Sometimes a client will unintentionally give a designer the perfect inspiration for their project. In this case, the client was a young couple whose passion was collecting parrots, which they showcased in large cages in their backyard. When I saw the parrot collection I immediately discussed the idea of redesigning the entire backyard into a garden of bird-like flowers that would reflect the parrots' exotic plumage, an idea that the clients loved. This theme allowed us to include some of the more exotic tropical flowers of South Florida, such as orange bird-of-paradise, several species of heliconia, angel's trumpet, datura, and various gingers and ground orchids. A few mid-size palms give height and overhead shade to the garden without overwhelming the space.
This Coral Gables client wished to have an outdoor shower designed for his existing pool deck. The goal was to make the shower look like an integrated, original piece of the back yard entertainment area, as well as an architecturally exciting space. I accomplished this by designing the shower in a circular shape to reflect the existing circular jacuzzi, and facing the frame with travertine tile that match the existing pool tilework. A sense of artistic distinction was created by adding short columns to bracket the shower entrance, each topped with a flowering planter to tie the shower in with the rest of the flowering garden.
Each year, Costa Farms -- one of the largest flower growers in North America -- hosts a "Season Premiere" in their trial garden in Miami, an event that showcases the latest flowering plants to debut in the upcoming year. For Season Premiere 2014, Costa Farms hired me to redesign their existing trial garden into a more exciting space than their standard north-south rowbeds. I decided on a curvilinear design featuring theme gardens of raised, freeform-shaped beds, with a network of mulched strolling paths so that visitors can take their time observing the floral abundance. A curved, 10' wide avenue allows for maintenance vehicles to access the garden, and also creates a stronger visual link between the lounging pavilion and the grand pergola-covered entrance of the garden.
The capstone project of my graduate studies at Florida International University was an independent, self-directed proposal to redesign the small organic farm on campus into an exciting, usable urban space that still functioned in terms of agricultural production. The project began with me conducting case studies of other university organic farms, in order to analyze the strongest ideas and methodologies currently in place. This research led me to redesign the FIU Organic Farm into a series of separate-but-related agricultural vignettes, all linked together by gathering plazas, native plant buffer zones, public art displays, and an ADA accessible fitness trail encircling the entire site. By layering multiple levels of program into a relatively small site, the project ensures a constant, diverse user base -- one of the benchmarks of any successful public landscape. The fitness trail was installed in Winter 2013 and other parts of my design may be installed in the future, pending university funds.
The FIU College of Engineering requested landscape students to create "Pods" -- a 50' x 100' built landscape that would educate the public about sustainability and proactive environmental strategies within the landscape industry. I served as a designer on a 3-person team that created a 50' x 100' enclosed garden built entirely out of recycled, derelict building materials scrapped from local demolition sites. The walkway areas are paved with recycled composite faux-wood flooring. Partially demolished concrete pillars with exposed rebar were used to create charming umbrella-shaped gathering nooks with overhead pergolas. Rainwater is channeled into an ornamental retention pond and all plant litter is composted on-site, so that the site recycles and reuses its own waste. The trees and flowers used in this garden are all native Everglades species, including red maple, goldenrod, white waterlily, and yellow spatterdock, but with a twist: each species was chosen not just for its beauty, but for its phytoremediation abilities Phytoremediation is a process whereby certain plants absorb toxic elements from air, water, or soil, and either metabolize the toxins, store them indefinitely within their tissue, or excrete them back into the environment as harmless gases. As such, this landscape not only gives human users a beautiful and educational experience, but it also cleanses the air, soil and water of adjacent areas!
Additional team designers: M. Brown, M. Rojo
My graduate thesis asked the question: "How can community-supported agriculture shape a new model of the urban form in a more substantial way than urban vegetable gardens?" My research unearthed two key strategies: Successful urban farms have gradients of program linking urban and agricultural modalities; and successful local food cultures are transgenerational and must be centered around families and children. This led me to redesign downtown Homestead, FL as a large walking esplanade where pick-your-own orchards and gardens are layered and transitioned into children's play areas and educational reforestation plots, so that a "Small Town USA" identity based on locally grown food, outdoor exercise, and environmental stewardship, are fostered and engendered over time. The walking esplanad also creates a pedestrian connection between Downtown Homestead, ArtSouth, and the various churches that form the core social hubs of Homestead throughout the week.
This residential client had a particular caveat: Their granddaughter, who visits every summer, was deathly allergic to bees, and therefore summer flowers needed to be either minimal or absent for the safety of the child. I solved this dilemma by creating a simple backyard retreat that uses different foliage textures and colors, rather than flowers, to paint a lush picture. River birch and golden junipers form the structure, while hostas, ferns and grasses add embellishment. A purple-leaved ‘Forest Pansy’ redbud hovers gracefully above a water feature as a focal point. Akebia vine, which is pollinated by flies rather than bees, carries the purple color theme onto a pergola. Korean spice viburnum gives delicious fragrance to the seating area, but flowers early enough to not attract summertime bees.
This project proves that pocket gardens can be just as wonderful as a large landscape! The owner of this Miami duplex asked me to tackle his neglected back garden, which had several issues: overgrown palms, lots of dry shade, and a need for maintenance access throughout the planting areas. The finished garden has lots of mid-level shrubs and perennials to bridge the gap between the overgrown palms and the ground plane. Dieffenbachia, white liriope, sansevieria, Japanese farfugium, Australian tree fern and burgundy false-aralia, all of which thrive in shady conditions, give a tasteful, elegant blaze of color. A small-scale irrigation system solves the problem of dry shade, and a series of off-white river rock beds allow for pedestrian maintenance throughout the garden. The final touch was a series of orchids that I mounted directly onto the palm tree trunks, to give a splash of color at eye level.
Half of this residential Coral Gables courtyard was a completely un-usable space: bare dirt surrounded by dying ficus shrubs. Because the heavy shade and root competition from the existing trees would make growing grass an uphill battle, we instead decided to continue the existing Chicago brick patio into a large walkway that would double as usable patio space for entertaining guests. Elevating the soil level solved a previous grade problem that left a drain overexposed and unable to channel runoff water. Plants that do well in dappled shade, including purple tibouchina, perennial begonias, and phalaenopsis orchids, provide a tasteful burst of color while respecting the dignified character of the brickwork. Japanese podocarpus replaces the ficus shrubs as a much cleaner and more elegant privacy hedge.
This client had fallen in love with a Hindu river goddess statue, and wanted to have her entire landscape design based off this one piece. I effectively sold her on an "East meets West" concept, whereby the lush tropical plants of Miami would be used in restrained, Asian-inspired methods. To this end, the statue became the focal point of a network of dry riverbeds composed of pale river rock, which weave in and out of the plantings. Standard Miami plants such as red crotons, cat palms and Xanadu philodendrons are used in sweeping masses to underscore the sense of flow. Bamboos and grasses give a strong Asian element of texture and movement, and give vertical contrast to all the horizontal lines.
In some parts of China, people use the same word for 'crisis' as for 'opportunity' -- which in The Simpsons was once referred to as 'crisitunity.' This residential client had a few 'crisitunities' on his existing property: Half of the front driveway was required to be river rock as per the county; the client wanted to keep several awkwardly planted foxtail palms; the backyard pool deck baked in the hot sun all day long, yet could not be demolished to install shade trees. These dillemmas were met by a creative design approach: proposing curved beds of river rock in the front yard to make the river rock driveway seem like an integrated part of the landscape; rearranging the existing foxtails into a more naturalistic grove planting; and installing large containers of drought-tolerant palm trees directly atop of the pool deck, to give some much-needed shade.
The Villa Vizcaya Condominium community of Miami Lakes, Florida requested a low-maintenance, Mediterranean-inspired revision to their existing landscape. The finished concept is an asymmetrical garden featuring lots of classic Mediterranean xeric plants such as agaves, furcraeas, and society garlic, all of which are drought tolerant and also tolerate the varying shade & shadow conditions that exist in the entrance. The color palette uses lots of whites, pale pinks, and silvery blue foliage to evoke the essence of Mediterranean style gardens. Bold textured plants are played off by wispy grasses and flowers to give a good balance of form. Twin seating areas flanking the main driveway were underused due to lack of shade and color; these problems were addressed by installing multistemmed silver buttonwood trees to give shade, and replacing high-maintenance turfgrass areas with river rock and flowerbeds.
Container landscapes are just like regular landscapes in that they require careful analysis of the existing site and its conditions long before any plants go in. In this case, the Waterworks faucet company of Connecticut hired me to use a series of sleek, modern, stainless steel containers to create a landscape of different foliage textures for their brand new Midtown Miami storefront. Since the area receives both full sun and tons of reflected heat from the abundance of paved surfaces nearby, the plant palette was limited to drought tolerant succulents that can tolerate being suntanned all day long. I ended up using an asymmetrical mix of sansevieria, variegated swan agaves, native dwarf clusia and 'Angelina' sedum. A few areca palms are used to give height towards the back and also screen out some unattractive water mains.