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Can-Do Design Ideas From 8 City Gardens

Urban gardens may have started as a way to link us to our rural roots, but we now can turn to the cities themselves for garden inspiration. Designers and gardeners are creating spaces that are doing more than just replacing asphalt with plants — they're bringing communities together, providing habitats for migrating birds, and housing vegetables on city skyscrapers. See how the eight urban gardens below are energizing efforts even beyond the city streets.
1. Keep things simple. Landscape designer Matthew Cunningham designed this Boston courtyard using three hardscape materials and limited his planting to two main plants. Use its simplicity as inspiration for your garden, regardless of size. By maintaining a focused palette, the design is cohesive, and garden maintenance is much more streamlined.

See more of this Boston courtyard
2. Grow edibles by an outdoor table. This sunken dining area is a former rooftop pool. In addition to enjoying panoramic New York views, diners can savor meals made with the herbs and vegetables grown here. You can't get much more local than that.

See more of this urban pool farm
3. Grow up. MFO Park, in Zurich, Switzerland, has paving, seating and plants layered all in the same footprint — space saving and efficient, not to mention elegant. Even when space isn't a constraint, you don't need to limit yourself to the ground plane; think up.

See more of this vertical park
4. Let the views inspire you. This modern trellis in New York's Chelsea neighborhood was inspired by the surrounding industrial water towers. Look around you for ideas from your own cityscape. You may see a detail to bring into your own garden, resulting in a more meaningful and lasting design.

See more of this rooftop
5. Join forces. Built and designed by local volunteers, Seattle's UpGarden transformed an unused parking structure into a thriving community garden. More important, it brought a neighborhood together through teamwork and cooperation.

See more of the UpGarden
6. Make the journey fun. When you're walking along New York City's High Line, it's easy to forget that this elevated park is also an urban thoroughfare. Native plantings and spaces to linger in make this more than a pedestrian path; it's a memorable journey.

See more of the High Line
7. Design for wildlife. Lisa Lee Benjamin has made it her mission to speak up and design for the bugs and birds. Through temporary garden installations and attractive urban habitats, Benjamin asks us to invite the animals back into our cities and gardens. Stack twigs, plant pollinator attractors and simply rethink who you're designing for.

Read more about Benjamin's Urban Hedgerow group
8. Know that beauty does not have to be expensive. It took little more than pea gravel, vertical pocket gardens, concrete planter bowls and a few concrete benches to convert this abandoned lot into an open, inviting area. Instead of quickly passing through, residents in Philadelphia's Point Breeze neighborhood now can linger among plantings and savor their coffee.

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