A FEW YEARS BACK, this 25’x30′ Brooklyn Heights backyard was basically a dog run, with a broken stone patio and a canopy of ailanthus trees.
Now, with the help of garden designer Nigel Rollings, who teaches the popular Urban Garden Design course at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, it’s a verdant oasis on several levels, with one bold, theatrical stroke: a circular wall fountain.
On September 11, 2001, this space was covered in ash and debris. Soon after, the homeowners called Nigel and asked him to create a “healing garden” with a dining area, water feature, and seasonal flowers.
He chose a circle for the unusual 12-foot-diameter wall fountain because it’s a universal symbol of unity and healing, and it complemented an existing, gracefully arching Japanese maple.
Raised beds diagonally bisect the space, making it appear larger. “Hanging gardens” vertically extend planting space on either side of the fountain, with cascading mandevilla, fuchsia hybrid ‘Autumnale,’ ipomoea ‘Blackie’ (sweet potato vine), and abutilon.
There’s a ‘bistro deck’ big enough for two outside the kitchen door, with a box for culinary herbs built into the railing.
Plantings are in wet and dry zones. Astilbes, cimicifuga, huechera, and long-blooming annuals like coleus (about $2,000 worth each season) are drip-irrigated. The central bed and terrace garden flanking the waterfall are filled with drought-tolerant annuals like Algerian ivy and liriope.
Shrubs, including oak leaf hydrangea, Japanese plum yew, and bridesmaid mountain laurel are living screens and space definers.
During excavation of the old patio, workers discovered an archaic food storage chamber, possibly native American. Once uncovered, long-dormant fern spores sprouted there. It’s now covered by a thick piece of plexiglass and lit at night, adding a mysterious dimension to the garden.