Archive for April, 2010

The secret to creating extraordinary gardens

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Do you ever wonder what separates the average “nice” landscape from an extraordinary garden that just fits?
Some say its focal points,  scale or plant textures, and while important,  I’ve seen many gardens  technically “correct” that never achieve that je ne sais quoi of something special, that just “clicks”.  Of course, I’m not speaking of those beautiful old gardens which  have organically emerged from the labor of a true gardener’s inspiration. These have the luxury of having developed over years of tuning into a site and planting, moving and refining original concepts to create true wonder.   Rather, I’m speaking of the newly created home gardens that seek to look and feel less contrived, with more character, as if they “belong” and just work.  So let me share what I believe to be the path to creating these special gardens.  The truth is, to create an garden beyond the mundane, you need at minimum three things:

1. A designer and design (seems obvious but you’d be surprised how many people believe they can skip this step).

2. A great design based in a true collaboration of the designer, site, and client inspirations,  and

3. Skillful coordination, unifying the talents of craftsmen and women, artists, contractors, and more, to manifest the dream to reality.

These form the basis of all great designs. So maybe these aren’t really secrets, rather  laws to creating an excellent garden. And yes you still need your all your elements of classical design training:  focal points, balance, scale, and textural contrasts, etc.  All designers I know agree that design is not a quick process –extraordinary gardens require hours of thought, inspiration, and collaboration of the many, many elements, materials, plants, and people that comprise the garden.  But there is one more aspect of a garden design that is needed to make a garden truly special.  And often rushing a project overlooks this.  So this is the real secret to garden design … knowing what to leave out. Like packing for a trip where you pull all your clothes and tolietries together and then reduce by half–a  knowledgeable and experienced  designer  fits all elements together, analyzes the site carefully, and knows what to remove in the end to make it work. A designer has the skills to guide you through the vast array of distractions (pretty flowers of the disparate type, a beautiful sculpture of the wrong shape, the fountain that doesn’t belong, etc.) that easily derail attempts of the best gardeners.  Yes, we too, as designers, can be overwhelmed at the possibilities, so we sympathize with the temptations. But I know, the more gardens I create, the more I look back and with hindsight see just those occasional elements I could have done without.