Citybiz interviewed fine gardeners, founder Susan Sipos and partner Ben Magro of Gardens of Distinction, a full-service design and landscaping firm based in NYC.
1. Tell us your name, your title, and how you got started with Gardens of Distinction. You’re welcome to add a fun fact we might not know about you, too.
Susan: My name is Susan Sipos, and I’m the founder of Gardens of Distinction. My love of gardening and my most important lessons about it were taught to me by my grandmother starting at the age of 3. Her passion for all things green inspires me to this day.
Ben: My name is Ben Magro, and I’m a partner of Gardens of Distinction. You might not know that I started gardening in high school for chores, which turned into something more exciting. I also really love working with vining and climbing plants, just on a personal note.
2. Let’s introduce your first garden. Where is it located, when should I visit, and what will I see? Also, why is this spot a “must-see” garden?
Susan: The first garden we’ll detail is Jefferson Market Garden in Greenwich Village. This garden has morphed quite a bit over time. The community established it as a public green space in the 1970s, and it’s now known as one of the first established community gardens in Manhattan.
Ben: From the gate, you can see a variety of evergreens and native trees. Seeing them outline the Garden — it’s a wonderful sight to check out.
Susan: The Garden offers 4 seasons of visual interest. Trees and shrubs offer winter silhouettes followed by 10,000 blooming spring flowers. The summer display of flowers, roses, and other blooming plants delights the visitor. We are also a stop for many migrating birds!
3. Now, let’s get into your second garden! Where is it located, when should I visit, and what will I see? Again, why is this spot a “must-see” garden?
Ben: Our second garden one should visit is St. Luke’s in the fields Garden. It’s a beautiful spot with many benches to sit down on and lots of old architecture throughout the grounds. Another interesting feature of this garden is a Virginia Creeper which stands three stories high!
Susan: We designed it as an English-inspired garden with different plantings around every corner. We eliminated the lawn, so the garden’s much more diverse visually than it used to be. The main garden space is located behind a brick wall which makes it feel very private. It’s a great space to read a book, reflect, and sit in a quiet space.
4. Finally, let’s talk about your third garden. Where is it located, when should I visit, and what will I see? What makes your garden a good spot to check out in New York?
Susan: Abingdon Square Park is located in the far West Village and it’s a very different greenspace. It has 3 entrances, so people move in and through it. Benches line the beds, so the visitor's line of vision is enhanced by the plantings. We treat this very public park as a private garden space. Yes, this involves a lot more tending, but the results are a plethora of beauty that normally wouldn't be experienced by the visitor or person walking through the space.
Ben: It’s gratifying to watch people pause to smell or look at the plantings.
5. We’ve already spoken about these three gardens that you’ve designed. Can you discuss how you specialize your horticulture of these gardens?
Susan: We try to keep our gardens well-nurtured and cared for, which is a feat in NYC. We maintain the space of the garden, but also maintain its ecosystem. We use only natural or organic products. Gardens are part of the wildlife society, and you have to work with each ecosystem individually.
Ben: With the spaces that we’ve mentioned, you have to design them with the future in mind and plan two seasons ahead. All three of these gardens have been planted with thousands of bulbs in the fall, which will come up in March or April.
Susan: There’s definitely a lot of magic happening beneath the surface – nature in the middle of Manhattan. It’s a privilege to work here.
6. How can nonprofits or clients get in touch with you or view your work? What’s your website?
Ben: If you’d like to contact us, check out our website for Gardens of Distinction. Thank you!
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