide to our design guide to Decks & Patios, we’ve got growing and design tips tailored to your climate. Read more about landscape design for townhouses and city gardens.

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