Green Skies

Photo: Thomas Loof

Before plotting out a penthouse garden in Manhattan, there are a few key things to consider: Which escapist fantasy do you want to indulge? (Tuscan? Californian? Faux-Amazonian?) And what grows well up there, anyway? For his Tribeca duplex, which has 360-degree views, Giorgio DeLuca, of Dean & DeLuca fame, has activated several fantasies at once. On the eastern side is a miniature formal garden—vaguely recalling a villa outside Rome or in Beverly Hills—with four quadrants of grass that he mows once a week. It’s where he takes his morning coffee. On the western side (not shown) is a more forested area, with birches hanging over a dining table. Throughout, landscape architect Edmund Hollander, who worked with DeLuca on his East Hampton cottage (which he has since sold, now preferring to summer downtown), favored arboreal survivors. “Rooftops tend to have similar environments to that of beach landscapes—sunny, windy, and salty,” he says. “The wind off the ocean is not that different in its impact on plants than the salts from the pollution in the urban air. So, many plants that do well at the beach do well here.” Hence the Hollywood junipers behind the rosebushes. “We have found it to be the single toughest evergreen plant that exists on the face of the Earth that will grow in New York City,” Hollander says excitedly. “They laugh at all the environmental elements you throw at them.”

The bird
Not a live pigeon, but a lead dove, imported from Italy.

The planters
They’re redwood, with a minimum of 30 inches of soil. “One of the problems on roof decks is how to get enough soil for the plants to live for an extended period of time,” says Hollander.

The Hollywood junipers
The sturdy trees “require almost no care.” On the other side of the roof, some provide a privacy shield for an outdoor shower.

The baby petunias
“They’ve done so much work hybridizing petunias that these ones”—called Supertunias—“will bloom through Thanksgiving. But fertilize them every two weeks. They love that.”

The awning
From Acme.

The topiary Spartan junipers
From Chelsea Nursery.

The automatic irrigation system
Part of it runs beneath the lawn, using perforated drip tubing to provide hydration.

The lawn mower
It’s an electric GrassMasters Lawn Pup from Brazil. DeLuca, above, finds mowing a nice break from restaurateuring (he owns Giorgione, and is due to open Giorgione 508 on Greenwich Street in September).

The roses
One is called Fairy, the other Seafoam. “Both are low-maintenance shrub roses that will bloom for four or five months.”

The grass
“In a limited area we lay down sod. To seed a little bit of lawn like that would take forever.”

Green Skies