HELLO, APLD New England Chapter Members!
As we hover expectantly on the cusp of spring, we thought this would be a fitting time to revisit the question of just what it is we are doing with this newsletter, this designing life, and thisAPLD chapter. The Board’s goals for the newsletter are to educate, inform, and inspire; to shine a spotlight on you, the members and your wonderful work; and to elevate the design standards we all aspire to by sharing our considerable group professional know-how not only as it relates to design but also sales, marketing, construction, and all around practice.
To that end, we have put together a year’s worth of newsletter topics for 2018. This month’s issue is a spotlight on The Farm Coast, featuring a member interview, profiles of three incredible gardens, and a look at the many nurseries in this beautiful and special coastal area of our region.
In April, we will focus on Nurseries, in May on Stone, and in upcoming months we’ll take onSwimming Pools, Water Features, Fire in the Garden, and Lighting. Of special note is the June issue, which we hope to devote exclusively to members’ work. For this, we need your participation. Dust off those photos from your best projects of last year and beyond and send them to us. Just click here to upload your photos directly to the chapter dropbox. Don't forget to label each image with your name so we can credit you. We’ll do this again later in the year, so please keep the newsletter in mind as you are photographing your work this season.
Lastly, wouldn’t it be nice to know who your fellow members are? Many folks have put a lot of their most precious commodities-time and energy- into the group over the years. Newer members should know there is plenty of room for their contributions as well. The more life we collectively breathe into our chapter, the livelier it will be. And to further understand how best the chapter and the newsletter can serve you, we have put together a 2-minute survey. Please take the survey. It will help us understand what you need.
Ruth Riske and Nancy Lattanzio
The “Farm Coast”: Southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island
Where exactly is it?
A dozen years or so ago, a group of merchants came up with the name the Farm Coast to describe the communities in the coastal areas of Tiverton, Little Compton, Westport, and Dartmouth. The area may be called the South Coast when you include Fall River, New Bedford and Marion and even Taunton, Attleboro and Plymouth. It is brimming over with charm and local color in the way that only a coastal agricultural area can, with more native stone walls per person than anywhere else in Massachusetts, plenty of farm to table fare, a shrinking number of actual dairy farms, beef farms, and wineries.
You know this area because you drive into it whenever you go to Sylvan Nursery in Westport. The region is one of the best parts of New England for growing, and hence we have not only Sylvan but Quansett Nursery, Rhode Island Nurseries, Roseland, and several smaller boutique wholesale and retail plant destinations.
An Interview with Shawn Mayers
We asked APLD Member Shawn Mayers to share with us what it’s like to live and work in this gorgeous coastal area and to tell us a bit about her company and her work as a designer. Shawn is the principal and lead designer at Groundswell Designs in Jamestown, Rhode Island, which she established in 2000. Shawn is also certifiedAPLD designer.
You work in a beautiful part of New England. What’s it like working in the MA/RI south coast area? How does it inspire your work? Are there any special challenges? What’s an ideal project for you?
It is not without its challenges: invasives, weather, soil/ledge, short seasons…but I am really inspired by the wide variety of plant material that can grow here — from the woodland understory plants that give our spring so much life, to the beachy, seaside grasses flowing with the wind and reflecting the late season sun as well as the beautiful, natural stone used in the old stone walls.
I am an ecological designer, with a very naturalistic planting style — so the ideal client would be one that is interested in achieving those goals. I’ve had several clients that have said “no lawn!” And that gets my attention right away. Most often, there is a bit of education that I do with clients to get them to understand the importance of restoring the landscape after construction (we do a lot of new builds) - I like when clients are open to that.
Is there much of a landscape design or green industry community in the area?
RI has a rich agricultural background so there are lots of growers and nurseries with many, many landscaping companies. There areseveral landscape design/architectural firms dotted throughout the state, but only 3 (I believe) that are APLD members. While the green industry is strong, I believe landscape designers are a bit of an anomaly, so I usually have to explain what I do to new clients (and family!).
What led you to become a landscape designer?
Being outside, whether it's working or enjoying the sunshine, has always had a positive effect on me. So in a macro sense, I have always been interested in helping people connect with nature and seeing whether that positive effect translated for them as well. Shakespeare said, “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin,” and I believe there is a lot of truth to that. Bringing friends and family together in the garden creates lifelong memories, brings about a sense of peace and enjoyment, and also links them to the bigger world around them. It is a privilege to help my clients experience that.
How do you find clients who are right for your brand? And how do you turn down clients who are not?
Ahh- the golden question. Most of my clients come from referrals — other clients, architects, interior designers, realtors. I have a website, yes, but I don’t think it actually generates new business. My clients aren’t out there surfing the web...and I really haven’t figured out a marketing tool worth the cost. When I do get a call from someone and I don’t think it’s a good fit, I usually just briefly explain my design process (which bores them to tears!) and refer them to a local landscaping company that is better suited to project work.
You have a very nice website w a blog. How much time do you put into the care and feeding of your online presence? What platform did you use?
Thank you. I actually switched to the .design url after learning about it at an APLD conference. It worked we with my company name. I designed the site myself on the Wix platform — it couldn’t have been easier (and fun). I struggle with coming up with interesting, original content, so I would say that I update my blog quarterly.
What do you think about certification? How has being certified helped you?
When you work predominantly on your own, you never really have your designs reviewed by peers. Going through the certification process, though nerve-wracking, gave me a little boost of confidence, knowing that other designers thought my work was OK. I wish that APLD would promote certified members a bit more in local markets — it may help educate clients.
One photo that caught my eye from your website was the one on the right? Can you tell us a little about what’s going on here?
Interesting that you chose that one since that was a big problem spot for this landscape. In the before photo, the pool fencing had been installed about 6’ away from the edge of the patio wall, and the pathway connecting two garden areas were planted with rose bushes (ouch!) and irregular stepping stones. Taking a cue from the homes’ leaded-glass windows, we used a diamond pattern in the cobble walk, with bluestone steps leading down to a new fire pit area and planted more delicate, summer flowering perennials to soften the edges.
You had an interesting project this past year working on a landscape for a Certified Passive House. What did you learn from that?
That was a great project. We had to put a lot of thought into the tree palette — nothing could get too tall or wide so as to block the solar benefits of the house design. Add in septic, a wetland, and a challenging grade — the site was very constricted.
What do you think have been the keys to your success?
I think I have really good customer relationships — and I really am very hands-on during the entire process. Clients are often mystified by the horticultural world and I think they like having someone they can trust.
Do you follow the work of any particular landscape designers locally or nationally?
Andy Goldsworthy, Lew French — I love the stone designers.
What design software do you use and why?
I use autoCAD, Photoshop, and Indesign. Old dog — old tricks.
How many hours do you typically work a week during the season?
Could be 60-80, depending on the weather. But then again, we designers are always working inside our heads, yes?
Lastly, to paraphrase Barbara Walters, if you were a plant what kind of plant would you be?
That’s a tough one — would have to say that I would aspire to be a copper beech. Strong roots, interesting branches, and beautiful foliage.
To learn more about Shawn and her work, visit her website here
Three to See in the Farm Coast
The 2017 APLD National Conference brought attendees to these three wonderful gardens. For those who missed it or those who want more, Sakonnet Garden will be open Memorial Day Weekend on Saturday and Sunday, May 26/27.
In the words of its creators’ landscape architect John Gwynne and Mikel Folcarelli, “Sakonnet Garden grew from being a group of sunny little clearings within an overgrown dark thicket into more formalized intertwined rooms divided by high hedges and walls. These partitions separate spaces and enable each to have a different spirit. The doorways and passages between rooms become important for enabling the framing of views.”
Being in the garden is a kaleidoscopic experience, as the spaces seem to enlarge then grow small, with each room showcasing a different color palette, and having a different quality of light.
Mikel captures this feeling when he says “At any point looking backward or forwards one is lost, Entry or exit? Main or subpath? For me, this prolongs the experience. Which rabbit hole am I down? Where should I go next? Mystery and surprise are one of the key elements of our garden (and our character?)”
Walls are a hallmark of what makes this garden unique. For example, the tall stone wall pictured below on left is close to eight feet tall. It encircles the fountain, creating a very private room. You enter this open sun-splashed space after traipsing through a narrow, shaded path and it explodes into brightness, taking you completely by surprise. Other walls are made of stone, boxwood, beech, azalea, wood or even garden hoses. Please visit their website to learn more about how the owners conceived and have executed their garden.
Located in Little Compton, RI, the seaside garden of Berta and Nate Atwater has been lovingly built over the last forty years. Mrs. Atwater, who was born in the Netherlands, is an expert at the art of espaliering. As one writer has said, “she prunes her trees into graceful forms that approach topiary, but never crosses the line into making a noble tree look silly.” Mr. Atwater is a native of nearby Tiverton, Rhode Island, and has a keen understanding of this broad, flat, 15-acre lot. Flat sandy soil, moderating breezes off the water, and the shimmering Rhode Island light all work to create a harmonious whole. The garden has a large mixed shrub border, a couple of understated rock gardens, and beautiful specimen plants, and lovely perennial combinations plants.
The Blue Garden
A 2012 restoration of this classically proportioned Olmsted Brothers garden was undertaken by philanthropist Dorrance Hamilton with landscape architects from Reed Hildebrand. Today the garden has been reinterpreted into a palette of lower maintenance blue and white flowering shrubs, perennials, annuals, and vines. Learn more about this amazing garden here.
IF YOU GO:
Don’t forget about the area’s rich nursery resources.
There is a very good chance you will find everything you are looking for at Sylvan Nursery. A 40-acre wholesale nursery and an APLDChapter Gold Level Sponsor.
In addition to Sylvan Nursery, we recommend the following:
Avant Gardens is a retail nursery in Dartmouth, MA. The epitome of a boutique nursery, it is worth a visit just to see their beautiful grounds and because you will ALWAYS find something interesting that you have to have for yourself or a client there.
Ed Bowen’s Opus Plants has transformed into a new entity, Issima. Still in Little Compton, they “focus on the under-cultivated and garden worthy, and specialize in unusual hardy plants”.
Quansett Nurseries, a fifteen-acre nursery close to Sylvan Specializing in herbaceous plant materials and particularly strong on ornamental grasses.
Roseland, the largest supplier of potted roses in New England, with a wide variety of roses in all categories. They also carry a full range of fruit trees from apples to sweet cherries.
Rhode Island Nurseries. This 500-acre wholesale grower on Aquidneck Island specializes in yews but is also good for boxwood, clethra, forsythia, hibiscus, hydrangea, and some ilex. Their team of 5 mules pulls handheld cultivators from May thru September is an integral part of their weed control and cuts down on emissions.
Tranquil Lake Nursery is Warren Leach’s farm in Rehoboth, MA. They specialize in growing daylilies and Japanese and Siberian iris, and their nursery store carries a quirky list of great plants. Plus you get to see the display gardens Warren has created over the last 32 years.
MEMBERS IN THE NEWS
Boston Flower Show
A Big Thank You to Chapter Member's Tish Campbell, Alyson Fitzsimmons, and Holly Samuels. They served as our chapter's judges at this year’s Flower Show. After reviewing all exhibits they were tasked with selecting one display garden to be the recipient of the Chapter's 7th Merit Design Award. This year’s winner was the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, for their “Nuptials in Napa” Exhibit.
According to the Judges, Nuptials in Napa, had "an elegant simplicity with it's green and white palette. The seating area around the fire pit was wonderfully inviting and had a perfect scale for the setting. The blue water feature offered just enough of a color variation while blending into the setting. All the plant material was in pristine condition and at peak bloom. Sometimes simple is better and Mass Hort made a simply elegant statement with this garden."
Click here to see photos of the Judges top three exhibits.
If you or any APLDNE members you know have achieved a milestone, been profiled in local media or recognized with an award, please send us a notice for inclusion in our next newsletter.