Garden Photo of the Day

Big Apple Roses

Claiming garden space in New York City

Today’s photos come from David Tillyer, who gardens in a very unusual space—a good reminder that if you don’t have space for a garden, you can almost always find somewhere to grow some beautiful plants! Planting roses in the middle of Manhattan has become his passion. This is what David had to say:

I’ve got some photos of my garden at the corner of 11th Avenue and 54th Street in Manhattan. I’m better at gardening than I am at photography, and I’m better at both of them than I am at sending masses of photos over the Internet. I started the garden on 11th Avenue in 2001 in an unused area of DeWitt Clinton Park. I asked permission to put a rose garden into what had been an impromptu dog run, and no one could think of a reason why I should not be allowed to do it, so I just began. I now have around 40 rose bushes in a plot that is 150 feet long by 18 feet wide. Parks officials leave me alone because … I don’t know why. I guess it means one area of a public park that they don’t have to worry about.

In 2001, this was an impromptu dog run at the corner of 11th Avenue and 54th Street in Manhattan.

The David Austin rose ‘Golden Celebration’ with Jackmanii clematis (Clematis ‘Jackmanii’, Zones 4–8).

The roses ‘Joseph’s Coat’, ‘Pink Simplicity’, and ‘Red Knockout’ against the unusual backdrop of a Jaguar dealership across the street.

The garden is surrounded by a beautiful wrought-iron fence. My guess is that the fence was installed in the 1930s. I cannot remember the name of the vine that climbs this street lamp every year.

Sometimes even the butterflies are a little raggedy on 11th Avenue.

‘Pink Simplicity’—this rose bush is about 17 years old.

Lucy, the poodle-mix rescue dog, is the only one who gets bored in the garden.

This beautiful fence makes a lovely space for a garden. It also keeps the garden orderly and keeps the general public out.


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View Comments


  1. user-7017435 06/05/2018

    Good morning David, You've made a terrific contribution to your neighborhood , good for you. Your story reminds me of a similar thing my mother in law did in Duluth Ga. Did you bring the cobbles & rock in that line the path ? Years ago the local newspaper ran an article about a bus driver who built a garden on an empty lot during the 15 min. layovers at the end of his route. Terrific work , good luck, Joe

    1. user-7047988 06/05/2018

      Yes, I got the cobble stone by hook and crook. Park workers have been very generous. When I first started, I had a nice guy who dropped off 3 or 5 or 10 stones whenever he came across them. I would do the same and I still do it. They really dress up a garden.

  2. User avater
    meander_michaele 06/05/2018

    Hi, David. What a wonderful story accompanied by wonderful photos. Besides the in person gift you've given to your fellow city dwellers, you've now given smiles to people throughout the world by braving the internet and sharing your pictures. I especially love the rose/clematis combo and the inclusion of Lucy in your life.

    1. user-7047988 06/05/2018

      Lucy, unlike me, gets bored in the garden. I had a German Shepherd a few years back who was perfectly happy to lie on the path and watch me work. But Lucy is a different dog.

  3. garden1953 06/05/2018

    What a great accomplishment! It is truly beautiful and even if the people walking by don't realize it, it lifts there spirits.

    1. garden1953 06/05/2018

      Sorry, it's their not there.

  4. User avater
    treasuresmom 06/05/2018

    Absolutely wonderful what you have done.

  5. Sunrosa 06/05/2018

    How lovely! And a great idea for gardening in a city. Im sure that garden is a blessing to many a weary soul. May your garden expand and grow! My favourites were the Simplicity rose and the rose and clematis combo!

    1. user-7047988 06/05/2018

      Gardening in the city is interesting. I have people who come by and express surprise that I plant a new garden each year.
      That's unusual, but some people who have been in the urban environment for all their lives are not familiar with such concepts as "perennials".

  6. Maggieat11 06/05/2018

    You have created a wonderful treasure! What a blessing you are!

  7. Maggieat11 06/05/2018

    You have created a wonderful treasure! What a blessing you are! Thank you for your fine work. And your photos are great!

  8. cheryl_c 06/05/2018

    David, what a loving and generous gift you have given to brighten a corner of the world for everybody to enjoy! Your photography does a wonderful job of showing your skills as a garden designer and plantsman! You have inspired all of us to be more generous in sharing the beauty of plants with our fellow human beings. Thank you!

  9. btucker9675 06/05/2018

    Roses beat concrete any day! What a lovely gift to the city!

  10. sheila_schultz 06/05/2018

    Your lovely gardens are the gifts that continue to bring smiles to the folks that are lucky enough walk by 11th and 54th. What a surprise they must be for the first time passerby! I wonder how many of those beautiful blooms have found their way to someone needing a unexpected gift, or a fragrant pick-me-up? You have done a fine thing for your neighbors, David.
    Oh, your photographs are perfect!!!

  11. Musette1 06/05/2018

    this is a stunning contribution to your neighborhood!

  12. [email protected] 06/05/2018

    Good Work! What a nice tale, and beautiful photos. Thanks!

  13. VikkiVA 06/06/2018

    Hi David, Love your story about your city garden and how one can always find a way to bring beauty to the world. The combination of roses and perennials is beautiful. Miss Lucy is adorable. Ironically, my father was raised at 611 llth Ave. He was born in NYC in 1922 and lived at that address until he joined the USN in the early 40's. My grandmother lived there until the 1950's. Thanks for sharing your part of the world.

  14. user-7047988 06/06/2018

    611 Eleventh is about two blocks down from the garden. We still call it Hell's Kitchen.

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