Landscape architects aren't generally known for their expert plant knowledge, but one of the great exceptions is Edmund Hollander, who's been designing grand gardens with his business partner Maryanne Connelly since 1989 at Edmund Hollander Design.
In his new book, The Good Garden: The Landscape Architecture of Edmund Hollander Design (Monacelli Press, 2015), with text by journalist Anne Raver, Hollander explains how to use plants to complement architectural elements and reinforce the beauty of the landscape design.
Climbing hydrangea ambles up and over the door of a country cottage, framing the entryway. Brick walls support espaliered fruiting pears. A layered hedge composed of yew, boxwood, and wood ferns encloses a garden and forms the edge of a serene lawn area. A natural grove of native red cedars is left in place -- invasive vines pruned away and lower limbs sheared off -- to create an almost spiritual landscape room. Stairways are positioned dramatically and set off beautifully by beach grasses, flowering shrubs and perennials, arching evergreen trees.
The book is divided into thematic entries such as entry areas, terraces, gateways and paths, pergolas and fences, borders, seaside gardens, walled gardens, meadows, woodlands, modern gardens -- just to mention a few. In each section, there are gorgeous photos accompanied by brief text that tells you exactly which plants are serving what landscape purpose. For example, Hollander tells you that summer-blooming Syringa reticulata, visible in the distance from a poolside terrace, help isolate the pool from other areas on the property. In a modern garden, he says, simple plant combinations -- such as allium and Russian sage -- create a contemporary feeling.
Anne Raver sums up the plant strategy beautifully in the introduction: "A group of Prunus serotina -- wild black cherry trees considered weed trees to most designers -- became the unlikely centerpiece on a waterfront estate's front lawn because Hollander convinced the clients of the beauty of their trunks, sculpted by the ocean winds. Drawing on such powerful icons makes a design unique to its place and time."
It's a book that belongs on every designers bookshelf ... it's a terrific reference, and you'll learn things you never knew about defining your landscape with plants.