Catherine StewartUSA’s 2015 best landscape designers

America’s Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD) has announced its award winners for 2015. APLD’s award winning designers each year feature gardens and landscapes that are simply stunning, filled with clever problem solving, beautiful planting, well-chosen hardscape elements and both sustainable and decorative ideas that you can use in your own garden.

With more than a thousand members throughout the USA, APLD’s landscape designers work on a wide variety of high-quality residential, commercial and specialty projects in every type of climate and environment. The standard of the winning APLD projects for 2015 is so good, I’ll need quite a few blog posts to be able to share all the gold and merit award winners with you.

In this first post I’ll show you three of the APLD Gold-winning residential designs.

GOLD – Residential Design
Designer: David Thorne, of David Thorne Landscape Architects Inc, Oakland CA. Project: Reclamation of Native Oak Ridge. Site: Lafeyette, California (Zone 9b)

The notched house design leaves plenty of planting areas Reclamation of Native Oak Ridge, Design David Thorne LA, Oakland CA

The notched house design leaves plenty of planting areas – Reclamation of Native Oak Ridge, Design David Thorne LA, Oakland CA

This barren ridge-top with stunning views to Mt Diablo had been degraded by past sitework. Working alongside the house architects, David Thorne has created a haven with drifts of native plants, drought-hardy succulents and a succession planting of live oaks that promotes pollinator habitat, water retention and site sustainability. Careful site rehabilitation, grading and material choices means all rainwater is redirected through swales, rockeries and permeable surfaces back to planting beds and groundwater.

Landscape plan Reclamation of Native Oak Ridge, Design David Thorne LA, Oakland CA

Landscape plan – Reclamation of Native Oak Ridge, Design David Thorne LA, Oakland CA

Spectacular views -Reclamation of Native Oak Ridge, Design David Thorne LA, Oakland CA

Spectacular views – Reclamation of Native Oak Ridge, Design David Thorne LA, Oakland CA

Functional spaces such as a wet-edge swimming pool, an entertaining area shaded by the spreading oaks, and an edible garden merge seamlessly with the house while making the most of the expansive views.

Wet-edge swimming pool - Reclamation of Native Oak Ridge, Design David Thorne LA, Oakland CA

Wet-edge swimming pool – Reclamation of Native Oak Ridge, Design David Thorne LA, Oakland CA

This designs shows the excellent results that can be achieved when architect and landscape designer work together. The notched outline of the house allows varying depths of garden beds planted with drought hardy natives to sweep around the house, hugging the contours and providing a foreground to the extensive views.

Stone slabs make bridges across drainage swales -  Reclamation of Native Oak Ridge, Design David Thorne LA, Oakland CA

Stone slabs make bridges across drainage swales – Reclamation of Native Oak Ridge, Design David Thorne LA, Oakland CA

Stone path floats through a sea of plants Reclamation of Native Oak Ridge, Design David Thorne LA, Oakland CA

Stone path floats through a sea of plants Reclamation of Native Oak Ridge, Design David Thorne LA, Oakland CA

Timber steps to edible garden Reclamation of Native Oak Ridge, Design David Thorne LA, Oakland CA

Timber steps to edible garden Reclamation of Native Oak Ridge, Design David Thorne LA, Oakland CA

I love so much in this landscape design – how some larger stone slab pavers form bridges across the drainage swales; how the path is set at a higher level than its surrounding planted beds so it appears to float through a sea of foliage and flowers; the finer pebble permeable ‘grout’ between the large stone paving slabs; how the step’s handrail echoes the patterns made by the twisted live oak branches; the non-slip texture on the timber step treads down to the edible garden; the way sections of all-season succulents are slotted through the perennial plants; the strong texture contrast between large stone boulders and finer wispy grasses; and how the stainless steel outdoor kitchen is integrated into the surrounding more vernacular stone walls.

Spectacular views, bourndlers and wispy grasses - Reclamation of Native Oak Ridge, Design David Thorne LA, Oakland CA

Spectacular views, boulders and wispy grasses – Reclamation of Native Oak Ridge, Design David Thorne LA, Oakland CA

Step handrail echoes the live oak branching - Reclamation of Native Oak Ridge, Design David Thorne LA, Oakland CA

Step handrail echoes the live oak branching – Reclamation of Native Oak Ridge, Design David Thorne LA, Oakland CA

What an exceptional landscape design.

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Original home and entrance Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC Longwood garden

Original home and entrance Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC Longwood garden

GOLD – Residential Design
Designer: Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC. Project: Longwood Garden. Site: Brookline MA (Zone 6b)

A major house renovation that changes so much about the house shape, height, color and footprint needs a landscape designer who is adept at plan reading and 3D imagination. Matthew Cunningham has created a new garden around this Boston home that is picture perfect when viewed from inside and a delight to be in.

New home and entrance Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC Longwood garden

New home and entrance Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC Longwood garden

The clients’ wishlist included areas for active children’s play, entertaining, ‘California-style outdoor living’ and beach-side ambience, and an attractive entrance and front yard. Problems to be solved included areas of impeded drainage, poor circulation and access, crumbling flagstone with freeze/thaw damage and eroding embankments.

Landscape Plan Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC Longwood garden

Landscape Plan Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC Longwood garden

Textured board-formed concrete wall and permeable paving in the the new entrance Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC Longwood garden

Textured board-formed concrete wall and permeable paving in the the new entrance Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC Longwood garden

New permeable paving creates two parking spaces out front but it’s the new raised front garden bed that really gives the property both kerb appeal from the road and a pretty garden to look at from the vine-covered front porch. I really like the board-formed and textured concrete retaining wall and entry steps – it creates a beautiful textured patina to raw concrete that might otherwise had a much less interesting render and paint job, and works with the graying tones of the timber-clad house to form a neutral backdrop for grassy foliage plants.

Rear shady courtyard Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC Longwood garden

Rear shady courtyard Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC Longwood garden

In the rear yard, Cunningham has delineated two separate sitting terraces – one for sun and the other for shade, making the most of an existing mature burr oak. Paving is kept to a minimum and I like the way it has a ‘broken edge’ on both sides so it blends through into the lawn and also lets the meadow planting intrude into the paved area, keeping the hard surface firmly down the design pecking order when compared to plants.

Meadow-style plantings intrude into paved areas Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC Longwood garden

Meadow-style plantings intrude into paved areas Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC Longwood garden

Meadow plantings rear garden Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC Longwood garden

Meadow plantings rear garden Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC Longwood garden

At the shady end, the slatted screen will soon be covered by deciduous wisteria, giving this a very cosy sense of enclosure and in the sunny corner there’s room for a small edible garden and outdoor cooking.

Coastal plantings Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC Longwood garden

Coastal plantings Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC Longwood garden

 

 

 

 

New plantings of birch, ferns and coastal woodland plants create a lacy but privacy-enhancing green screen.

View from rear boundary showing sunny and shady terraces Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC Longwood garden

View from rear boundary showing sunny and shady terraces Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC Longwood garden

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GOLD – Planting Design
Designer: Susan Cohan APLD. Project: Lee Hill Farm. Site: New Vernon, NJ (Zone 6)

Lee Hill Farm Before

Lee Hill Farm Before

Sited on a prominent corner of an 18th century historic property, the 7800 square foot garden (725m²) dating from the 1920s had some good bones but much of it was in disrepair and with little planting. The clients wanted to keep the spirit of the original garden but make it lower-maintenace, more family-friendly, and deer resistant.

The garden is overlooked from the house deck Lee Hill Farm Design Susan Cohan APLD

The house deck looks over the new garden at Lee Hill Farm. Design Susan Cohan APLD

Planting plans from the 1940s showed an original plant palette of deep blue and pink flowers, accented through the seasons with yellow and white. By using that as a base color scheme, Cohan has cleverly created a changing display of colors from spring through to fall starting as blue, pink and white, changing to white, yellow and pink, and then back to blue, pink and white.

Planting plan Lee Hill Farm Design. Susan Cohan APLD

Planting plan Lee Hill Farm Design. Susan Cohan APLD

The overall design creates two strong axes intersecting at the existing rectangular pool, which is surrounded by new bluestone flagging. This makes an appropriately formal layout that reads well both from the ground plane and also the view from the deck. Clipped boxwood balls and topiary pyramids form an evergreen structure added to by hydrangea and Japanese snowbell (Styrax japonicus) during the warmer months, and key plants like bearded iris are repeated to create a sense of rhythm and unity.

Boxwood gives structure Lee Hill Farm Design Susan Cohan APLD

Boxwood gives structure Lee Hill Farm Design Susan Cohan APLD

The peony walk Lee Hill Farm. Design Susan Cohan APLD

The peony walk Lee Hill Farm. Design Susan Cohan APLD

The owner’s peony collection is displayed in a special peony walk with climbing iceberg roses for the arbor, and the surrounding beds have succession plantings of a wide variety of low-growing, long-flowering and easy-care perennials, featuring bearded Iris, Salvia, Dianthus, Coreopsis, Amsonia and Leucanthemum in the sunnier areas, and more shade-loving Astilbe and Anemone x hybrida in the section sheltered by the enormous Ulmus americana.

A perfect ratio of paving to plants to lawn. Lee Hill Farm. Design Susan Cohan APLD

A perfect ratio of paving to plants to lawn. Lee Hill Farm. Design Susan Cohan APLD

This garden has a perfect ratio of green lawn to bluestone flagging to planted beds and I love the way they interlock. Cohan has also given herself an added difficulty factor of designing two of the long perennial beds to be viewed from both sides, from the central lawn and also from a walkway along the outside. Her clever solution adds intermittent height, weaving taller plants and regularly-spaced topiary boxwood through the beds on alternating sides.

I also like that although the overall layout is strongly symmetrical, most of the planting is not, so there’s a good balance of structured formality and more informal planting, which also makes it much lower maintenance.

Lee Hill Farm Design Susan Cohan APLD

Lee Hill Farm Design Susan Cohan APLD

If ever a garden was going to make me lust after living in USDA Zone 6 and leave my comfortable warm-temperate home, this would be it.

[All photos courtesy Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD)]

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Catherine Stewart

About Catherine Stewart

Award-winning garden journalist, blogger and photographer; writer for garden magazines and co-author of 'Waterwise Gardening'; landscape designer turned landscape design judge and critic; compulsive networker and lover of generally putting fingers in lots of pies. Particularly mud pies. Creator, curator and editor of GardenDrum. Sydney, NSW.

2 thoughts on “USA’s 2015 best landscape designers

  1. Deryn Thorpe on said:

    Fabulous article as always Catherine and excellent pics too!!

  2. What stunning gardens. I particularly like David Thorne’s: he had the benefit of spectacular views but has managed to create an interesting garden that doesn’t seem to compete them with, only complement them, resulting in a great sense of place. My only question is how well the succulents are ‘slotted into’ the perennials. Because the textures contrast so greatly, I feel they need to be properly mixed up, not just in two separate, adjoining patches. Hard to tell with a few photos, but either way, I’d love to go and visit this one.

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