The Private Gardens of SMI Landscape Architecture
The garden design firm of SMI Landscape Architecture is known for its estate master planning, its public gardens and streetscapes, and its thoughtful private gardens for clients across the United States, particularly in Florida, and in the Bahamas. The firm’s philosophy incorporates a “botanic garden” approach with exotic planting and elements of classical European design to create beautiful, usable spaces, and it is also known for its preservation and restoration of old landscapes.
This book presents 15 new gardens, never before published in any book, that shows the range of the firm’s work. Each client has different requirements, and so each garden turns out differently – but each shows the firm’s hallmarks of lush planting, luxurious garden “rooms,” and immaculate hardscaping. As Jorge Sánchez puts it in the Preface, “This book shows how not one individual but many make a firm successful.”
For each garden, practical information about the design approach and details of the planting are combined with an account of the process, the firm’s relationship with the client, and the reasons for the design decisions. Through the narrative—often personal, always descriptive, always detailed—a picture builds up of the approach to each set of circumstances.
Many of the projects are in Palm Beach, where a boom in the building of new houses and their attached estates in the early twentieth century left a legacy of stunning—if sometimes neglected—homes and landscapes ripe for restoration. Local architects such as Addison Mizner and Maurice Fatio designed houses that are now being rejuvenated and sympathetically modernized to fit the requirements of twenty-first-century families, and firms such as SMI are at the forefront of the re-creation of their gardens. The Weisfisch Garden in Palm Beach, for example, was carefully restored and given the surroundings its architecture and its owners deserved, and the whole project was recognized with a prestigious award from the Palm Beach Preservation Foundation.
The firm of SMI also works in temperate planting zones, and projects in more northerly states provide an opportunity to work with an entirely different palette of plants. For the Plumb Garden in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, for example, the firm was commissioned to remodel a small estate attached to an old pleasure house. The landscape here is much wilder and more temperate than in Florida, and the firm’s job was to work with the natural flora and contours of the land while quietly intervening to personalize the areas nearest the house. Simple manipulations of form and slope along with water features and some much more intimate spaces have created a garden that fits impeccably into its wider context and yet is capable of being used and enjoyed by the family.
Throughout the book, there is a strong sense of participation—with the climate, with the local flora, with the clients, and with other designers, whether architects, artisans, or interior designers. To be part of such collaborative efforts is hugely satisfying for Sánchez and the members of his team, as well as producing the best possible result for each set of clients.
This beautiful 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.
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