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Art of Landscape Design

I recently read The Devil in the White City by Eric Larson about the architectural challenges and triumphs of designing and building the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Daniel Burnham was the lead architect but I was fascinated by the eccentric and uncompromising, Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of landscape architecture and the designer of Central Park, Prospect Park and the noted grounds of the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina.   Locally, Washington Park and City Park were designed by disciples of Olmsted with Wash Park being a celebrated example and nationally respected in the landscape design community. The sons of Olmsted graded the wooded hill in the park. 

Art of Landscape Design
Grounds at the Biltmore – Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted

Olmsted advocated a natural and long-term design ethos that was quite innovative. He eschewed garishly colored flower beds, ornate bridges and ostentatious features for features which reflected the natural advantages of the space he was commissioned to design. Also his idea of “done” was long term. When his team won the contest to design Central Park, his plan stated that the park’s full effects wouldn’t be completed for forty years and he constantly battled with park commissioners and politicians to preserve the aesthetic and inspiring patience- to let the park grow into the full vision that he designed. 

Art of Landscape Design
Olmsted’s initial design for Central Park

For our customers who have a passion for their yards, we wanted to offer some guidance and inspiration for your own landscape design based on what Frederick Law Olmsted inspired. 

First, when you start sketching out plans it’s good to observe some of the natural assets your property may have. It could be mature trees you want to keep, fields of native grasses or a view of the mountains or a stream. 

Secondly, plant selection. Olmsted relied first on native trees, bushes and grasses to form the foundation of his designs and used his vivid imagination to project what it would like when it was done, which in his mind was decades later. Using native trees and grasses assured that the plants would survive and thrive

Third, Olmsted took great care to figure out who would use the landscape and you can do the same. For example, creating a path around the fence may help accommodate a pet while also allowing you to intentionally design a space that maximizes the look around that constraint. Outdoor living and entertaining, even an idea of your maintenance budget will allow you to make design choices that will give you the most impact. 

If you have questions or need a referral to a good landscape design company, let me know. 

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