What’s your garden’s game plan?



The gardens and palace of Versailles as planned by Le Nôtre for Louis XIV, drawn by Delagrive in 1746.


By:  Tom Nugent, ASLA

Many of us will visit, but few will ever design an Orangerie, an Apollo’s Pool or a King’s Garden like those that occupy part of what was once the royal estate of the Château de Versailles.  To be appointed by the monarch as a principal gardener during the 17th century and responsible for the design and care of his formal gardens was an extraordinary honor, indeed.

The legacy of great landscape architects such as Versailles’ André Le Nôtre continues to inspire. Though most of us may never realize a design assignment worthy of this particular World Heritage Site, today’s landscape architects continue to practice the basic principles of timeless design set forth by Le Nôtre, and the master designers on whose shoulders we stand.

At its core, timeless design is notable for creating a landscape that is durable and multisensory. To achieve that, we use dialogue with clients, plans and the planning process to develop context for a living framework that will adapt over time, versus assigning styles that are constrained by short-lived trends.

Creating an integrated master plan requires thought given to patterns, textures, and ideas to make both the interior spaces of your home and the exterior spaces of your landscape flow in a natural, harmonious and cohesive continuum.

The planning process begins by listing all of your immediate and stretch goals for your property—with your exceptional wish list targets thrown in for good measure.  Often, during this process, new unanticipated potential uses and ideas are developed to help maximize the use of garden spaces.

A thorough evaluation and inventory of existing site conditions is next.  This is critical to creating an accurate and thoughtful long view of how your garden will grow over time.  Some questions we ask are: what existing trees do we preserve? What plants can we save or transplant? What key axial views can we incorporate? What are slope, grade or drainage patterns and how can we use the terrain or let it guide us in our thinking?  Underscoring all the “what ifs” is a fundamental concern for resource management so that water conservation, irrigation requirements, plant material, and soil will be part of the sustainable whole.

Using our client’s needs and lifestyle, and technical information from the site, a thoughtful master plan evolves from dialogue that considers and integrates all the moving parts into a tasteful, fluid, and beautiful extension of the architectural styling of the residence.

Weekly garden care should be discussed during the master planning process, as this will be critical in maintaining the design intent throughout the years.  A realistic assessment should be made of your landscape’s maintenance requirements and budget to make sure that your new design can be properly maintained over time within budget.

To save costs, a master plan can be implemented in phases, which ensures that any landscape expenses will be an investment that is consistent with your long-term goals.

For your 2015 garden project, consider:

  • Creating a sense of luxury at every price point.
  • Thinking about diversity and the use of edibles as a chic focal point.  Look for ways to integrate them as part of a blended ornamental and herb border, for example.
  • Sustainability in the context of design, not as in replacing thirsty lawns, but in choosing plants for their climate tolerance as well as for their beauty.
  • Investing in natural materials and good design that is built to last.
  • Investing in lifestyle versatility by creating outdoor family-friendly areas, built-ins, kitchens, and outdoor living rooms.
  • Planting for privacy with a mixture of trees, shrubs and perennials to provide screening so that your garden becomes as a secluded retreat and a destination area in itself.


About the author:  Tom Nugent, ASLA, is a Registered Landscape Architect and outdoor lifestyle specialist at Lambert Landscape Company.  tnugent@lamberts.net


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