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Landscaping Your Outdoor Space Whether in a Penthouse or on a First Floor

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A private outdoor space is a rare and coveted luxury in Manhattan. It's no wonder that so many house hunters (including myself), have outdoor space at the top of their must-have list. My last four apartments have had outdoor spaces, of all different shapes, sizes, and exposures. My penthouse on 17th street was the biggest, but what was interesting was how it was situated.

Because there were no buildings directly in front of the terrace, there was almost always a breeze, even though it was southern exposure, which is the hottest. The breeze was a joy, as opposed to another penthouse I had on 15th street which faced south as well and was always so hot, it was hard to be outside. Each required completely different plantings, different amounts of water and different watering schedules. Recently, I was speaking with a talented landscape designer named Bonnie Billet and she clued me in to a few things. When landscaping your outdoor space, there are several things to consider. Which direction are you facing? Are there other buildings blocking sunlight or airflow? This will help you determine what kind of plants to use.

Plants have individual specifications; you must know which plants need shade and which need lots of direct light. If you are planting trees and putting flowers in the base, the trees will be creating shade, so you must be aware of that as well. Some examples of sun loving plants are Roses, Daisies & Junipers. Plants like Hydrangea, Hostas, and ferns need shade. You also want to buy planters a little bit bigger so the root system has room to grow. If the plants get too big for the planters and aren't transplanted, they'll become stunned and eventually die.

Planters come in a variety of materials, shapes and sizes. There are wood planters, terra-cotta, glazed clay, plastic, stone, metal, wrought iron, I could go on. Fiber glass planters are the most recommended with the longest life or medal. With proper maintenance, a fiber glass planter will basically last forever. When choosing planters for your outdoor space, you must be aware if your terrace has weight restrictions, as metal is a lot heavier than fiber glass.

Wood planters are a good choice, fairly light and have a life span of five to eight years. If you're going the wood route, it's better to have someone build them for you as opposed to buying them in the store. They will be just as expensive, but last longer. Just keep in mind, if you are going to be moving them around a lot, their life span will decrease.

Lastly, I feel like if you're going to spring for anything, it should be an irrigation system. This is a must! Most people tell themselves they will be CONSISTANT with watering, but the truth is: It rarely happens. You might go on vacation or away for a long weekend or simply forget with the thousands of other things you constantly have to remember to do... or you might be watering too much or too little and if the temperature reaches 90-100 degrees (which we all know it does in NYC around July/August) your plants and trees will be feeling that effect while you're chilling in the AC. So an irrigation system is a must, if you want to maintain a beautiful garden.

So, whether you've got a professional landscaper or you're doing it yourself, getting the most from your outdoor space simply requires a little thought and careful planning. Considering how much light you have available will give you healthy, happy plants. Choosing the right planters and setting up an irrigation system ensures that your fabulous outdoor space will be low maintenance and around for years to come. I'm certainly looking forward to another spring and summer outdoors. If you have any questions about your specific terrace or private outdoor space, I'd be happy to help, leave a comment or email toni@elliman.com.