Frederick Law Olmsted, the founder of American landscape architecture, sought to channel the “genius of a place” in his projects. He believed every habitat had a spirit of its own and accessing that quality was the most meaningful way to connect with one’s surroundings.
At their best, designed landscapes appear spontaneous – an extension of nature’s best expression. On private estates, these elegant statements go beyond initial visual impressions or curb appeal. Gardens are a full sensory experience of colors, scents and textures. They lure you inside and guide you through multiple spaces that, by turns, can be meditative, enchanting and surprising. “Gardens are very experiential and very ethereal,” says Miami-based landscape architect Raymond Jungles, who has worked throughout the Caribbean and Latin America.
In reinterpreting the environment, designers consider the site, orientation of the sun, climate and architectural style of the residence. Landscapes can also be used to camouflage flaws. For homes that lack strong aesthetic merit, “landscaping can become the dominant design element that allows residences to recede and fade into the environment,” says Jungles.
Gardens are points of personal pride and neighborhood identity. In cities like Charleston, South Carolina, where estates are known for their flourishing azaleas, oleanders, camellias, crepe myrtles and magnolias, “people spend a good deal of time outside on their porches and in their gardens,” says Daniel Ravenel of Sotheby’s International Realty in Charleston. “It’s part of our way of life.”
Even in dense urban settings, rooftop gardens, courtyards and balconies enable residents to feel connected to nature. They soften the city’s hard edges while providing an oasis of calm.
Olmsted well recognized the effect. “Gradually and silently the charm comes over us,” he said on a trip to England in 1850. “We know not exactly where or how.”