Vest Pocket Garden

Landscape in Oyster Bay

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About the Project

The residence is the home of a multi-generational family- the clients, their adult children and an elderly parent. Situated on a busy street, most of the property not occupied by the house and garage has been built upon. Extensive paving facilitates off-street parking (which is prohibited by town ordinance). The property is long and narrow and has an almost urban feeling.

This area was small – measuring 40’ x 30’. Although the amount of space would have some limitation on the physical aspects of the garden, space constraints alone would not determine its success, limit its beauty or usefulness. We saw the space as an opportunity to develop a “vest pocket garden”- a recreational room within a green sanctuary. Its development would provide half of the rooms in the house with something they never had before – a view into a garden, which would expand the perception of space in the rear yard. Since the typical bones of most gardens- such as existing trees or large stones or other natural elements were absent, we opted to man-make the features for this garden.

The family now parks their cars and is directed towards a handsome entry gate situated within a stone wall with a bluestone cap and lattice screening. Climbing Hydrangea, Liriope and Astilbe ‘Pumila’ under plant the wall, softening its appearance and providing all season color and interest. The details on the lattice screening correspond to the details on the entry gate and offer a continuous “wall” treatment (inside and out) for the outdoor room.

Before the Renovation


Once inside the “vest pocket garden”, a large aisle accommodates pedestrian traffic to the entry door and circular stairway. The view of asphalt paving from within the garden has been obscured by the wall and lattice. The wall binds and focuses the space and also serves as retaining for a slight change in elevation. Under planting the wall by the circular stairway is Lagerstroemia indica, Hydrangea, Spirea and Hosta for seasonal color, contrasting foliage and winter interest.

An expansive bluestone terrace functions as a conversation area with ample room for additional seating when entertaining without crowding. It terminates at a retaining wall which runs parallel to the property line and doubles as a seat wall when the occasion requires it. As in most typical vest pocket parks, the furniture can be moved about. Plantings of Lagerstroemia, Hydrangea, Hemerocallis ‘Happy Returns’, Echinacea ‘White Star’, Liriope and Prunus ‘Schipkaensis’ along the property line nestle in the terrace.

Further definition is provided to the outdoor space by a pergola, composed of Ipe, a durable hardwood harvested from sustainably managed tropical forests. Light and shadow from the pergola play on the surface of the terrace which influence the character of the space while imparting dappled shade and relief from the sun. The columns on the terrace repeat the original design detail at the entry door. Ipe was also incorporated into the top rail of the lattice screening, to tie in with the Pergola.

After the renovation

By employing those architectural elements typically found in the interior spaces of homes such as walls, ceilings, and flooring within the garden, we married the house to the garden. They work together to give the “vest pocket garden” purpose, character and expression. The condensed space brings all the plants into sharper focus. The family can be found frequently outdoors, sitting and relaxing; enjoying a cup of coffee, a beautiful day or reading the paper. The garden is a link to nature and respite from the lifeless, asphalt jungle.

After the Renovation

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