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American Society of Landscape Architects


January 2007 Issue


Me and My Landscape Architect
Just because you’re a gardener doesn’t mean you can do it yourself—consult a landscape architect.

By Susan Harris

Me and My Landscape Architect H. Peter Von Pawel

You wouldn’t believe how crappy my 900-square-foot front garden still looked after nine years of my utterly forgettable design attempts. Small spaces are hard!

Then, in 1994, I gave up and enlisted the help of landscape architect Holt Jordan. Although he works primarily in Washington, D.C., on megabudget projects, he happens to live near me, and I’d seen examples of his work in the neighborhood. For only $250 he created the lovely plan shown here, which was implemented by a local carpenter and one odd-jobs laborer.


  • removing the hideous cement walkway up to and along the front of the house and replacing it with red brick pavers to match the front porch and a new planting area
  • replacing the black-and-white metal awning over the porch (what I call the house’s 1950s-style tackification) with a wooden one that complements this Sears bungalow
  • adding a custom-built teak arch over the entrance to this now-enchanting space
  • transforming a busy, distracting lawn shape into a simple oval that regularly gets compliments

As for the plants? Well, the reason this very successful guy charged so little for the plan is that it didn’t include precise species and quantities of plants. Holt knew I’d want to choose them myself (although, like so many gardeners, I needed help with the larger plants and happily followed his suggestion to include the flowering plum shown on the right and the cherry trees in the right-of-way).

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