Williamsburg may be part of the concrete jungle, but there’s more to the neighborhood than meets the eye. Wind through the quiet residential spaces, and you’ll find that many residents have transformed concrete into garden beds and weeds into flowers.
On Saturday, September 15th, the Williamsburg Garden Walk gave the public a free tour of these gardens. Gardeners showed off previously-secluded plots, and visitors learned from their expertise. The event was sponsored by community institution, Crest Hardware and Urban Garden Center, which helped many of these gardens get off the ground.
“This is the first time we’ve done [the tour] and we hope to do it again next year,” said Regina Morrow of Crest Hardware. “Our neighbor [Heather Cross] next door came up with the brilliant idea of opening private gardens in the neighborhood for people to see.”
Morrow explained that Williamsburg residents normally don’t get a chance to see what their neighbors are growing. “We hope it’ll be a fun, educational experience. Plus, seeing gardens first-hand is a lot more fun than just reading about it on the internet,” she laughed. “It should be inspirational for people who are just new to gardening and looking for advice.”
Participants began the self-guided tour at Crest, where they received maps to the seven gardens:
Alex Aguilar’s Small Rooftop Garden (Alex Aguilar): Aguilar is an amateur gardener, and his rooftop garden is a 2 year project. “I maintain the garden myself. I’m just new at it, so I still have to ask for advice!” Aguilar chuckled. However, you’d assume he was a veteran green thumb, based on the lush variety and his innovative use of a cramped space (Having only a 14’ x 16’ area, Aguilar used many levels to grow more than 300 plants.) His rooftop garden was recently featured in the New York Times and Apartment Therapy.
The Ingenito Memory (Frank Ingenito): This oasis is right next door to Aguilar’s. In fact, veteran horticulturist Frank Ingenito is a main source of advice for his neighbor. The courtyard garden features Greco-Roman influences and lots of sun. Ingenito explained that the house has been in his family for generations, and the garden is in memory of them. “I’ve gotten a lot of inspiration from my trips to Italy,” he added, pointing out the fountains.
Gotham Garden (Heather Cross): Heather’s garden, located right over the fence from Crest features flowers and edible plants. The huge, sun-lit space provides plenty of room for both to grow. Cross, who originally began the garden with her husband, said she is indebted to the folks at Crest for their advice and “the occasional foster plant.”
Adam Jacobs’ Garden: Adam Jacobs’ garden features a wide-open space with a grassy yard. “Everything’s temporary right now, since the condo development [occurring across the street] will block some sunlight,” he stated. Though the development is unfortunate, standing amongst his backyard’s greenery offers visitors a sense that the construction is far removed.
Brad Hurtado and Sean Martin Hingston Residence: Hurtado and Hingston tend to a garden in their smaller front patio and spacious back patio. “It’s kind of secret garden, and people really get a kick out of it when we show them,” Hingston said. The garden also features a fountain created with an eighteenth century French zinc bathtub, adding an exotic flair.
The Clubhouse Garden (Melissa Bateson and Jesse Untracht Oakner): According to Bateson, this small, secluded garden is a communal space to which she loves bringing friends. “It really does feel like a clubhouse,” Bateson said, and the fact that visitors must climb through the kitchen window to reach the garden increases that mood. “This was once a trash pit, then we added a bamboo fence and just went from there,” Bateson explained.
Greenery Garden (Rebecca Bullene): Though a communal space, the Greenery Garden feels like a miniature version of the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. The garden is tended by a professional gardener and takes up an entire double-wide lot. It features a huge variety of flowers and edible plants. “It’s an experimental ground for a lot of different plants,” said Bullene, “as well as a place to hang out or entertain.”
Gardening in urban areas like Williamsburg presents unique challenges that those in the tour were able to overcome. “Most people who live in Williamsburg actually aren’t from here, so this gives them a chance to learn what it’s like to garden here,” explained Morrow. “Hopefully the walk inspired them!”
For ideas on how to get your own patch started, visit Crest Hardware and Urban Garden Center at 588 Metropolitan Avenue or online at www.CrestHardwareNYC.com.
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