Sources of Plants for Brooklyn Gardeners

Left to right: Gowanus Nursery, Liberty Sunset Garden Center, Chelsea Garden Center, and Brooklyn Terminal Market

Gowanus NurseryLiberty Sunset Garden CenterChelsea Garden Center, Red HookFlats and racks of annuals at Whitey Produce, Brooklyn Terminal Market

Just a timely pointer to my post from last year, Sources of Plants for Brooklyn Gardeners, May 24, 2007. Since Blogspot doesn’t give me any means of creating a standing topic page, I continue to keep that post up to date.

Related Posts

Liberty Sunset Garden Center, July 20, 2007
Brooklyn Terminal Market is NOT Closed, June 22, 2007
Chelsea Garden Center, June 16, 2007
Sources of Plants for Brooklyn Gardeners, May 24, 2007
Opening Day at Gowanus, March 31, 2007
A Visit to the Brooklyn Terminal Market, May, 2006

Governor’s Island: What Might Have Been

Governor’s Island, Detail, 1911 New York Dock Dock Company Lithograph
Governor's Island
When we bought our house about three years ago, one of the attractions was “old house romance.” The previous owner believed the house had been in her family since it was built in 1900. I’ve written previously about finding a 1911 lithograph of the New York Dock Company in the basement. Earlier this week, Peter Miller, the new owner of Freebird books in Columbia Waterfront/Red Hook, contacted me by email asking for permission to use one of my photos of it:

Anyone living in the neighborhood, particularly Red Hook, will be familiar with the New York Dock Company’s remnants–hulking gray warehouses that must make Dumbo-drooling Corcoran agents weak in the knees. Seldom however do we get a chance to see a bird’s eye view of their domain, which once sprawled over two and a half miles of waterfront. The lithograph provides a rare peek at the commerce that transpired along the banks of Governors Island and Brooklyn.
– December 28, 2007, Peter Miller, Freebird Books

Miller goes on to write more about the history of Governor’s Island, and how it was nearly lost to infrastructure development.

In 1898 (the year Brooklyn became a borough of New York City), an assemblyman proposed using the island as a center span anchor for a bridge between Red Hook and the Battery. Proof that real estate value has never been far from New York’s beating heart, the assemblyman argued that the bridge “would cause a phenomenal development in South Brooklyn.”

That cheap promise would be reprised forty years later when Robert Moses demanded the very same public works project–but on a far grander scale. Given wide-ranging powers by La Guardia in 1938, Moses tried to reallocate the money meant for a tunnel to build a monumental (in all senses of the word) bridge that would hopscotch across Governors Island.

Today we have this view from Valentino Pier of both Governor’s Island and Downtown Manhattan.
Governor's Island, Downtown Manhattan, and ATF Pier
This view was saved, in part, by opposition from community leaders in both Manhattan and Brooklyn, and, in part, by none other than Eleanor Roosevelt:

Moses’s threats and ultimatums cowed city and state officials into submission. All he needed was the federal government’s rubber stamp. But, unforeseen, Eleanor Roosevelt publicly questioned the bridge’s impact: “Isn’t there room for some consideration of the preservation of the few beautiful spots that still remain to us on an overcrowded island?” The bridge’s opponents had infiltrated the White House. FDR allowed the War Department to kill the project and favor a tunnel out of national security concerns (but more likely out of spite).

Related Posts

1911 New York Dock Company Lithograph


Freebird Books, 123 Columbia Street (GMAP), Brooklyn, New York 11231

December 8, Red Hook: Observing the Edge

This looks interesting:

Brooklynites know better than anyone the havoc that development can wreak on a habitat. So on Saturday, Dec. 8, the Kentler International Drawing Space in Red Hook will host an artist’s talk on “Observing the Edge,” the gallery’s current show, which features works on paper relating to flora and fauna with habitats threatened by progressive development.

… anyone who has seen plants, or any other living creatures, displaced by development will surely want to take notice.
Cutting ‘Edge’, Daniel Goldberg, The Brooklyn Paper

(Note: The Brooklyn Paper gave the date incorrectly as 12/4.)


Kentler International Drawing Space
353 Van Brunt Street
Red Hook/Brooklyn, New York 11231
Tel: 718-875-2098

Gowanus Nursery under threat

Updated 22:00 EDT: Added links, maps, and legend.

Gowanus Nursery, as it appeared on their opening day this Spring
Gowanus Nursery
I received the following email this afternoon through the Gowanus Nursery mailing list.

On Wednesday August 22, a small group of business owners, employees and clients attended a city planning meeting that was to decide the fate of a few parcels of land located on Summit and Carroll streets.

The likely outcome is that Gowanus Nursery (45 Summit Street) will be forced to move, once again.

Remarkably, this change is a thinly disguised ‘spot zoning’ to allow for a residential development in a grandfathered commercial zone. This action, in the words of Community Board 6, has been the most aggressive use of ULURP (re-zoning) procedures that the current board has ever seen, forcing out active and flourishing businesses to make way for residential development.

Borough President Marty Markowitz’s recommendations suggest that the nursery occupied lot provides property owners the opportunity to lease under-developed land with minimal investment (part true since the only investment came in the form of our own labor and financial funding.) There seems something fundamentally wrong with labeling well-used open ‘green’ space as ‘under-developed’.

On a personal note, I am frustrated not only by the futility of the work we have already logged here, but also by the casual way that zoning change is happening in ‘our’ neighborhood. Last year, you, my customers and colleagues came to offer your services during the first move. Now, I ask for your help to help save this ‘green oasis’ from perishing in the changes affecting all of Brooklyn.

One of the questions asked by the city planning commissioners was “We have heard a lot of testimony about how this is the ‘best’ nursery, could you please give some definite examples to support this statement?” Well, we hope that our garden making has been successful; stimulating ideas and offering advice, suggesting different ways of seeing plants and how they affect our environment directly and indirectly. Of course, something akin to a mission remains: providing to gardeners experience-based knowledge and the broadest selection of perennial plants for Brooklyn gardens.

We hope that you can take the time to email the following parties to let them know in a few words what makes us an important part of the neighborhood and the whole Brooklyn experience.

Council representative – Bill de Blasio,;
City Council Speaker – Christine Quinn,;
Land Use Committee Chairperson – Melinda R. Katz,;
Mayor Michael Bloomberg

The following are some statements to paste into your appeal:

It’s impossible to run a nursery without land.

Businesses such as these provide necessary services to the community, and are the reason we choose Brooklyn.

Please help Gowanus Nursery to remain a Brooklyn institution.

I located a map of the proposed zoning change. This was certified to begin ULURP as far back as May 14th of this year.

Proposed Zoning Change Affecting Gowanus Nursery

The area enclosed by the dotted line is proposed to be rezoned by changing from an M1-1 District to an R6 District. The heavy solid lines indicate where the Zoning District Boundaries would like after the proposed zoning change. To become effective, the proposed changes must be approved first by the City Planning Commission, then the City Council.

Here’s a map, courtesy of OASIS-NYC, that shows the current uses of 45 Summit Street and nearby properties:

Gowanus Nursery, 45 Summit Street

Legend image1 & 2 Family Residential
Legend imageMulti-family Residential (3 or more Residential Units)
Legend imageMixed Use (Residential and Commercial)
Legend imageCommercial
Legend imageInstitutions
Legend imageTransportation & Parking
Legend imageIndustrial (corresponds to Zoning’s “Manufacturing” designation)
Legend imageVacant Lots

Comparing these two maps, it appears that most of the properties along Carroll Street within the proposed zoning change are already in residential use. The proeprties along Summit Street, however, are in industrial use, consistent with their M-1 Zoning designation.

The question of whether or not Gowanus is “the best” nursery is a red herring. This seems like a suspiciously convenient carve-out for someone. Who is going to reap the windfall from eminent domain-style tactics that strip privileges from one group and class of residents to benefit another?


Liberty Sunset Garden Center

Liberty Sunset Garden Center, Pier 44, Red Hook, Brooklyn
Liberty Sunset Garden Center

Last Saturday I got to visit the Liberty Sunset Garden Center for the first time. Come for the selection. Stay for the views.

Statue of Liberty and New York Harbor viewed from Liberty Sunset Garden Center on Pier 41 in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
New York Harbor

They have the best selection of plants I’ve found at any nursery in Brooklyn. They have a lot of space, which they’ve put to use by providing greater variety. They had many perennials and annuals I couldn’t identify without looking at their tags, which is saying something. (Woodies, not so much; I’m notoriously bad in their identification.)

The plants – even annuals – were all in good shape, clearly well-tended and cared for. Their prices also seemed generally lower than those at the nearby Chelsea Garden Center and Gowanus Nursery.

This orange Echinacea spoke to me, so I bought it.

A couple more views. More photos available in the Flickr set of my visit.

Indoor Waterfall, Liberty Sunset Garden Center

Liberty Sunset Garden Center

Harbor View, Liberty Sunset Garden Center

Affectionate Psycho Kitty

Related posts:

Red Hook Pier 44 Waterfront Garden

Pier 44 Waterfront Garden, North Entrance, Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Pier 44 Waterfront Garden

Saturday, when Blog Widow and I journeyed to Red Hook, he offered to drop me off at Pier 41 for the Liberty Sunset Garden Center before he went off to the Fairway. I told him I’d get out at Fairway with him, because I wanted to walk through a garden on the way to Pier 41.

I’d only seen this space in late winter, when I visited the Waterfront Museum as part of the Historic District Council’s Red Hook Walking Tour. The garden was closed at that time, but I could see some of its promise. That glimpse really didn’t prepare me for the summer lushness I encountered on Saturday.

Leaving the Fairway parking lot by the North exit brings you to Conover Street. Crossing the street brings you to a gated entrance with several signs for the Waterfront Museum and the Garden, the only hint of what lies beyond.

Pier 44 Entrance, Red Hook

Sign, Pier 44 Waterfront Garden

Continuing through the entrance brings you to a narrow corridor, fenced with chain link, and graced with industrial oil drum planters. We’re not there yet.

Entrance to Waterfront Museum, Pier 44

Ah, now we’re starting to see something.

Pier 44 Waterfront Garden

Walking to the left brings us alongside this seaside meadow. This is mostly weeds right now, but has the potential to become much more over the years.

Pier 44 Waterfront GardenPier 44 Waterfront Garden

I continued walking to the left around the perimeter. The small grove of trees in the center will eventually provide shade for the benches and lounging boulders placed in the center.

Pier 44 Waterfront Garden

Here’s the view in the other direction.

Statue of Liberty and Pier 41

And we’re walking … and looking back whence we came.

Pier 44 Waterfront Garden

Here we’re looking back along the “shortcut” path we could have taken from the entrance instead of walking the long way around the meadow.

Pier 44 Waterfront Garden

Keep walking and look back again.

Pier 44 Waterfront Garden

One of the gardeners was watering. I spoke with her briefly, and saw her again a little later, when she was working at the Liberty Sunset Garden Center. She said the gardens were about four years old. Just coming into maturity. The garden designer had worked on many other public projects, including gardens in Madison Square Park and Bryant Park in Manhattan.

Pier 44 Waterfront Garden

I love big red Hibiscus. I want this.

Hibiscus, Pier 44 Waterfront Garden


Bee on Buddleia, Pier 44 Waterfront Garden

All good things must come to an end. Ahead is the exit, and Pier 41 awaits us.

Pier 44 Waterfront Garden

Liberty and the Princess in New York Harbor

Liberty and the Princess
The views from Liberty Sunset Garden Center on Pier 41 in Red Hook, Brooklyn are unsurpassed. They also have a huge plant selection, and I’ll have more on that later. But first, a serendipitous observation of the Crown Princess cruise ship leaving New York Harbor for the Caribbean.

As I was assembling my final purchases to check out, this came into view. The photos don’t convey the massiveness of this ship. It seemed to be moving slowly, only because of its size.
Crown Princess

It’s at least 15 stories tall. If you look at the largest images, you can see people on the decks. That’s the only reference for conveying the scale.

Crown Princess

Crown Princess

Crown Princess

Crown Princess


Liberty Sunset Garden Center

Update 2007.07.20: Read about and see photos from my visit.

This afternoon I have an opportunity to visit Liberty Sunset on Pier 41 in Red Hook for the first time. The last time we got to Red Hook, our car started smoking just as we were leaving, so I didn’t get to visit on that trip.

So if this afternoon you see some geeky guy wandering around taking too many photographs, say hello!

Chelsea Garden Center, Red Hook

Shrubberies, Chelsea Garden Center
Shrubberies, Chelsea Garden Center

Last Saturday I visited the Chelsea Garden Center in Red Hook.

It was part of our day of car errands. While the roof was getting replaced, the driveway was in use as a warehouse and shop; the car stayed in the garage for three weeks. That may have contributed to our car problems later in the day.

I’d built up a shopping list of outdoor tools and supplies to acquire. We visited Lowes first. They did not have plain cedar mulch, only the “decorator” varieties. They also didn’t have any large bags of Holly-Tone. I passed on the smaller bags, thinking I could get a large bag at Chelsea. I regretted this decision later; Chelsea only had the smaller bags as well, and their prices are much higher than Lowes.

Chelsea’s strength is in woody plants. They had a wide variety of choice shrubs, trees and vines. All were in excellent condition. They were also artfully displayed, as you can soon from the photos.

I didn’t buy any woodies. I bought some unusual shade perennials: an unidentified Ligularia, a beautiful silvery Pulmonaria, and a bright white-variegated Liriope. These will go along the shady path on the north side of the house.

I also picked up some annuals. My preference is to go to one of the larger Greenmarkets for annuals. But I wanted to plant our window boxes before the Victorian Flatbush House Tour the next day. I had also hoped to plant the hell strip between the sidewalk and the street with some drought-tolerant annuals. I bought 18 plants for these two projects. Again, pricier than they would have been at a Greenmarket; only one, maybe two, of the six different species I chose would not have been available there.

So overall, Chelsea is certainly a pleasant visit. Staff was helpful, if a bit stressed by the business they were getting; it felt like they were still getting into their weekend groove. Noone was able to identify the species, let alone variety, of the sole specimen of Ligularia I found. If you have an eye for them, they have a few unusual perennials. I didn’t take but a cursory look at their woody stock, but that seems to be a specialty of theirs, just based on the quantity, variety, and staging.

PS: When you see a car stalled in the non-shoulder area of the Prospect Expressway, honking at them does not help. They already know they are stalled in a dangerous location. And trust me, they want to be there even less than you want them there.

Chelsea Garden Center, Red Hook

Chelsea Garden Center, Red Hook

Chelsea Garden Center, Red Hook

Chelsea Garden Center, Red Hook

Chelsea Garden Center, Red Hook

Chelsea Garden Center, Red Hook

Teak Window Boxes, Chelsea Garden Center

Perennials for Sun, Chelsea Garden Center

Shrubberies, Chelsea Garden Center

Shrubberies, Chelsea Garden Center

Sources of Plants for Brooklyn Gardeners

See also:

Update 2011-06-13: Corrected address for Root Stock & Quade.
Update 2010.01.03: Corrected all links to the old Gowanus Lounge domain to the new memorial domain.
Update 2008.05.09: Added GRDN.
Update 2008.04.29: Added J&L Landscaping, Kensington.
Update 2008.04.18: Added Kings County Nurseries. Added link for Zuzu’s Petals.
Update 2007.05.25: Added Shannon Florist.

Gowanus Lounge called it:

Red Hook is turning into Brooklyn’s Gardening District. … No less than three garden shops are now open in the Hook. The Chelsea Garden Center Brooklyn has been operating for a couple of weeks at 444 Van Brunt Street, a block from the Red Hook Fairway. The Gowanus Nursery, which lost its space on Third Street, reopened last month at 45 Summit Street. And, this weekend saw the Grand Opening of the Liberty Sunset Garden Center on Pier 41 at 204 Van Dyke Street.
Is Red Hook the New Gardening District?, Gowanus Lounge, May 14

And the Times plays catch-up:

A new group of large nurseries that have suddenly sprung up in Red Hook, Brooklyn — since March, three have opened within blocks of each other — is a welcome surprise for many of the city’s gardeners.
New York’s Nurseries Try a Transplant, New York Times, Today

But Red Hook is not the only place for Brooklyn Gardeners to buy plants locally. (And isn’t Gowanus Nursery technically in Columbia Waterfront, not Red Hook?)

I’ve bought plants through mail order for years. It used to be that the only plants I bought locally were annuals from the Greenmarket at Union Square. Over time the growers at the Greenmarket began offering more interesting annuals, perennials and shrubs. I learned that I got more for the money buying locally than through mail order. And since the plants I bought locally were larger than those I got through mail order, they had a better start and were less likely to fail before becoming established. (Not to mention if it took me a couple of weeks or months to get around to planting them at all.)

It got even better when I moved from the East Village to Park Slope. I’ve lived in Brooklyn for 15 years now, and I’m still learning about new local sources of plants. I’ve bought plants at all of the following locations except for J&L Landscaping and Kings County Nurseries Chelsea Garden Center and Liberty Sunset. Each has something slightly different to offer for variety, expertise, and access to transportation. Prices vary widely. The Brooklyn Terminal Market generally has the best prices, but requires a car to get to it.

  • Brooklyn Botanic Garden Garden Shop, 718-623-7280
  • Brooklyn Terminal Market, several independent vendors, Foster and Remsen Avenues, Canarsie, 718-444-5700
  • Chelsea Garden Center, 444 Van Brunt Street, Red Hook, 212-727-7100
  • David Shannon Nursery & Florist, 3380 Fort Hamilton Pkwy, 718-436-4521
  • Gowanus Nursery, 45 Summit Street, Red Hook/Columbia Waterfront, 718-852-3116
  • Greenmarket, Grand Army Plaza, Saturdays (The one at Union Square is the best place for plants. Lots of selections, and accessible by subway.)
  • GRDN, 103 Hoyt Street (between Atlantic and Pacific), Boerum Hill, 718.797.3628
  • J & L Landscaping, 702 Caton Ave, Kensington, (718) 438-3199
  • Kings County Nurseries, 625 New York Avenue, (718) 493-2363
  • Liberty Sunset, 204-207 Van Dyke Street, on Pier 41, Red Hook, 718-858-3400
  • Root Stock & Quade, 471 Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn, New York 11205 718-832-1888
  • ZuZu’s Petals, 374 5 Avenue, Park Slope, 718-638-0918

Related Posts

Liberty Sunset Garden Center, July 20, 2007
Brooklyn Terminal Market is NOT Closed, June 22, 2007
Chelsea Garden Center, June 16, 2007
Opening Day at Gowanus, March 31, 2007
A Visit to the Brooklyn Terminal Market, May, 2006