Brook Klausing takes a break on his rooftop garden in Brooklyn. (photo by Dominick Volini)

The more I design, the more I want people to interact with nature by slowing down. We look for visual awe without taking the time to engage with a space. But it’s the environments we can’t manufacture that provide moments of unexpected joy. A successful garden should make you feel comfortable enough to lose track of time. It’s like getting lost in a conversation with something or someone beautiful that consumes and cultivates your attention.

There are many ways that space can influence feeling. Garden design is about knowing how you want to feel when you enter that moment. I often stop in the middle of a consultation and defer to instinct. Gardens aren’t about filling up spaces like garages—they are there to remind us that no matter how much we have been conditioned to worship and surround ourselves with the material of men, it’s life surrounding us, as it grows, it’s mother nature in real time reacting to its environment. She, beautifully, was there far before we started tending our boxes and using her to make our spaces more peaceful.


Sketches from Brook’s notebooks.

Here are some thoughts on cultivating your outdoor space:

  1. Think of your space as a sculpture that will continually evolve. Allow for creative moments and movement.
  2. Find the best balance by playing on the existing foundation. Borrow and build ideas off the landscape you inherit.
  3. Before you create or add, always ask, “Is it essential and necessary?”—and, equally important, “Does it function in my life?”
  4. Make sure your eyes move easily through a space while certain areas should hold your attention longer. This could be the best view beyond the immediate space, or creating a point of interest within a smaller space.
  5. Loosen up; overgrown can be cool, especially in an urban environment.
  6. Meanwhile, tighten up; structure often looks good in rural areas.
  7. And then, quiet down. It’s okay to not make everything shout, “Look at me!”
  8. Too much contrast in color, texture or form makes the entire space look overly busy. Play with slight variances in these areas to create harmony and less drastic transitions.
  9. Plant some things in the ground and others in pots, so the whole looks more permanent and considered.
  10. Just have fun gardening. There may be some casualties along the way, but don’t quit. After all, everything in a garden can breath new life again and again…

Brook Klausing is founder of Brook Landscape.  


Brook in his garden.