An all-green refuge in the city



Here’s some eye candy for a late summer afternoon. There are several gardens I admire that have little or no flowers in them and this is one.

The owner, Brad Wales, is an architect who is the middle of renovating a house immediately in front of the garden and also owns the storefront and loft immediately in front of the house. So this little space, behind the two buildings, provides a cool breather in a very urban setting.


Wales planned the garden to include only herbs and other useful plants, though he has kept two large old-fashioned climbing roses (white). They bloom once in early summer. (I have to research them next time they’re in bloom; it’s impossible to tell now.) Wales has added a creeping thyme bed, some holly, some sweet woodruff and a variety of other plants as well as placed paving stones, built a stone wall (unfortunately not visible here), and designed and built the fence. We are discussing what he should grow on the fence; he’d prefer something edible.


I really admire what Wales has done with this tiny space; I will never be able to restrict myself in this way, but it’s interesting to see what happens when a minimalist is loose in the garden.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. That is a great looking garden. Urban gardens contending with lots of shade often have this kind of cool green oasis feel.
    Since I refuse to live in a home without a least a couple of large old trees (all else is secondary) open sunny areas are at a premium.
    So I have first hand knowledge of how much cooler and more calm this sort of garden can be along a city street.
    This site has
    Information and links to studies about possible energy savings .

    Several investigators have
    documented dramatic (30 – 50%)
    differences in cooling-energy use
    between houses on landscaped
    and un-landscaped sites (Akbari, 2002).

    The ambient air temperature difference
    between an urban heat island and
    a vegetated area can be as much as
    2-10 degrees F.

    The temperature measured directly
    above man-made surfaces can be as
    much as 25 degrees F hotter than
    the air temperature beneath
    a forested area
    (Akbari et. al., 1992; Simpson and McPherson, 1996).

    Research reports savings of between
    10 and 15 per cent on winter heating
    costs thanks to trees acting as
    windbreaks, and cooling cost reductions
    of between 20 and 50 per cent in
    summer due to shade and cooling through
    evapotranspiration (Heisler, 1986).

  2. At this time of the year, I would love to have just one little area of my garden like this to use as a retreat. So restful and calming and cool.

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