Whatever you have planted in the ground — from boxwood to tomatoes — garden designer Jon Carloftis has planted in containers. That's how he creates the verdant rooftop gardens for clients in New York City.
For years, Carloftis, a Kentucky native, wanted to introduce his own line of containers. A hectic schedule — designing, planting and maintaining rooftop gardens, writing books and lecturing — meant there never was enough time.
Then, in January, Country Living magazine called, asking Carloftis to be part of the 2010 House of the Year project team. The theme: "Home Green Home."
Editor Sarah Gray Miller and Carloftis had worked together for several years. Country Living did a 10-page layout on Carloftis' house in Bucks County, Pa., and he has written for the magazine.
Miller asked Carloftis to create a garden for the 1,600-square-foot energy-efficient house to be displayed in Lower Manhattan's financial district.
The prefabricated structure was a joint effort between the New York-based editors of Country Living and New World Home, a company that has developed a series of LEED-certified modular houses based on historical architectural designs. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, which certifies green building methods.
Because the house would be on a wharf, the garden had to be planted in containers, and the containers had to be made of reclaimed material.
Suddenly, the time seemed right for Carloftis to design his own containers. "It all fit together just perfect," said Dale Fisher, Carloftis' partner, who manages the financial side of the garden-design business.
Carloftis and Fisher immediately contacted Vance Evans and George Gatewood, owners of Longwood Antique Woods in Lexington. They are specialists in antique wood flooring and custom furniture made from old barn wood and horse farm fence planks.
That was the start of the Jon Carloftis America Reclaimed Garden Collection, which includes containers, lattice panels and potting sheds.
Using containers made by Longwood, Carloftis planted a vegetable garden with cabbages, lettuce, tomatoes and corn at the Country Living House of the Year, which was open to the public June 3 through Thursday. Sturdy lattice panels made from old tobacco sticks were set in the containers to form a backdrop, and the containers were planted with vining spring peas.
"Everyone I talk with wants to be able to grow vegetables in their back yard," Carloftis said.
When homeowners find that their back-yard soil is nothing more than clay, Fisher said, "containers give you an instant garden."
"You can put a vegetable garden in your driveway. Or what about on your deck? Some decks are huge. What do you do with those things? Turn it into a vegetable garden."
Two of Carloftis' planters now decorate the Fifth Third Bank Pavilion in Cheapside Park. They were unveiled Thursday to mark 100 days until the start of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
Carloftis also is working with Deirdre Lyons, wife of Alltech founder and president T. Pearse Lyons, to design a raised-bed vegetable garden in the WEG children's pavilion at the Kentucky Horse Park.
The containers, made of recycled pine and oak, come in three sizes and two shapes — cubes and rectangles. They range in price from $350 to $850. All containers are custom orders. The ready-made 2-foot-by-4-foot tobacco-stick lattice panels are $125, also at Longwood. The lattice and containers are on display in the Longwood showroom.
Right now, the containers are lined with truck-bed vinyl lining and are finished with a light coat of polyurethane, Evans said, but he doesn't want to use either of those for the long haul. "We're researching green options for the lining and the finish," he said.
The sheds are in the development stage and haven't been priced. Two prototypes have been made from antique logs, using reclaimed doors, windows and recycled tin from old barn roofs. One was displayed at the Blue Grass Trust Antiques & Garden Show in March.
"We're eventually going to have a 10-by-10 kit we can ship to people. And we'll have different styles, like New England ones, California wine country ones," Gatewood said.
In the meantime, Carloftis said, "we will work with the customer to get what they want."
He said the sheds can work in a rustic setting "or on a very beautiful estate as a folly."