Q & A: Evoking Natural Landscape For Garden Design

Garden designers and NAJGA members David Slawson and John DeVore shared some of their thoughts in relation to their upcoming 6-day garden design-and-build entitled “Evoking Natural Landscape: A Total Immersion Workshop,” happening on August 16 to 22, 2015 during the construction of a 1-acre residential garden in Bath, Ohio.

NAJGA:  What is behind the process of evoking natural landscape in garden design?

Dave with hat crSlawson:  We take inspiration from what we see in nature, when something beautiful arrests our attention. There are certain natural compositions of elements that speak to us and invite us to pause. It could be a turn in a stream, a weathered leaning tree over the water, a well-placed rock or a nice grouping of plants. We pause and observe what it is that makes this composition work, as well as observe within ourselves how we feel in response. In the concept and installation, both the plan and composition should evoke that exquisite sense of place.

Garvan entry pool step stones 1 MB     Aspen, aspen trunks from west

NAJGA: What does this entail in terms of garden design decisions such as plant selection?

Slawson: Appropriate design doesn’t have to include all native plants but should have the natural look AND be appropriate for the climate. For example, arid climates should have arid plants. You don’t want fussy plants.

NAJGA: How did you personally come to discover and espouse this design principle?

CBG drainage, John guiding rock closeupDeVore: I grew up in a rural setting, spending most of my available time in the fields, forest, ravines, and creeks that surrounded me. I fished, hiked, and played in these places, all the while absorbing the visual beauty and serenity of these places. Having imbibed nature, it is easy to recognize what is necessary to create it in the garden.

David’s story is actually similar. The best of of his childhood was found in the outdoors…in beautiful, peaceful, and stimulating places.

(Video of David Slawson’s life, presented during the 2014 NAJGA conference in Chicago)

We believe that everyone has this internal resource of experience in natural settings and the ability to tap that resource. One of our primary goals in the workshop is to draw out this resource and enable each participant to grow in their ability to evoke these memorable experiences.

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Q & A: Evoking Natural Landscape For Garden Design