The Making of Three Gardens
The garden design firm of SMI Landscape Architecture is known for its estate masterplanning, its public gardens and streetscapes, and its thoughtful private gardens for clients across the United States and in the Bahamas. The firm's philosophy incorporates a 'botanical garden' approach with exotic planning and elements of classical European design to create beautiful, usable spaces, and it is also known for its preservation and restoration of old landscapes.
As Jorge Sánchez puts it in the Prologue, 'Most of us tend to look at garden books for their pictures. In this one I would like to show you why the picture, pictures came about. It is all part of why we came about. Gardens do not just happen. They are creations.' This book examines three of the firm's recent private gardens in great detail, two in Florida and one in Scarsdale, New York. Practical information about the design approach and details of the planting are combined with Sánchez's account of the process behind each garden, his relationship with the client and the reasons for his decisions. Through the narrative - often personal, always descriptive, always detailed - a picture builds up of his approach to each set of circumstances.
The first project is in Miami, a family garden with a surprisingly untropical design for its southern location. Describing each area of the garden in detail, Sánchez explains that the clients wanted it to feel like a northern landscape, and how that requirement influenced his choice of plants. He puts forward his belief in the importance of the relationship between house and garden, saying: 'Our responsibility as landscape gardeners is to complement the architecture... to give the buildings a sense of place and grounding.'
The second project, in Scarsdale, New York, came about in an oblique way: Sánchez was called in to propose suggestions for landscaping a large site that was to be subdivided and sold. He suggested to the owners that they instead develop it for themselves, and the idea took hold. He explains that having already worked with these clients, he was familiar with their taste and requirements but had to consider afresh the new site and the building that was already present. His priority was to make the plot look as though it had always been that way, keeping its naturalness while adapting it for the use of the family.
The final garden in the book is the most dramatically sited, on a high cliff in Palm Beach, Florida. Sánchez delighted in taking advantage of the spectacular views throughout the plot. Influenced by the work of the renowned twentieth-century landscape designer Beatrix Farrand, he created an upper and a lower garden, separated by fountain staircases that break up the change in level and provide the cooling splash of water. He even describes how the swimming pool was at first destined to be a tennis court, but that the idea of a place for grandchildren to play won out. As Sánchez puts it, 'I have a feeling this is a property they will be using more and more.'
Throughout the book Sánchez gives a strong sense of participation - with the climate, with the local flora, with the clients and with other designers, whether sculptors, architects or interior designers. To be part of such collaborative efforts is hugely satisfying for him, as well as producing the best possible result for each set of clients.
This stunning book will appeal to garden lovers everywhere, as well as to design aficionados seeking a deeper understanding of the creative process behind making a garden. It will also appeal to garden designers and horticultural students.