Name: Ryan (and Austin)
Location: Prospect Heights
Apartment Size: 900 sqft
Garden Size: 700 sqft
Favorite: The garden couch, found at a consignment store on Flatbush Avenue by Ryan, bargained for and approved for purchase by Austin
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Ryan and his roommate Austin rent a two bedroom garden apartment and think big. Three years ago they recognized that what laid bare just beyond their back door was about 2/3 the size of their apartment and should thus be recognized as an asset...
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There is only so much you can do to a rented apartment. "We're typical bachelors. A back garden is a place you want to be. It's exciting." explains Ryan.
So, instead of throwing an industrial scale electrical cable spool amidst some abandoned wicker chairs and buying a hibachi at K-Mart, they decided to take on a project of epic proportions requiring physical strength, landscaping skills, design savvy, horticultural accuracy, and the passion to make it through to the end.
"We did what we liked", explained Ryan. "It's stone, it's significant, it's more substantial, it gives you confidence." And if all those reasons don't resonate, Austin and Ryan are convinced that the garden is great for winning points with the ladies.
Each spring over the three year construction period, they learned some important lessons: gravel, small rocks and moss thrive where lawn grass does not, Japanese pear trees can't withstand migration from New Jersey to Brooklyn, furniture rots if kept outdoors, elements one cannot change can be camouflaged with ivy, and that impatients are the only thing that will grow in the shade.
But, now, in its third summer, the back yard serves as an al fresco dining room, den, grilling station, and entertainment space. Its intimacy is guaranteed by the fact that it is enclosed by 4 tall walls. The peaches fall gracefully from a sprawling tree and the night version of their extended home is just as enticing as its daytime splendor.
This is clearly one of the bigger jobs done by non-professionals to which AT has been privy. It is a labor of love and the love keeps flowing. Ryan and Austin are still weeding, sweeping, watering the plants, finding the perfect finishing accessories, and entertaining the ladies on a regular basis. It's not easily mimicked but the payoff might inspire nonetheless.
Originally posted August 31st, 2005