Rooftop Gardens: The Terraces, Conservatories, and Balconies of New York (Rizzoli New York, $45) by Denise LeFrak Calicchio and Roberta Model Amon with photography by Norman McGrath
In New York, the rooftop garden is a bit of urban heaven, an oasis high above the noise and grime of the city, a bright island of green in an ocean of concrete. Denise LeFrak Calicchio and Roberta Model Amon’s Rooftop Gardens is garden porn for those who wistfully daydream of indulging their every horticultural whim amid the skyscrapers – and inspiration for those who actually have access to a rooftop space and aren’t quite sure what do to with it. Rooftop Gardens balances flawlessly this juxtaposition of the haves and the have-nots.
Gardens is introduced by Evelyn H. Lauder, who writes of her own rooftop garden experi- ence pruning and tending plants early in the morning in a garden free of groundhogs and squirrels (a distinct perk of the urban terrace). Gardenless herself, Dominique Browning, the former editor in chief of the now defunct House & Garden, recounts craning her neck upward, itching to catch just a single blade of grass from a garden in the sky.
In each verdant chapter, extraordinary spaces abound: a breathtaking terrace remi- niscent of a rural cottage; a garden with an exotic twist-artifacts from Thailand, Burma and China; an impeccable 42-foot-by-20-foot Japanese garden with weeping cherry trees and a stone tsukubai, or water basin, with a bamboo spout.
Far from merely a green appendage, gardens fulfill the universal longing of nearly every New Yorker – more square footage. In fact, Calicchio and Amon refer to rooftop gardens as “a direct extension of the interior: outdoor living in an urban context,” like a French country getaway in Manhattan, with an inviting terrace surrounded by boxwood hedges, a bistro-style dining area and uphol- stered outdoor lounges replete with pillows and cushions. Gasp at a modern terrace that combines the elements of water, air, fire and the Greek element ether, considered by ancient Greeks to be the “pure upper air that the gods breathed,” which is in fact the perfect description for a Manhattan outdoor space.
The most coveted feature of a rooftop garden for those breathing that godly “upper air”? Undoubtedly the view of the mortal city below. The authors offer readers a voyeuristic view from the Time Warner Center, a Park Avenue perch replete with red maples and a perfectly mowed grass lawn – with a perfect view of the Great Lawn – on Central Park West.
Rooftop Gardens is a jewel because Calicchio and Amon let Norman McGrath’s photographs carry it, as they should. Unparalleled are McGrath’s photographic accounts of the sought-after outdoor space that is a rooftop garden. Not pictured? The status that comes with.