I visited gardens yesterday in Princeton, New Jersey. The tour was arranged by the New Jersey Landscape and Nursery Association (NJNLA) and featured four very different gardens by designer Bill Kucas.
What struck me about these outdoor spaces was that their details is what really made them interesting. In each space the features beyond plants were detailed beautifully, but when I asked about what made the spaces personal, that had been left up to the clients. In each space, with the exception of the one still being built, the choice of furniture and accessories beyond what the landscape designer had envisioned is what finished them and made them useful, wonderful places for people. Is a patio or deck really a place for people if there’s nowhere to sit or gather? Too often landscape designers stop at the plants and hard surfaces and leave the finishing touches up to the homeowner when the total vision should include all of the accouterments. Our interior design peers would never leave a space unfurnished! None of this in anyway detracted from the day…even the predicted rain held off until we were leaving the very last one.
By far, my favorite detail of the day was a balcony with thin brick or roofing tiles set on edge. It was finished with a rectangular copper gutter above and containing Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata).
Additionally, there were other beautiful masonry details in each garden. The pier below was unusual in that it combined stone, wood and concrete – each as its own detail but unified in the end product.
There were multiple seating areas in each space. Each had furnishings and accessories appropriate to the design and surrounding architecture. There was contemporary furniture from Design within Reach and vintage Smith and Hawken at one site; Restoration Hardware dominated another; a third had a collection of antique and vintage pieces. All of these ‘additions’ helped define the personality of the space and were lost opportunities for the designer to ‘finish’ the project through space and or furniture planning. It’s true, sometimes clients want to do it themselves, but often they want to collaborate and don’t have access to the ‘To the Trade’ options that designers can provide.