Though he started out in banking and finance, Stephen Suzman always had a passion for gardening, beginning in his childhood in South Africa. So when 26 years ago a friend who happened to be a Berkeley professor of landscape architecture came to tea, looked around Suzman’s own San Francisco garden and asked why he didn’t do this for a living, Suzman took it to heart. After a bit of retraining he opened his first design firm in 1992, then in 2004 joined with landscape architect Todd R. Cole to form Suzman & Cole Design Associates.
Sasha Tarnopolsky is getting great wireless service in her portable housing kit. If only the canopy over the outdoor shower wasn’t leaking. The co-founder of Dry Design, the award-winning landscape-design firm in Los Angeles, has handled projects ranging from a lodge inside a 1,000-acre section of an African wildlife reserve to the cozy Smith garden in southern California. But today she’s in Topanga Canyon, relaxing in a Sweetwater tent cabin and supervising construction on her future home, an eco-friendly structure outfitted with solar panels and rainwater cachement.
Michael Vanderbyl recently launched a stunning collection of neoclassical garden furniture called Azimuth for JANUS et Cie (janusetcie.com). The dean of design at California College of the Arts and a founder of the “San Francisco School” of graphic design, Vanderbyl is also a renowned designer of indoor and outdoor furnishings for Baker, Bernhardt, Bolier & Company, Teknion and many more.
Unabashed plant fanatic Tony Avent channels his conspicuous enthusiasm into many roles — nurseryman, plant explorer, hybridizer, writer, lecturer. As owner of Plant Delights Nursery in Raleigh, North Carolina, Avent specializes in unique perennials that pass muster for looks, compatibility, durability and manners. A crusader for plants and the people who love them, he equally embraces the good, the cantankerous and the freaky, with a blend of science and psychology — and humor, lots of humor.
Sandy Chilewich is a textile design entrepreneur whose revolutionary and very organic-looking outdoor fabrics are actually made of woven PVC, so they wipe clean. With unlikely, inelegant materials, Chilewich designs the cutting edge by happy accident. For example, her top-selling RayBowls for MoMA Design Store were an experiment using leftover pantyhose (she founded Hue fashion hosiery). Now, Chilewich has turned to the garden for inspiration for her latest rugs, placemats and upholstery fabrics.
Q. You rediscovered vinyl in an unlikely place.
A prolific designer of both private and public landscapes (including the Toronto Music Garden), Julie Moir Messervy also loves to write and lecture about design. It’s one way she wrestles with concepts and coaxes them into shape. Her book, Home Outside (The Taunton Press, 2009), presents design theory as well as practical advice.
Q: How did you come to take an unabashedly emotional approach to designing landscapes?
It all started with a 29-cent velvet plant on his dorm-room windowsill. After that, Dan Heims was hooked on plants. Since then, his high-tech methods have put hundreds of knee-weakening cultivars into the hands of gardeners and designers, produced by his wholesale tissue-culture and breeding nursery near Portland, Oregon. A lecturer, plant hunter and admitted plant fanatic, Heims is credited with making foliage a mega-star in the landscape.
The South Florida coast might be ground zero for Jorge Sanchez and Phil Maddux, but the longtime landscape-architecture team has applied its European take on outdoor living to a golden triangle of gardens from Dallas to the Hamptons to the Bahamas. The Civilized Jungle (Grayson Publishing, LLC) is a photographic record of some 20 years of their work, engagingly articulated with text by Bradford McKee.
Clifton Jaeger is obsessed with trees — beautiful, ghostly trees that fill the murals and photographs he creates for clients as diverse as top-flight interior designer Bunny Williams and The Peninsula hotel in New York. The 44-year-old Jaeger recalls reading that in feng shui one thing that can really help a room is an image of a tree.
Q: As a struggling young artist, did you suddenly say to yourself one day, “That’s it — trees!”
If you count yourself among the rich and famous, who do you call to design a truly momentous event? Preston Bailey, for sure.