Secret gardens

Hoboken's urban landscape is home to some surprisingly bucolic outdoor retreats.

Densely built Hoboken might at first glance seem an unlikely place to discover spectacular gardens. But as the town’s annual Secret Garden Tour reveals, dozens of exquisite landscaping gems are hidden behind those brownstone facades.

Bo Dziman and Adrienne Choma’s garden—a lush ground-level retreat set against a beautifully designed backdrop of stone arches and pillars—can make visitors feel transported to another place and time. The 50-by-22-foot space, which has the look of a sixteenth-century English countryside church ruin, features a stained-glass window built into a stone wall with a small cascade of water flowing below it, a nod to St. Matthew’s, the church located next door, which is visible from the garden. During Mass, you can hear organ music. The atmosphere is Gothic and serene.oliage and details subtly divide the vignettes. A dining patio stands beneath the branches of a Kwanzan Cherry tree. The patio is bordered by two large flower boxes containing the garden’s only annuals.

 “We live out here six months a year,” says Dziman, co-owner of Turbine Boardwear, a Hoboken snowboard clothing shop. For Choma, co-founder and president of Saladax Biomedical, based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the garden is the perfect place to decompress after driving home from work.

 A stone path leads from the patio to a heated plunge pool. Surrounded by rock edging, the gunite pool fits naturally in the landscape. Ethiopian three-legged milk stools—sculpted in one piece from a tree trunk—add to the Zen-like aura, and are more comfortable than they appear.

“In an urban garden,” says Dziman, “every inch matters.”

Adam Hoppe, the Hoboken landscape designer who created the space along with Hufnagel Landscaping, agrees: “These little gardens in the city are gold. People are just starting to realize how wonderful they can be as an extension of the house.”

Tenth Annual Hoboken Secret Garden Tour, June 3 (rain date June 10). For more information, visit or call 201-656-2240, ext. 6 (after May 1).

By Nancy Brannigan Painter

New Jersey’s comparatively short summers require creativity to make the most of fair-weather months, often in limited outdoor space. Exterior options—outdoor kitchens, spas, fireplaces, even bedrooms—that first came into vogue on the West Coast, where year-round temperatures are more moderate, have moved East in a big way.

The newest major appliances, furniture, and fabrics are designed to weather the elements. Synthetic lawns and materials such as splinter-free decks are just two signs of the trend.

“People want to enjoy their yard as an outdoor living space,” says Doug Kale, owner of Kale’s Nursery and Landscape Service in Princeton. “The idea of cooking outside and enjoying the outdoors for a longer period of time is a big focus.”

Lighting plays an important role in extending outdoor hours in the evening. Direct spotlights and randomly placed torchieres have fallen out of favor.

Instead, according to Kale, “Indirect lighting that washes the [landscaped] area, rather than blitzing it with a high-voltage floodlight, can look beautiful and inviting.” Hoboken-based landscape designer Adam Hoppe agrees nighttime lighting adds another dimension to the garden. “The elements of fire and water are also very popular,” he says. “There’s something about a flickering flame in the middle of summer—or the middle of winter.” Both he and Kale have noticed rising interest in fire pits and fireplaces, as well as water features, including small ponds or waterfalls incorporated to look natural to the landscape.

 Homeowners are redesigning their backyards for entertainment, but they are also making changes for environmental reasons. “People want to cut down on pesticides and use more organic products on their lawns,” says Kale.

Rather than use pesticides, Kale says, mow grass to a height of three to three-and-a-half inches. This longer cut will help reduce weeds and insects naturally, he says.

In heavily shaded areas, he encourages clients to “go along with Mother Nature” and allow attractive, low-maintenance elements such as moss to do their thing and, in a word, flourish.

Read more Home & Style, Jersey Living articles.

By submitting comments you grant permission for all or part of those comments to appear in the print edition of New Jersey Monthly.

Required not shown
Required not shown