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Outdoor Pleasures

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The Private Oasis, a handsome and aptly titled book on the sumptuous landscapes designed by the award-winning environmental landscape design firm of Edmund Hollander Design, is one of the better resources now available for professionals, students, and homeowners detailing the ins and outs on ways in which the built environment and living landscape can interconnect to create a seamless interior/exterior dynamic.

The sequence of wooden steps, then stone, then a wooden platform leading visitors to the boardwalk; allowing access to the beach, while preventing harm to the fragile dune ecosystem.

Steering away from the general “how to” approach, The Private Oasis, co-authored by the firm’s principals Edmund Hollander and Maryanne Connolly maps out their strategy in simple, easy to understand terminology. “We do not begin with a series of pre-set ideas since our job is to be responsive,” says Hollander of their process. “There are three principles from which we work: site (topography); architecture (from traditional to modernist); and client (interests and lifestyle).” At a hefty 350 pages with 1000 stunning color photographs of some of the more eye-catching residencies on Long Island’s East End, Westchester, and urban rooftops around New York City, the reader is offered a diversity of styles for every type of outdoor space. “Our intention is to illustrate to a homeowner with smaller acreage that the systems we employ remain the same no matter what size the property.”

A gravel-lined rose garden is contained through the use of clipped boxwood and natural cedar treillage structures.

Influenced by the principles of Ian McHarg (1920-2001), a Scottish landscape architect who pioneered the concept of ecological planning, the designers emphasize the importance of topography beginning a project by understanding and studying its natural systems. Also central to their thinking is consideration for how a building is sited requiring close consultation with architects ranging in style from Robert A.M. Stern to Steven Holl, among others.

Brick walls with Yorkstone coping and walls of yew meticulously clipped combine to create a geometry where living and built wall interplay in the connection and separation of garden rooms.

The division into six sections reflects one of Hollander’s core beliefs, “good design is telling you where to go.” Starting at the entry referred to by Maryanne Connolly as a “summary of ideas, an invitation, a welcoming, a prelude to the architecture, is the place where visitors get a ‘feel’ for the house. We may also introduce transitions – gates, pillars, pathways, as a way of leading out from the formality of private spaces into the informality of the outdoors.”

A gravel walking path to the property’s tennis court is planted with a blend of vibrant Alchemilla, Catmint and Allium; all contained in a clipped boxwood hedge.

Next come seating and gathering places, outdoor dining, movement and transitions, swimming pools and water features (free form and infinity edged) and a summer recreation area of choice the tennis court. Although their landscapes are highly structured and symmetrical, there is a welcome look of spontaneity in the mix of visually stunning plant materials – from allium giganteum, high grasses, lavender, lady’s mantle lining walkways to gorgeous, white Japanese wisteria draped from pergolas.

Built on a raised plinth to maximize views, the pool’s placement is in direct response to the architectural lines of the adjacent house.

A terrific introduction by writer and editor on architecture, urban design and planning, Philip Langdon, provides historical references on the evolution of landscape architecture as well as a fine point by point description of the Hollander Design firm’s methods and philosophy. The Private Oasis is the first of a two-part volume; the second will focus on plantings an area for which the firm has earned a highly regarded reputation. Available from amazon.com

The Landscape Architecture and Gardens of Edmund Hollander Design Volume One:
Built Elements in the Landscape

By Edmund Hollander and Maryanne Connelly,
text by Philip Langdon
Published by Grayson Publishing LLC

Opening photo: The entry drive cuts through an allee of Kwanzan Flowering Cherries.

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