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Five Experts Reveal Their Secrets to Gorgeous Garden Design

Five Experts Reveal Their Secrets to Gorgeous Garden Design

Photo: Golden Rock Inn / Studio Jungles

Inspired home landscapes provide welcome and wonder, multi-sensuous joy, privacy and communion. For owners, they are uniquely enjoyed as true living rooms—often delivering satisfaction exceeding that of interior spaces.

Hammock Garden landscape design

Hammock Garden / Studio Jungles / photography by Marion Brenner

Textbook components are line, balance, rhythm, repetition, texture, and color, she explains. They ensure a cohesive infrastructure for any landscaping project.

Ideally, the design/construction team puts checks in all of these boxes while focusing on the owner’s vision and that of the rest of the team, including the architect, landscape architect, builder, even the interior designer, who works with elements such as color palette, artwork, and indoor/outdoor flooring

But natural elements must also be considered, such as water and existing flora, and elements to be added, including perennials, shrubs and trees, gravel and other hardscaping for pedestrian and auto circulation, structures such as pergolas and casitas, and water features including fountains, waterfalls and ponds.

Paradise Valley Home landscape design by Berghoff Design Group

Paradise Valley Home / Berghoff Design Group

All experts agree that the site itself informs the design.

“Inspiration comes from each individual site and homeowner no matter what the location is,” says Jeff Berghoff, founder of Scottsdale-based Berghoff Design Group. “Whenever we meet with clients, we hear their ideas and then bring those together with the architecture of the home and the existing natural elements to conceptualize the finished product.”

Each home has distinct surroundings, neighborhood, and topography. “We are fortunate that a lot of our projects sit on lots within the desert, with mountain views or overlooking the cityscape,” he adds. “Understanding where the home will be located inspires the garden to be developed and designed for that space.”

While a desert landscape will be different from a coastal design, inspiring landscapes all combine the indigenous environment, surrounding architecture and cultural influences, says Kimberly Mercurio

A successful garden design is a natural extension of the home. In a Scottsdale home abutting a desert mountain preserve, for example, Berghoff layered boxwood, variegated pittosporum, and Japanese privet along a water feature for color and textural contrast. The water feature extends out to the infinity-edge pool, which “spills” into the mountains and desert. Nature and man coalesce.

While a desert landscape will be different from a coastal design, inspiring landscapes all combine the indigenous environment, surrounding architecture and cultural influences, says Kimberly Mercurio, ASLA, principal of Kimberly Mercurio Landscape Architecture, Cape Cod and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Lily Field Cape Cod by Kimberly Mercurio Landscape Architecture

Lily Field-Cape Cod / Kimberly Mercurio

For a half-acre garden adjacent to a Chatham home, for example, she mixed a variety of Cape Cod flora for dramatic layering: various daylilies, blue hydrangea, a clipped privet hedge to provide a sense of order, and strategically-placed native evergreens for privacy.

Chuck Hess, ASLA, principal of Hess Landscape Architects based in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, stresses context. By this he means not just the site itself, including the home, but the collaborative vision for the project by owner and designer.

He asks, “Is the landscape intended to be seen as a natural land form or a highly-detailed garden? Will the designer’s manipulations to the land feel barely perceivable or heavy? If the latter, how is that done without feeling contrived?”

Farm to Forest garden- Hess Landscape Architects

Farm to Forest / Hess Landscape Architects / Photo by Stephen Govel

Providing context is best accomplished with other design themes or features. For example, sustainability today is mandated not just for prioritizing indigenous plants but for programming regionally-appropriate materials as well.

“With an increased emphasis on a design’s carbon footprint, the use of regionally based construction materials creates positive impacts beyond enhancing the project site; the more local the source, the fewer miles traveled, and more visually fitting for the area vernacular,” explains Hess.

In Philadelphia, the multi-award-winning “Farm to Forest” project transformed a property’s deteriorated stream valley and historic Artesian-spring-fed pond. This included repurposing indigenous metamorphic stone––colloquially, “Wissahickon Schist”––recycled from a local church and incorporating an all-native plant palette, such as dense hardwoods, warm-season grass, and wildflowers.

Golden Rock Inn landscape design by Raymond Jungles

Golden Rock Inn / Studio Jungles

A sense of stewardship should inform each project.

“All landscape design should be an homage to nature, using native plants appropriate for the site, other elements of regional context, and providing a habitat for the local flora and fauna,” says Raymond Jungles, FASLA, who founded Raymond Jungles, Inc. (RJI) in 1982, now Studio Jungles, based in Coconut Grove, Florida.

Key West landscape design - Raymond Jungles

Key West Botanical Garden / Studio Jungles

Jungles’ multi-award-winning projects throughout Florida, Mexico, and the Caribbean include the Key West Botanical Garden, one of the few gardens in the United States educating the public about threatened, endangered, and endemic flora and fauna of the Florida Keys, Cuba, and the Caribbean Basin; Ventana de la Montaña, a home garden adjacent to Chipinque National Park overlooking downtown Monterrey, Mexico; and the Golden Rock Inn, a repurposing of a centuries-old sugar plantation on Nevis, West Indies, into a boutique hotel––harmonizing light, stone, water, plants, structure, landforms, and sky.

“All gardens, wherever they are designed, should be of that region, that particular location, and the earth,” he says.

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