Feature Article - November 2006
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Open Invitation

Landscape design brings in visitors

By Jessica Royer Ocken

nyone who has ever plopped a vase of flowers on a bare kitchen table knows how a bit of color and greenery can instantly brighten a space. Suddenly it seems more appealing to linger in the window light or sit down and share a meal together. When it comes to making outdoor spaces comfortable and inviting, it usually takes more than just a few flowers to do the job, but there is an abundance of options. Bring back the area's native foliage, encourage visitors to interact with the land around them, or plant some art among the hedges.

Practical tips

Although it's easy to get creative where landscape design is concerned, it's best to remain rooted in practicality. Many of the most beautiful and successful outdoor landscapes continue to draw on the philosophy and ideas of one of our country's first landscape designers, Frederick Law Olmsted.

A native of Connecticut, Olmsted is credited with the original design of New York City's Central Park, as well as the 1893 Chicago World's Fair grounds, the landscaping around the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., and a series of connected parks in the Boston area known as the "Emerald Necklace." He believed parks were especially important in urban atmospheres, where their scenery could "refresh and delight the eye, and through the eye, the mind and spirit."

Brian Dold, a landscape architect with the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy (Olmsted designed another series of parks in and around Buffalo, N.Y.), explained this further: "Olmsted really looked to naturalistic, picturesque landscapes to allow people to escape the city—very simple meadows and woodlands and water features. The Olmsted philosophy was less floral and high-maintenance and more using natural, native plants to give texture."

In other words, there's no need to plant an acre of temperamental ornamentals. Instead, by planning ahead and working with (not against) your local environment, you can create a lush setting that requires less rigorous maintenance, which may leave you enough energy to tend a beloved (and manageably sized) floral garden.

In addition to assorted greenery, Olmsted's designs often included "a sense of mystery and exploration," Dold added. "Not everything is visible from one point, and people wonder what's around the corner."