I work on Park Avenue South, near Gramercy Park. Every morning, after parking on 18th Street, I make the short walk to the office, crossing Irving Place, which presents a view of Gramercy Park just two blocks up. This area is still relatively small scale, with a feeling of the old New York. Gramercy Park is privately owned by the residents of the buildings around it. If you don't have a key, you can't get in. The park is an oasis of peace in the bustle of the City, wedged at the end of Irving Place, between the roaring traffic of Park Avenue South on one side and Third Avenue on the other. Most of the buildings are relatively low, and some very elegant 19th century townhouses remain, particularly a beautiful row on the west side of the park. Looking across the park, you see the Chrysler Building towering far up the narrow cleft of Lexington Avenue. Quite a contrast.
This rather incongruous image makes for a beautiful view, one I take delight in each morning. The contrast between the Art Deco icon with its theatrical verticality and the guiet little island of Gramercy Park suggests how such contrast might be used in the garden. The rather crude image below (my Photoshop skills are very limited) gives you the idea: tall, square hornbeam columns amid the blousy perennial garden. Placement and size are only for trial; the positions and relative sizes will certainly change when I get around to the actual planting.
My garden consists mostly of herbaceous perennials. While the many large perennials do give a sense of height, the overall effect is of a wild horizontal planting. Some strong, clean verticals would add an element of formality and a feeling of height. I've ordered some English hornbeams (Carpinus betulus) to grow into vertical topiary columns. I chose hornbeams because they make great looking hedges, even retaining their brown leaves into winter, and they may be able to thrive in my wet clay. One full year should tell the tale.