The Secret Garden

((The Poplar Street garden, looking toward the BQE from the koi pond; photo courtesy Bill Spier))

((The Poplar Street garden, looking toward the BQE from the koi pond; photo courtesy Bill Spier))

In a formerly-empty lot on Poplar Street sits one of the borough’s richest and lushest private gardens. It’s almost like the Heights’ own Gramercy Park, but here passersby can look in and see flowers from the sidewalk and still get that pleasant satisfaction of nature all around us. This week, BHB got a tour of the garden, and will post a video tour for you soon. A photography slideshow is below.

The 1-acre Bridge Harbor Heights Garden is home to more than 300 different plants; at least six species of birds (including migratory ones, season permitting); a koi from Fortune House (until recently, there were two); and a hive of bumblebees. The garden wraps around residential buildings on Poplar Street, between Hicks and Henry streets, and rests along Old Fulton Street (and the residents’ parking lot) to the north.

(Slideshow after the jump)

Sixteen years ago, Ford Rogers embarked on the project to build up the garden, and since has transformed the space into a stunning masterpiece. Neighbors William Spier and his son Jason now help Rogers with the garden, going in nearly daily to pull up weeds and make sure everything’s growing in nicely.

Over the course of its history, the team has brought in a rich variety of flower and fauna and have it somewhat divided into a native New York flora section, Japanese plants (it’s a similar climate, Spier said), and an herb garden. The rest of the plants are arranged by what would look good where, and how best to keep a nice ambiance, Spier said.

Asked his favorite part, Spier thought for a minute.

“[The garden] has a particular life of its own — it’s like history itself, it’s a continuous process. It doesn’t exist in parts. It’s one garden, not in parts,” he said.

See below for photos, and we’ll post more as the summer unfolds.

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  • Andrew Porter

    I remember when this block was desolate, awaiting redevelopment, with the former store or bar at the corner of Henry and Poplar lined with what looked like mahogany bookcases. I’ve never actually seen this garden properly, mostly because from the Fulton and end of Hicks Street sides what you see are a few plants with cars parked next to them. The fence and trash cans also block the view from the outside.

  • In the Heights

    I used to live in this building and it is extraordinary. It’s like a little oasis. We used to grill and eat outside and really loved having the garden. The BQE noise is ever-present, but it is still very special. There is a huge herb garden as well that everyone can use.

  • William Spier

    Thanks for the nice article Sarah. Cited in the past for his rich vision making this garden, (Brooklyn Heights Association award) his hard work paid off extroadinarily this year. It is a great privelege to be able to be a serf on his demense.

  • brooklyn Guy

    I have a serious roof garden, not a deck with some plants on it. I garden. Ford Rogers has been a daily inspiration to me each day (for the past 15 years) as I walk to the subway. Unbelievable selection, careful placement and meticulously maintained. Even the two foot border between the cars and the side walk is species rich and weed free. BEST IN SHOW!

  • alex

    I’m confused. Is this garden open to anyone?

  • William Spier


    The garden is not open. But, anyone who would like to visit can e-mail the blog and maybe they will forward it on to me.

  • Andrew Porter

    William, any relation to the ad agency Franklin Spier?

    My investment person used to live in 55 Poplar, but decamped to her own brownstone.

  • Bill Spier


    I have no direct relation to Franklin Spier. Funny though, my father was one of the “deans of Madison Avenue”, but never worked in an agency. He was a big money ad man for the television stations in NYC, and also Miami and the west coast during his career of 40 years. I grew up in the media world and often found myself in the presence of great name performers when a young lad.

  • samarrah

    Come check out the garden at our upcoming work days:
    Sat Sept. 26th and Sat. Oct. 17 12pm-3pm


  • NY Jets forum

    What gorgeous photos but I will be honest the first (heading photo) does not look like Brooklyn at all. For the hundreds of times I came to visit the Heights I have never seen his garden. I never knew it existed. From some of the comments though it looks like it can be difficult to get good views of the garden. Does anyone know exactly where to go for the best view?

  • melanie hope greenberg

    When I take the shortcut to Dumbo from Hicks to Main St, I love turning the corner to this beautiful garden. I sometimes see the neighbors having a party out there. So lucky. Thanks for the beauty near the bridge traffic.


    If it is an acre it should be readily visible but I don’t see it on the aerial view of Google Maps (I looked up Poplar Street between Hicks and Henry). Can anyone give a more detailed description?