The US Association of Professional Landscape Designers has just announced its 2016 Landscape Design Awards, with some stunning projects winning gold awards, from a clever and thought-provoking show garden to the repair of a riparian corridor, a crisp courtyard garden, and a large entertainer’s coastal garden with extensive views across the bay.
APLD 2016 International Landscape Design Awards
The awards honour excellence in landscape design across APLD’s US and international membership. Projects in eight different categories are judged on the basis of difficulty, craftsmanship, attention to detail and execution.
APLD 2016 Designer of the Year
Carrie Preston, Studio TOOP, The Netherlands. Project: ‘The Inclusive Garden‘.
Designed as a collaborative project with Jasper Helmantel from Cruydt Hoeck, this wonderful show garden by Carrie Preston for the Dutch Appeltern Garden Festival starts with a simple idea – what can you do with an area that has been completely paved with 600 x 400mm pavers – and shows that when you selectively lift and stack some of the pavers and then plant the vacant spaces you can have a luxurious plant-filled garden that changes with the seasons.
The pavers symbolise what we humans are doing to the world around us – stopping nature with our built hardscapes – and how, with the lifting of those pavers we can encourage nature to reassert itself and transform our gardens. The lifted pavers are stacked into low 450mm-high walls (18 inches) which give the garden a strong framework, provide built-in seating, and act as a foil for the loose, flowing planting of perennials like rudbeckia, silene, geranium and salvia plus graceful, arching grasses.
The plants are chosen both for their beautiful flowers but also to encourage insect and bird life, which can also nest in the little insect hotels hidden among the stacked pavers. Early in the season pinks and purples dominate and as the garden moves into autumn/fall, the colours change to reds, rusty browns and burgundy.
A selection of larger shrubs and small trees such as Magnolia stellata, Amelanchier lamarckii, Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ and Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Burgundy’ add year-round structure.
In one section, a shallow pond fills the void, planted with cape waterlily, rushes and mare’s tail, and crossed by pavers which ‘float’ across the water surface.
APLD 2016 Landscape Design GOLD Awards
Gold Award – Matthew Cunningham of Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC in Massachusetts won TWO gold awards for residential projects in and around Boston.
Cunningham’s Beacon Hill project in Boston respects the historic legacy of the mid-1800s surrounding brick walls while satisfying his clients’ love of minimalism and contemporary design. The small L-shaped courtyard designed for entertaining incorporates a thoroughly modern blackened steel wall fountain to mask street noise, an outdoor grill and a new wall to enclose a machinery and storage court. The granite paving has a strong, linear pattern that contrasts with a staggered edge interrupted by clumping Liriope and long, narrow voids filled with mosses. Planters of Ilex, Fothergilla and Amelanchier add year-round structure.
In the Gold-winning Cambridge project, Cunningham creates a woodland garden as a contrast to a large and imposing contemporary home. Fresh greens and unstructured planting are the perfect foil for the strong horizontal lines of timber cladding. Plants have been carefully chosen to thrive in the permanently damp soil of a perched water table and make a tapestry of textures beneath deciduous trees. Reclaimed granite slabs give access throughout the garden.
Gold Award – Katherine Field of Katherine Field and Associates, Newport, Rhode Island. Project: ‘Bridge House’
The brief for this garden required an entertainer’s summer garden with small spaces for just a few to up to 150 people, places to lure teenagers to get outside, a new pool and spa, and night lighting. The landscape design needed to satisfy this wish-list while keeping open the stunning views across the bay, and also managing a moderate to steep slope, a house set at a distinct angle, drainage and difficult plant growing conditions.
Katherine Field and Associates have solved these site problems and delivered the brief with several clever design devices. The setting of large granite blocks on the central terrace at a variety of angles reflects the house’s unusual shape and roofline, and there is ample seating for a crowd, but they also break up the spaces into more intimate sized areas to suit smaller groups. The blocks also give pleasing mass across the ground plane, reducing the ‘big sky’ feel of a garden open to an expansive view.
And the detailing makes all the difference with these large and heavy walls and blocks – dark blocks sit solidly on much paler grey paving, smooth surfaces and crisp corners contrast with stack-stone infills, and an interesting paving pattern combines very large pieces with long, narrow strips and also same-dimension frosted and backlit glass panels.
Each stone wall is carefully balanced by a mass of summer-loving perennials and grasses, with exotics closer to the house and a native plant buffer zone next to the bay.
Gold Awards – Charles Hess, of Hess Landscape Architects, Inc., Lansdale, Pennsylvania
Hess Landscape Architects took away no less than 3 Gold Awards in 2016.
Project: Bryn Mawr Residence, Pennsylvania
A large, new garden around a large, new home – a landscape designer’s dream project! However large-scale landscapes require a very different approach to a regular-sized residential project. Both horizontal and vertical elements need to be in scale with the house and the size of the overall garden, while still providing interesting detail as one walks around. A less-skilled designer tends to go for swathes of mass planting but Hess shows a more sophisticated planting palette, using small areas of one plant that then repeating it in either form or texture, such as clipped mounds, misty uprights or patches of strong seasonal colour.
Clever reuse of historical garden features (there was an original period home that had, sadly, been demolished by neglect by previous owners and couldn’t be salvaged) such as garden walls, a wisteria arbor and a grand stairway give a strong sense of place. New hardscape areas have been added such as motor court, a pool and an entertaining terrace but each is balanced by deep planting areas so the hard surfaces don’t dominate. And a beautiful koi pond.
This is a very special garden. You’d hope that one day it might be open to the public so that others could see just how to create a grand garden on this scale.
Hess Landscape Architects have created another large garden with a distinct character, this time dominated by an existing mature woodland, surrounding a beautiful heritage home. New garden areas include a pool and spa, formal garden, hillside garden, secret garden, entertaining courtyard and a reconfigured driveway. Levelling this area required special care as there were two heirloom Katsura trees on either side of the front door that had been planted decades before by the current owner’s father that needed to be preserved.
The crisp formality and perfection of this small lawn next to the infinity pool is perfectly balanced by the curved fence and the informal mass of mature trees beyond.
Throughout the garden there is that necessary combination of large-scale elements with small-scale detail. Look at the step treatment, where the grand width of the overall stairs that registers from a distance then has small planted areas in each step, so that those using them can be delighted with intimate-scale plantings but a viable pedestrian width is maintained.
Project: Philadelphia Farm to Forest
The rehabilitation of a farm stream and pond from silted-up, weed infested, flood-prone and degraded to what we see in this remarkable project is not just about looks, as it incorporates some very careful stream and environmental management techniques. The scale of hydrological works included allowing feeder streams to flow in more freely to increase water turnover, dredging out accumulated sediment from the pond, reducing stream velocity and erosion with a new lining of local rock, and reintroducing aquatic plants and gamefish. Surrounding the stream and pond are a new upstream meadow and vigorous native plants and canopy trees, selected for their ability to out-compete the weeds and grouped along the watercourse according to their ability to cope with various levels of inundation.
This is not a project that can be completed on a drawing board and handed to a contractor but obviously one that required many onsite hours for the designer, fitting the plan to the site, to achieve this result.
Gold Awards – Zaremba & Company, Inc., Ann Arbor, Michigan
Project: Turtle Lake
The owners of this large family home wanted a formal garden, including on the previously underdeveloped sloping side yard and to improve the existing swimming pool and entertaining zone. The complication? A surrounding natural wetland and floodplain required an environmentally sensitive solution for drainage and grading.
The formal garden begins at the front with a reclaimed cobblestone motor court surrounded by large-scale plantings of crimson barberry, pachysandra, azalea, oak leaf hydrangea and boxwood hedges, plus sugar maples and spruces. In the side area, a multi-level garden separated by drystack walls offers a vantage point to appreciate the beauty of the space. Small elements of informality soften the formal layout, such as the fond du lac slab walls and stairs and the crazy-paved path becoming more open with moss joints as it leads to the family pool area.
Project: Ann Arbor
This project added a new infinity-edge two-level pool, pool terrace and outdoor living area to this established 40 acre estate. Although this is obviously a large pool, the scale of the surrounding pool house and lawn area, and the way the pool water in the upper level finishes flush with the surfaces around it prevents it dominating the view from the house.
The lower pool is the fun area, with a waterfall and slide. By splitting the pool over two levels, there’s a nice sense of enclosure in the lower space, and surrounding deep, plant-filled garden beds balance the open voids. Why would you ever go back to the house?
[For more details of APLD’s 2016 Award-winning projects, including Silver and Bronze awards, visit APLD Design Awards]