New Jersey is the famous Garden State—that population-dense East Coast treasure known for its natural splendor above all else. Who knows more about beautiful flora than green-thumbed denizens of Parsippany, Secaucus, or Ho-Ho-Kus? Nobody, probably. Many New Jersey residents feel the desire to dig their fingers into some dirt, plant a few seeds and watch flowers grow because, along with the coming warm weather, live flowers and greenery have serious mood-boosting power. They also have the ability to liven up almost any façade, and add appeal (and potentially value) to both urban and suburban properties. But, you can’t just slap a fern on your frontage and call it a day. Climate, placement, species, and, you know, how to actually keep the things alive all matter when considering landscaping and planting in urban settings.
What, and Where?
First things first, you’ve got to figure out what is best to plant. As much as you like roses, your desire for them to grow doesn’t mean they are going to grow, let alone thrive, on your small balcony space that gets very little sun but lots of brownish water dripping from the drain pipe above.
“My first question to a board would be, what kind of water system do you have?” notes John Occhipinti, president of Field of Dreams Landscaping in Hawthorne. “Are there areas that aren't irrigated? Because that's going to play a big part as to what flowers will thrive and do well.”
Should irrigation be of short supply, Occhipinti recommends Vinca flowers and lantana. “They're healthy plants, they grow beautifully, and they tolerate the drier weathers.” Were water to be readily available, he suggests impatiens, begonias, and zinnias. “They’ll do very well, and they’re a pretty colorful group of flowers.”
In more urban areas populated with taller buildings, open sunlight is a rarity, and water access can be consistently more difficult to come by than in the suburbs. “We see many spaces in our work that are closed-in, shady courtyard spaces that building residents would like to make lush gardens, but because there is little light and no reliable water access, it can be a challenge to meet those goals,” says Rebecca Bullene, founder of Greenery NYC, a plant garden design company.