Subtropical Modernism: Lively Landscapes in the Florida Keys
Debra Yates and Benjamin Burle of Debra Yates Great Space, Inc. in the Florida Keys use brilliantly colorful garden walls and sculptural plants against a neutral backdrop for a lush, lively take on modernism. Here, they share six tips on how they achieve their signature look.
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Use plants as sculptural elements
While many plant enthusiasts gravitate towards having a wide variety of species, Burle points out that planting with fewer varieties is much more dramatic. "We like using plants as sculpture, so we put the emphasis on native palms and trees, and less on groundcovers and shrubs," he says. Palms and trees should be pruned and lit so their natural forms are emphasized.
With palms, Burle recommends leaving the "boots", or stem remnants, when pruning. Often, people will carve into the trunk when removing a stem from a palm, leaving a smooth trunk that offers little in the way of textural interest. A "booted" palm, by contrast, catches the light and casts complex shadows which are beautiful when viewed from indoors or out.
Large groupings of native plants are another key to their effortless yet bold landscapes. "They are low maintenance, great for the environment, and it's a way of reclaiming what was there," says Burle. "There's a misconception that native plants look ratty, and when people place 50 different natives between palms and shrubs, they do look ratty. But if you make a bold statement by using large groupings of only three varieties of plants in the landscape, it is much more impactful."