A New Leaf
Teresa Carleo treats plants with TLC—and makes gorgeous urban oases in the process.
BY LAUREN HOENEMEYER
FROM LEFT: Teresa Carleo’s house in North Haven; Teresa Carleo; The prairie-like green roof at 250 Hudson Street is accessible to all tenants and offers spectacular views.
When it comes to keeping it green, Teresa Carleo—founder of Plant Fantasies, Inc., a Manhattan-based landscape contractor for a who’s-who of real estate developers—knows how to bring any floral desire to fruition. From the street level to the rooftop, Carleo plants and prunes her way to a greener concrete jungle, drawing inspiration from her verdant Hamptons haven.
In addition to her signature sculpting of terraces and penthouse patios, Carleo is sought out for her floral arrangements. These adorn some of the most exclusive Manhattan residences, including Manhattan House (formerly inhabited by Grace Kelly), 15 Central Park West, Trump Tower, Miraval Living and the Renaissance New York Hotel Times Square.
“Landscaping completely transforms a terrace, rooftop, or garden,” says Carleo. “It adds dimension, life, points of interest, color, texture, and, most importantly, the owner’s personality.”
Carleo, who has had a home in North Haven for 17 years, views her Hamptons escape as her muse. “Being in the Hamptons every week connects me to a natural beauty that is not as readily available in the city—one that touches my soul and is vital to me,” she says, citing such scenes as an estuary surrounded by ornamental grass or a hummingbird perched on salvia.
Her interest in plants and natural environments started when she was a young girl gardening tomatoes with her father in Little Neck. After her father passed away, Carleo decided to start her own business in 1987, staying true to her passion of gardening. A one-woman start-up, she scouted residential buildings, always in search of a blank canvas with which to showcase her talent. Her artistic prowess and boundless energy have since won her lifelong clients (Macklowe Properties and Jack Resnick & Sons among them), and she was recently recognized as one of six Top Entrepreneurs of 2010 by Crain’s New York Business.
Part of her Carleo’s appeal is her interest in green endeavors and technology, illustrated in residences like 250 Hudson Street, which boasts a tenant-accessible prairie-like roof. Not only do green rooftops promote sustainability, they’re also a visual treat, she says. “All elements work together to form a beautiful and interesting surface where there would otherwise be nothing more than a hot black tar roof,” she says.