Streets That Breathe

Just in time for the summer's heat, Design Wild brought our plant magic and teamed up with the Hudson Yards Hell's Kitchen Alliance to transform this space from one of the busiest, hot, concrete blocks dominated by traffic, into a flowery heaven. Nestled at the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel on 37th Street and 9th Avenue, a surprising parklet oasis emerges that is lovingly referred to as the Canoe. Typically, this humble little public space is scattered with local businesspeople on lunch breaks, nearby residents enjoying the shade of a tree, or a lucky tourist who happened upon a spot to rest their feet. As of this month, Design Wild infused the space with our favorite summer flowers, textures, patterns, and greenery. Complimenting the new plantings, are a swath of blooming tree beds that run along 9th Ave protecting the busy bike lane, bringing visual coordination to the entire area. 

Design Wild has been dedicated to bringing life to Hell's Kitchen public spaces for the last ten years, and we feel so grateful to have a hand in this constantly evolving process. We are strong believers in the positive mental and spiritual impact of these wild spaces in a city as chaotic and overwhelming as New York. 

Some of our favorite new flower friends are this funky yucca plant sending up its flowering stalk, these everblooming knock-out roses, and the forever mysterious purple smokebush. 


And while we can't ease the traffic that is always raging in this neighborhood, we can soften the streets with plants to make it even just a bit more enjoyable and lower stress for people as they walk through. 


Planting Community in Midtown

This Spring, Design Wild designed and carried out an energizing community planting day with two amazing partners, The Actors Fund and Breaking Ground. The Actors Fund develops and manages affordable housing for performing artists across the city, and Breaking Ground develops affordable housing and provides supportive services for people experiencing homelessness. They share a site in Hell's Kitchen, The Dorothy Ross Friedman Residence, which provides supportive housing to special low-income groups including seniors, working professionals, and people living with HIV/AIDS.

In May, we were joined by tenants, building a staff, and programming staff and together we brought some awesome wild to their rooftop. Even in the rain, this #dreamteam took charge and created beautiful spaces, sharing stories, and bringing spirit to their work. 

This work was all performed in honor of the untouchable Bette Midler, her work in Hello Dolly on Broadway and the show's generous donation to the Actors Fund.  Bette, in case you don't know, has been an incredible supporter and champion for gardens in our city and is the founder of the New York Restoration Project that has been doing wonderful work since the 90's with a mission that 'Nature is a fundamental right of every New Yorker'. That's something we feel strongly about too!

These are the projects that remind us why we care so deeply about bringing together people and plants!





Before we began, the space had a few sparse containers and was begging for some more greenery.


With the help of many hands, we were able to transform the space into a much friendlier welcoming place to eat, commune and enjoy the views. 


And in the midst of it all, we were lucky enough to hear from some community members about what their experience was like...

 After our hard work and the sun came out!

After our hard work and the sun came out!

Old Westbury Gardens - Eye Candy

Last month on a beautiful misty day, as the Design Wild team traveled back from one of our nursery visits, we stopped at the Old Westbury Gardens on Long Island for an inspiration visit.

The Old Westbury Gardens is a dazzling 200-acre estate listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is open to the public to wander through its diverse areas – formal gardens, peaceful nooks for reflection, woodland paths, ponds, swaths of planted cherry, dogwood and other flowering trees, and the historic house still furnished with English antiques. What a wonder of preservation and plant appreciation. Here is some eye-candy from our visit that we wanted to share…


SPRING...Reflections from under a blooming redbud...


Ephemeral | adjective; lasting a very short time; short-lived; transitory; fleeting; the ephemeral joys of childhood.


It is my first spring with Design Wild, and the first time I have so intimately witnessed the transformation of plants through the thawing of winter. And in some ways, it mirrors our own transformation, the human one; when the longer days bring warm weather; a boundless energy propels us to connect, to linger outside in the lengthening hours, to re-inhabit our public spaces.

At Design Wild, we wake our residential gardens one by one; immersed in the warming soil, budding shrubs, the petals of the early bloomers that mimic the bright flowers drawn by the five year olds that I teach. And there is no elation like the day the first tree pops – the magnolia opens fairy petals, the forsythia bush catches its yellow flame and flirts with the tightly studded magenta redbud. I pause each morning, dazzled by the weeping cherry outside my front door as she snaps off her blooms one by one at first, and then all at once in a gaudy symphony. Each showy flower, from the daffodils to the delicate dogwoods - illuminate the persistent grey monochrome canvas that held on for so many long, unbearable days. I grant myself permission to fawn over these flowers like everyone else.


But it is in the long meticulous hours of cleaning up a garden in which I feel most connected with this season; it is here that spring speaks in a grounded hum; darker, more honest. Spring has no illusions about her own ephemerality. Her power is not in the fleeting blooms that we frantically try to prolong. It emanates instead from the gentle stench of decomposing magnolia petals that I sweep from a stone patio, their colors muddied by the recent rain.


Spring is rooted in the troll knuckle of a baby fiddlehead - dark and furled, tightly wound. And before the fiddlehead uncurls her prehistoric arms, we cut last year’s shriveling fronds from around her center to usher along new growth – fine, I think, we’ll leave you to shine in your knobby, mucky glory, mocking our obsession with such transient beauty.

Spring is studded by the wild grasses and liriope we trim into adolescent haircuts, spikey and awkward. Those unwieldy strands like teenage boys; we trust they will emerge eventually, but it’s hard to imagine that uneven tuft of chaos growing into anything with grace.


Spring is in the rat-like claws of the emerging peonies. They march in maroon armies across front walkways and gardens. Spindly and unrecognizable as the blooms they’ll become in a few weeks.

And it’s in the pokey branches of the Vitex Chaste Tree, the slow starter, bare-branched even when everything else has stepped into life. We know we must wait, pruning away the yellowing, the broken, the crossed twigs, trusting that our tree will join the crowd when ready.


Gardening in early spring is raw and intimate, demanding patience and discernment. But here in the crook of spring’s elbow is where I feel I’ve truly communed with these plants, a committed relationship where I persist through the weird, the stubborn, the bare, the bristly.

Eventually, the intoxicating flowers come and go, and then we all settle into the consistent lush greens of the chorus.


It’s not unlike how we love other humans, our children, our partners, our friends, our family. We know that such love is never like the easy stories we consume in romantic movies. Instead, we love like the gardener cares for the rose bush, a love that requires them at times to cut it back to an unsightly and thorny base, trusting the process that allows a living thing to grow healthy and strong from there.

Love takes investing in the parts of the other’s life that go unnoticed by the outside eye, feeding the worms in the soil, stewarding growth. And it’s a love that recognizes a plant by the naturally selected shape of their leaves, the patterns of their stems, the hue of their veins, when no flowers are present to distract.

It strikes me that it’s also how warriors persist in social movements. The outrages, the galvanizing media flashes, the inexplicable acts of injustice bloom in angry spring. But it’s the activists who persist before and after these moments, in the structural mess, the tedious fights, the long hours of organizing, of failures and losses, and of subtle successes, they are the true garden keepers.


So under this bursting redbud where I sit today to write this, I’ll let myself breathe in her scent and delight in the pink petal rain, but it’s the sea of weedy goldenrod I look forward to tending tomorrow.


Updates from the Understory | February 2018

Dear Design Wild Friends & Loved Ones,
Can you believe spring is almost upon us? In just a few weeks we will arrive at the spring equinox. Days will start to stretch out longer than nights and our hemisphere tilts back towards the heat of the sun. In March here in the Northeast, it feels like the world is awakening, shaking off its winter sleep and crouching, ready for spring. The trees, leading the way, are jumping into action, sap flowing up from their roots. Up, up, in some cases hundreds of feet into the air. Put your ear to their trunk, can you hear it? They are awake and preparing for spring growth and a full canopy of new leaves.

In the horticulture world, we also ready ourselves for wild growth, busy planting and the bursting of life. After our quiet and introspective winter full of planning and strategy, spring is the season of all-out growth and action. Like the trees, we are ready and waiting for sunshine so we can launch into action…any day now. If you haven’t already, now is the BEST time to plan your garden or design a new one. Prepare your plan of action so that everything is ready to go in the coming months. The crocus and snowdrops are already blooming, the tulips and daffodils are on their way along with the cherry blooms, magnolias, dogwoods and so many more! Get ready, set… here we go.

See you in the garden,



Design WIld has its roots in agriculture and its heart in landscapes, and luckily some projects allow us to do both at once! We installed this garden two seasons ago and are excited to see how it's been growing. A horseshoe garden shape provides lush green texture and a beautiful wild space for the household's children and dogs to play. The side yard's vegetable garden has been growing herbs, greens, tomatoes and other delicious foods. Blueberry, strawberries and even a growing grapevine feeds the family, the neighbors who walk by, and the song birds. Read more...

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Design Wild has been working with the Hudson Yards Hell's Kitchen Alliance to design and develop public space plantings throughout the new Hudson Yards/Hell's Kitchen district. If you've been through the area lately, I'm sure you've noticed the new towering construction, and there's a bunch more to come. Design Wild has been working to make sure the streetscapes are safe, beautiful and verdant with some of our signature plantings. Stay tuned for more updates as this project unfolds this spring! Read more...




Design Wild recently had a blast participating on a panel at the City College Graduate School of Architecture. We were excited to be in conversation with some wonderful leaders who are working in community to mobilize change. From listening to a longtime community gardener talk about her work organizing markets, cooking and education programing; to hearing from the founding members of Made in Brownsville and Brownsville Community Culinary Center Job Training program, we were inspired excited to learn from these leaders about what is needed in our new vision of a resilient, regenerative city.

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In these current times, there is an even greater need to stay AWAKE, INSPIRED and JOYFUL. We are paying special attention to people, places, and work that lift our spirits and we wanted to share some of them with you. Here are just a few of many...

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Spring is arriving here in NYC. We made it!  The very first flowers to show their little heads are the Crocus and Snow Drops and you can find them already blooming in these first days of March. Daffodils and tulips are not far behind. Although it's too late to plant these spring-flowering bulbs, now is a great time to order summer bulbs. Summer bulbs include tropical garden additions, flowering onions, and the most wonderful lilies! We like to source our flower bulbs from our friends at Brent & Becky's Bulbs. They are a family-owned, over 100-year-old biz located in VA and their bulbs are wonderful. Check out the selections on their website


Tylea is a crucial - though behind the scenes - member of the Design Wild team. You won't see her out in the garden, but she is busy keeping our books and dollars in order. For this we are wildly grateful. But she is so much more than that! Tylea is the Founder and Chief Executive Shit Talker of an amazing company called Thundress.They make awesome 'choochie friendly underwear.' She believes that 'what is good for the cha chas is good for the planet, and visa-versa'. How cool is that? So visit Thundress and buy some awesome undies for the health of your coochie (or a coochie you love) and our planet!

One of our lifelong friends and amazing women in the world, Zoeanne Murphy, collaborated on this story, Sin Luz: Life Without PowerThe piece shows some of the deep realities and personal stories in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Zoeanne's work reminds us that climate change and its effects are not a distant idea that the next generation will battle; it's a very present and devastating reality for people across the globe, as well as for our very own American citizens. Read and Watch this story online. I am endlessly proud of this spirit sister and the work she is adding to the world.


This month, Kate from Design Wild went on a pilgrimage to see the Monarch Butterfly migration overwintering spot in Michoacan, Mexico. These incredible creatures fly over three thousand miles south every autumn, completing one of the longest and most miraculous migrations in the world. We have so much to learn about resilience, the beauty of migration, stewardship and environmental justice from these wise, winged friends. Read more of Kate's reflections on the story of the monarchs and why we need it on our WILD Log.

Monarch Miracles

 Kate and her aunt Rosa against the backdrop of the Monarch forests.

Kate and her aunt Rosa against the backdrop of the Monarch forests.

In February, Design Wild’s Project Manager, Kate, embarked on a pilgrimage to see the overwintering site of the Monarch butterflies in Michoacán, Mexico. The story of the monarchs is as rich as the orange of their wings. They unwittingly model, for those who listen, some of the qualities we’d love to see manifest in our future world. For us at Design Wild, the efforts made to protect them also speak of the inextricable nature of building justice for both humans and the living companions around us.

This age old migration begins (and ends, and continues) in what we think of as the Northeast United States and Canada. During the spring and summer months, monarchs lay eggs on the milkweed plant, Asclepius. Milkweed is a proud and beautiful plant, but unfortunately, it is often misrepresented as a weed. Once born on milkweed, our baby caterpillars eat their way through childhood. Monarch caterpillars grow up to 2,7000 times their starting weight in just two weeks. When the time comes, these mighty caterpillars spin themselves into royal emerald green cocoons, embellished with gold dots. After a couple of weeks, they complete their metamorphosis, emerging as the regal and striking orange and black butterflies. 

 Mighty milkweed going to seed

Mighty milkweed going to seed

 Royal chrysalis 

Royal chrysalis 

Several generations of monarchs are born in spring and summer. They typically live for 3-6 weeks, enough time to eat, mate, and lay eggs, bringing new generations into the world. But come fall, the emerging monarch generation starts its long journey south.

This special generation of monarchs, known as the ‘supergeneration,’ has the age-defying power to live up to eight months. They manage this by remaining in a state of elongated adolescence, trading in maturity for the strength to migrate.

But we still haven’t figured out how this generation knows to preserve its strength or begin its migration.


Another mysterious power monarchs hold is that year after year, the millions of butterflies, though new to the world as individuals, follow their millennia-old instinct to find the exact same forests in the high forests of Michoacán, Mexico. Not only do they find the same Sacred Fir, or Oyamel forests, they flock to a relatively small selection of the trees, cloaking their branches with their tired bodies. While most migrations in nature occur when a generation of animals or insects travels to the same place annually.

The miracle of the monarchs is that a generation that flies south is not the same one that returns the next year. Instead, it’s their great, great, great, great grandchildren who are embedded with the ancestral instinct to find the very same forests.

Upon reaching the Sacred Fir trees the monarchs rest from mid-November to Mid-March. They eat, pollinate the wildflowers that line the forest floors, sip water from plants and nearby streams, and sacrifice some of their bodies to the birds that also inhabit the forests. In March, they begin their journey north. This time, they stop in Texas and other Southern waystations to lay eggs. Now the supergeneration monarchs have used the last of their strength and move on to the next life. But they pass their instinctual sense of home to their young who continue northward to find their breeding grounds.

And so it continues, the journey of the monarchs, one of the natural miracles that eludes us humans. What can we learn from this story?

1.  We can draw strength from their own story of persistence that carries a small, seemingly fragile insect over three thousand miles. How desperately we need that level of endurance and determination right now to get through dark times. How do we preserve strength? Can we too stave off the exhausting effects of aging into a jaded adult? Young people who’ve spearheaded movements like the One Mind Youth Movement at Standing Rock, the youth involved in bringing Black Live Matter to the national stage, and the recent Parkland student movement against gun violence show us the power of youthful energy and perseverance.

2.  The monarchs also embody the lesson of unity. Alone, each butterfly weighs just half of one gram, susceptible to the winds, rain, cold and predators that they inevitably encounter along their journey. Yet when they fly among millions, they are strong, they become one migration, one movement. Nature knows the protection that comes with a shared purpose, coordinated movement, and deep instinctual and ancestral guidance. We too must move as one migration, transitioning ourselves together to the future we want to inhabit.

3.  It also struck me that the monarchs exist in a borderless world, where butterflies are free to make home in many places. How radically different this country and world could be if we honored the same migrations for people – immigrants, refugees, Dreamers – and appreciated the bravery and strength of those who travel by choice or out of need to make new homes.

How ludicrous the idea of a wall seemed upon seeing these tiny creatures so gracefully inhabit the Oyamel Forests. Migrations are woven into the fabric of nature.

We acknowledge that many human migrations are forced; but the lesson remains, how can we honor the journey that immigrants have made? Let us make it safer to relocate, recognize the beauty and contributions those who travel, and respect the notion that living things naturally inhabit multiple homes. We can study these butterflies that have learned to become native to many places. Powerful humans have created laws and borders and repressive institutions like ICE – but climate change has already and will continue to force huge populations of people to leave their homes so let’s imagine a future where we recreate such forces to reflect the natural law of migrations.


4.  From the monarchs, we also can reflect on the need for new forms of stewardship and environmental justice. Widespread degradation of the monarch’s northern breeding and southern overwintering habitats has been a major threat to monarch populations. In the northeast, the use of pesticides and insecticides, mowing down milkweed in roadsides and pastures, ozone pollution, suburbanization and sprawl are all contributing to vast decreases in the treasured milkweed plant so essential to monarch breeding. In the forests of Mexico, illegal logging, forest fires, and poor tourist management have been responsible for the loss of hundreds of hectares of forest habitat where monarchs spend their winters. Butterflies rely on the thick blanket of the Oyamel canopies to keep out the cold winds and regulate temperatures. When trees in the forests are cut, it alters the fragile balance of temperatures, causing swings that kill the butterflies by freezing or overheating.


But the story of conservation efforts in Mexico demands attention, as it is not a simple act of ‘protecting’ forests. The Oyamel forests in Michoacán are owned by private landowners and by ejidos. Ejidos are a structure of communal land ownership that formed after the Mexican Revolution in the early 20th century as a way to redistribute rural land from a small number of elites to groups of poor campesinos. Many of the ejidos of the forests are comprised of indigenous people. Despite their landholdings, many of the communities surrounding the Monarch forests remain some of the poorest in Mexico.

And as with many natural areas, when the government and scientists “discovered” the migrating monarch havens in the 1980s, these forests were of course already inhabited by the ejido communities. The people of these forests have been cutting trees in the forests for years in order to clear space for farming and for logging, which for a long time have been their own economic options.

So after the 1986 presidential decree that the forests become protected, the communities using the forests grew angry and resentful that their economic livelihoods were suddenly deemed illegal, with no opportunities for dialogue or input. A government who for years neglected to address the needs of poor communities was suddenly protecting butterflies without any acknowledgement of the impact? After years of conflict, burning forests, and increased illegal logging, the government re-strategized, this time holding conversations with the ejidos and landowners of the forest. In 2000 the protected area increased, but this time a fund was started to pay communities compensation for the income they were losing by not logging. 

The tension over the forests continues today, reflecting a complicated but familiar history of colonialism, the struggle for indigenous land rights, and economic injustice. The story of the monarchs is thus tied up with the story of the forest dwellers. We can’t protect one without taking into account the other, though our capitalist system would have us pit people against planet. [see this story for more on the struggle for sustainable tourism].

But against the backdrop of a daunting global exploitative economic system, there is hope.

The ejidos that own land in the monarch sanctuary forest that Kate visited, el Rosario, have embraced the monarchs and become, once again, protectors of the forests.
 The entrance to El Rosario Reserve

The entrance to El Rosario Reserve

Surely these ejidos still struggle economically, relying on a volatile tourism industry that has been hard-hit by the drug violence plaguing Michoacán. Many residents have had to leave to find work in cities and the United States. But can we honor these community-led efforts to combat the narrative that we have to choose between people and planet?


Can we continue to support the work of strong local communities who forgo the temptation to cut the trees to instead find enterprises that regenerate and respect the monarchs and their home?

These members of the Ejidos are the guardians of the monarchs. If you look closely on the ground, you can see hundreds of monarchs fluttering their wings, trying to warm up. 

Up in the north, we’ve also seen movements to replant milkweed and other pollinator habitats. Loving humans are creating monarch waystations in backyards, public spaces, and school gardens. Even the five-year-olds that Kate teaches in a Brooklyn elementary school now share in the delight of planting milkweed so that our black and orange friends have homes to lay eggs. Certainly we need a structural change to transform the industrial farming practices that are causing the milkweed decline. But let’s also find hope in the grassroots efforts to educate people and create alternatives in the long-term struggle.

Ten years ago, the monarch population was facing an epic decline. The population dropped from covering 18 hectares of forests in 1996 to covering just .67 hectares in 2013. But since 2016, it has gone up slightly, covering about 4 hectares. Though still at risk of volatile temperature swings caused by global climate change, some are finding hope in the cross-national efforts to protect and rebuild habitat, and find alternative economic options for the people living in the monarch forest reserves.

 Each branch of the Oyamel tree is cloaked with thousands of monarchs, turning from grey to orange as the sun emerges.

Each branch of the Oyamel tree is cloaked with thousands of monarchs, turning from grey to orange as the sun emerges.

We have to remember that the fate of the people in the Oyamel forests, the fate of the children learning to steward habitats in the northeast United States, the fate of the workers on the farms that are forced to use unhealthy chemicals that kill milkweed, and the fate of the monarch butterflies are all wrapped up in one. Let us rethink the traditional conservation lens that has so often ignored the plight of the marginalized.

At last, the final reflection on the power of the monarchs came viscerally as Kate ascended to the top of the mountain in search of the chosen Oyamel trees. The hundreds of people surrounding her fell to a hush, as if they were in a museum, a collective humility that comes from watching millions of beautiful creatures launch from their branches and fill the sky as the sun warms them, pulsing the forest with orange.


How lucky we are to be visitors on this earth, witness to ancient wonder – the butterflies and their fir trees have been around far longer than we can fathom – it’s a reminder to listen.


Monarchs launch into flight when the sun warms the Oyamel forest of El Rosario Sanctuary.

Updates from the Understory | January 2018


Dear Design Wild Friends & Loved Ones,
This past year has been a hell of a trip, stressful for so many of us. It has all brought me a LOT closer to the importance of plants.  I've been learning from these lush comrades who live among us. They just have so many lessons to teach us! Whether it's creating a public green space or a peaceful residential garden, adding a little life to a museum show or someone’s home, the magic of plants radiates through it all.  
This bit of WILD in our world brings peace, breath and a little wonder to our lives and our city. And with it, so many lessons. The first lesson comes from the intimately new spring oak leaf. Unfurling her tiny self, she shows us how to start fresh, to continually begin again, with courage. Next, the abundance of summer flowers in deep red, glowing purple and hot pink show us how to go no-holds-barred and give life all we've got. Later in the season, the beautifully senescing autumn leaves can teach us the ever difficult lesson of letting go, of surrender. And just as the first snows begin to fall, the fall-planted bulbs that we dig into the cold soil as darkness descends stand as an animated act of faith that the beginning will come again.
We are now in the darkness of the year, but there is no fear in this darkness. We gather the lessons from our flora friends to rest, to reflect and to strategize (you know the trees are strategizing!), and we prepare for the spring to come…
Here in the darkness is where the new begins.






DESIGN WILD was introduced to this rooftop in 2012 and we have been caring for it ever since. We have slowly made additions, first to the plant choices and then by adding new containers and of course, a little of our signature WILD. We love the combination of the purple smoke bush paired with the variegated red-twig dogwood, the evergreen texture of a pine tree with the nearly ever flowering Catnip in the foreground.  The varying heights of these trees and shrubs create a border with a playfully porous edge that creates a feeling of privacy while maintaining a connection to the city.  Read more...



For the past several years, Design Wild has been working with a development team on a new twelve-story apartment building being constructed in Midtown Manhattan. The building will contain 100% affordable units in a wide range of incomes. Not only affordable, it's also going to be gorgeous! We're finishing up designs for two different roof decks and a community park complete with play areas for children, meadow and forest landscapes, eating nooks, and spaces to catch the long views of the Hudson River. Stay tuned as the design phase culminates and the installs begin this spring! Read more...

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Design Wild is excited to introduce our newest team member Kate Selden.  Kate brings a ton of care and strategy to the team with her own mix of hard work and magic powers. Learn more about Kate....

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In these current times, there is an even greater need to stay AWAKE, INSPIRED and JOYFUL. We are paying special attention to people, places, and work that lift our spirits and we wanted to share some of them with you. Here are the first of many:


Truelove Seed says: "Keeping SEEDS is an act of TRUELOVE for our ANCESTORS and our collective FUTURE. It is a practice of FREEDOM."  We can't agree more and we are so excited about the work this company is embarking on. They are collaborating with more than 20 small-scale rural and urban farmers committed to community food sovereignty, cultural preservation, and sustainable agriculture. How dope is that! Visit their website, buy their beautiful seeds and keep growing the future!

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The WILD BOX was a winter project to brings a corner of woodland magic into your home. A simple vessel filled with natural offerings from the woods, it encourages one to pause each day and take a deep breath. Our WILD Box brings the lessons of the season into our home. Winter continues to teach us to slow down, cultivate wonder and connections, explore our inner realm, reflect more and build strength for the future. Learn more about the magic of the WILD Box on an earlier post on our WILD Log.


The Schomburg Center, located close to home here in Harlem, New York, is a research unit of The New York Public Library.  From lectures and movie screenings to 1st Friday dance parties, this cultural institution is busting at the seams with inspiring opportunities. And its always free to boot! Just this year we listened to DeRay Mckesson share some of his stories and challenges as an organizer, running for Baltimore Mayor and navigating today's civil rights movement as a millennial and a gay man. We took in the movie Palante, Siempre Palante! telling the story of the Young Lords of East Harlem with some of the original Young Lords on stage speak on their work after 40 years and its relationship to our current situation (wisdom from the elders!). Find out what's happening this month.

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Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants is filled with stories weaving together indigenous ways of knowing with scientific knowledge of the natural world.  It beautifully illustrates what we can learn from the first nation’s worldview, seeing the natural world and the individual plants therein as our brethren and an integral part of our community. The Design Wild team continues to be inspired by the teachings in this book on our relationships, community, stewardship and the way forward into the future. Feed your spirit this winter and read Braiding Sweetgrass and then reach out and talk to us about it!


Bring the WILD and the light indoors for the season

Here at Design Wild we have been thinking a lot about the darkness that comes with this season.  In these winter months our part of the world turns to long darkness and cold (if you hadn't noticed) and our country, in continual turmoil, seems to be turning more and more to the darkness as well… Winter has descended and naturally we retreat indoors. In the woods, life too retreats into internal realms.  The trees, as our elders, lead by example shedding their leaves of 2017. Letting go they send their energy into their roots, regrouping and building strength for action and renewal to come. They know that spring will return.

Today on this eve of Christmas we are reminded to draw inward, to slow down, to laugh, to read, even to sing and to begin to reflect.

Many traditions bring light indoors to lift a little of the darkness and keep the faith in the return of the sun. We light a candle, a menorah, maybe a Christmas tree and reflect on the source of light within us that can be summoned to carry us through the challenges ahead. 


Design Wild, by its nature intimately follows the seasons. In spring, along with the first buds, we burst into action. Through the long summer months we continue to build and care for the spaces we love. But autumn begins our winding down; we harvest the last of the food in edible gardens, plant flower bulbs in the cold earth as a final prayer for spring and tuck the gardens in for the winter.

Because of this cycle Design Wild arrives at winter's door exited and ready to turn inward; we are ready to reflect on how far we’ve come, record the lessons the past year has taught us and begin to build strength and resiliency for the coming new year.

But we wanted to help others embrace this seasonal shift, to remind folks not only to come in for the winter but also to keep faith like the trees that the spring will return.  Inspired by a magical little one (Anjali!), we created the WILD Box. 

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The WILD box brings a corner of woodland magic into its caretaker's home. It helps us remember the lessons this season has to teach: to slow down, to cultivating wonder and connections, to explore the inner realm, and to reflect and build strength for the future.  

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Whether you’ve built a WILD Box with us, or you have your own corner of nature in your home, here are our suggested instructions for care:

The WILD Box brings it’s magic to those who show attention:

As you walk through the city, keep an eye out for wild offerings you can add to your WILD Box - an acorn, a stone, an especially beautiful leaf, all will bring your attention and energy to the present wild world and will brighten your winter home.

· Find a moment each day to pause next to your WILD Box

· Light a candle.

· Take a deep breaths...

· Offer a few sprinkles of water, breathe in the smell of the forest floor

· Share a thought of gratitude

Remember, when the time comes, let the WILD things go. Bring in new items to offer. Just like the season the box too can continually change. Every season offers new gifts for your Box.

The magic of building a WILD Box is a small microcosm of what Design Wild seeks to facilitate in the connect people with the natural world; to allow others to participate in designing their space; to nurture a sense of stewardship and wonder as we share the responsibility of caring for these wild spaces; and to illuminate how we all rely on plants for health, connection and peace

There is much work to be done in these cold months.  Be called to action.  And as the forest sleeps, we illuminate the darkness, we bring our light indoors, we reflect, we study and we build our strength.  The plants and our world as a whole are going to need us!

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PARADE: An exhibition by Derek Fordjour opens at the Sugar Hill Museum in Harlem

Design Wild LIVES to create gardens throughout the city.  We love how the magic and wonder of the natural world wildly transforms and improves our city life. We have been busy on a bunch of projects this season designing and creating gardens both in residential spaces as well as public ones.

This month Design Wild is honored to be bring a touch of that wonder and wild into an incredible new installation opening on July 27th at the Sugar Hill Museum:



PARADE: Derek Fordjour

PARADE is an immersive multi-media installation by artist Derek Fordjour that will take visitors on a journey through the sense-memory of childhood and the process of forging an identity.  At once playful and poignant, disorienting and propulsive, PARADE will engage and inspire both adults and children alike.

You may be wondering, how does Design Wild contribute to a museum show??


This is actually the second Fordjour Studio installation Design Wild has contributed to.  The first one was in 2015 and you can read what the Times had to say about that show here.


This time around, Design Wild worked on a few angles of the show, both supporting overall creative process, discovering playful material solutions and bringing touches of that magical wonder only the wood elves do better!

Here’s a bit about our process:

1. Working closely with the artist we down loaded his entire vision into a 3D model. Being able to walking through the model allowed the artist to make design decisions and experience his concept at scale. The model also became an essential tool for communicating with the wider installation team; from curators and museum staff to construction professionals.

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2. Now for materials:

I mean, what museum show is complete without 4 tons of soil? Or several pallets of brick!  Just let me loose in a masonry yard and I’ll be happy for the rest of the day.


3.  And the magic….?

Well… it may involve a 14’ tree installed in museum...  but for that you’ll have to come see the show!


Edible University

Growing Vegetables on the Street

As a horticulture experiment as well as a social experiment a dozen planters located in close proximity to Washington Park in Greenwich Village, Manhattan were planted with a wide mix of flowers, vegetables and herbs including Swiss chard, snow peas, beets, basil, rosemary, beans, strawberries and more.  Growing in one of the most trafficked corners of the globe these edible plants grew in full view of thousands of people traveling through the city.

Many folks stopped to ask questions, to tell stories and relate their own history to vegetable growing, their grandmother's legendary beans, their father's famous tomatoes.  Often the question was 'What if someone steals the crops?' That's ok, as long as they leave some for the rest of us!

A Townhouse Full of Flowers


A beautiful townhouse located on Manhattan’s Upper West Side has four separate garden terraces from the ground floor to the 6th floor rooftop.  All four spaces are planted with a diverse mix of perennials, trees, shrubs, annuals and flowering bulbs. Careful select is paid to species for continual but changing seasonal bloom and color.  Selected herbs and vegetables are planted on the top floor for use in the residents’ kitchen.

Before photos: Terrace plantings were limited to several boxwood shrubs in terrecota pots