Lawn & Garden

Top Tips for Creating Lovely Outdoor Environments

A gravel-lined rose garden is contained through the use of clipped boxwood and natural cedar treillage structures.

The perception people have of your home begins well before visitors reach your front door. Whether it's a simple wildflower garden along a walkway or an elaborate formal entry gate, your landscaping creates an indelible impression about your home and how you choose to live.

Even though I have somewhat of a “brown thumb”-or perhaps because of that fact-I find myself constantly seeking inspiration and ideas on how to beautify my outdoor spaces. Therefore, I was delighted to learn of a new book published June 1, The Private Oasis: The Landscape Architecture and Gardens of Edmund Hollander Design (Grayson Publishing), which profiles the work of award-winning environmental design firm Edmund Hollander Design.

The opulent, 368-page coffee-table book highlights dramatic residential landscapes in New York, the Hamptons, and coastal Connecticut, showcasing exquisite outdoor spaces in more than 1,000 color photographs. Founded in 1991 by principals Edmund D. Hollander and Maryanne Connelly, Hollander Design has completed more than 200 environmental design projects in the region and has received four prestigious design awards from the New York Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Hollander explains how the firm approaches its designs. “Every project we do starts with a three-pronged analysis: we look at the site itself from an ecological and visual perspective to determine what elements are already on the property-wonderful old trees, a stream or a pond, for instance. We consult with the architect of the new or existing buildings to determine the overall style of the property-whether it is traditional or contemporary, formal or casual. And we spend a lot of time talking with the individual families about how they intend to use the property-whether it is a full-time or part-time residence, a weekend getaway or a vacation home, for example. The key is to find out what makes each property special.”

Hollander points out that any landscape should be treated with respect, noting that it is important to maximize the natural elements in a given environment. Here are his five “top tips” for approaching any landscape design project:

1. “Work with really, really good people. Everyone involved in a project should share a common vision of the end result.”

2. “Figure out how you want to live, and let this determine what choices you make for the landscape. If you don't have a lot of time to mow, for example, you may not want to have acres and acres of lawn; you may want to have a wooded area or a wildflower meadow.”

3. “You're only going to do this once, so do it right. Obviously, everyone has to work within a budget, but think carefully about how you are going to use the property and what you want in the future, so you don't have any regrets down the road.”

4. “Think about where you see yourself in five to ten years. Keep in mind the fact that landscapes take time to grow and mature.”

5. “Don't fight Mother Nature! Look at what wants to grow on your property and where, so that you can work with the native environment, rather than constantly fighting the natural tendencies of the land.”

Tardiva and hydrangea planted in a field of lavender create a low-growing allee with a strong visual impact.

Hollander notes that he has seen a trend toward more sustainable landscape designs that require less care and maintenance. “People are looking for simplicity, and in many cases, are looking to minimize the use of water and chemicals in an effort to be more ecologically-friendly,” he relates. “We also see a trend toward landscapes that multiple generations of the family can enjoy together-a place where grandparents can sit in the shade while their adult children prepare dinner and their grandchildren play tennis, for example.

“Landscapes are meant to be enjoyed,” he adds. “More and more, there is a blurring of the line between architecture and landscape, between the indoor and outdoor spaces.”

The Private Oasis: The Landscape Architecture and Gardens of Edmund Hollander Design is available in book stores, at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

For more on landscape design, consider:

Landscaping: A Good Investment
Garden Paths: 12 Easy-to-Imitate Stone Walkways
Nation: 38 Ideas for a Peaceful Garden Refuge