On Design: Richard Hartlage

On Design: Richard Hartlage

July 14, 2005

Q: Who is your favorite artist?

A: How can you choose (only) one? Dale Chihuly for his exuberance and melding of form and color, Wolf Kahn for his beautiful landscapes and Noguchi for his amazing sculpture.

Q: What client request do you most dread?

A: Those that have a list of plants they must have included. We are more concerned with making places for people while using plants well, not with creating gardens that are built to house a collection of plants and accommodate people as an afterthought.

Q: Who or what prompted you to go into landscape design?

A: Seeing Chatwood, an old rose garden in Hillsborough, North Carolina. It was created by Helen Watkins in the Colonial Revival style and was very romantic. It was the first garden I ever saw, not just a collection of plants.

Q: What trends are important to your work?

A: The use of modern materials. I love the site transstudio.com by Blaine Brownell of NBBJ.

Q: Lawns — for or against?

A: We are for lawns and hedges to give structure to the landscape. We don't use them on every project, but they are useful design elements in either a traditional or contemporary scheme.

Q: Name one plant that you think should be more widely used.

A: We work all over the country. We try to use plants that are appropriate to the style of the garden we are building and the climate it will be growing in. We are very experimental and always learning new plants — I could never single out just one.

Q: Where do you go to watch people?

A: MoMA and Volunteer Park across from my home in Seattle.

Q: Which architect, living or dead, would you most like to work with?

A: Luis Barragan — but he made his own gardens.

Q: Which contemporary designer, in any field, do you find most interesting?

A: I admire Philippe Starck and his versatility to create a wide range of clever and functional objects.

Q: What is your favorite movie, for the scenery?

A: House of Flying Daggers


About Richard Hartlage:

Richard Hartlage was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, and is a graduate in ornamental horticulture from North Carolina State University. While in North Carolina he worked at Montrose Nursery, a mail-order nursery specializing in perennials, and served as head gardener at Chatwood, a private estate known to have the premier collection of antique roses in the Southeast. He has 15 years' experience in public gardening as superintendent of horticulture for the Morris County Park Commission, where he directed horticulture at both Willowwood and Frelinghuysen arboretums. As director of the Elisabeth C. Miller Botanical Gardens in Seattle, Richard initiated the highly successful regional education program "Great Plant Picks," which promotes the best performing plants for the Pacific Northwest. 

Richard is currently a partner in Dietz/Hartlage Landscape Architecture, a division of AHBL, and is working with private and public clients in Alabama, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, North Carolina, Illinois, California and Washington. His work has been featured in the New York Times, Horticulture, Traditional Home, Pacific Horticulture, Garden Design and, The Seattle Times in addition to other publications in the United States, Japan and Europe.

Richard has given over 300 lectures during the past 10 years and has written over 60 articles on gardening and garden design topics for national and regional publications.  His photographs appear regularly in the Seattle Times and many horticultural magazines and books. He is a contributing editor to Garden Design. His first book, Bold Visions for the Garden, was published by Fulcrum Press, October 2001, and he is the photographer for Plant Life: Growing a Garden in the Pacific Northwest by Valerie Easton. He is working on three book projects, photographing a monograph on coleus, photographing and contributing to an inspirational book on container gardening, and editing and co-authoring a comprehensive book on American garden design.