Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Yes, it's true that we give a fresh coat of green paint to the shrubs on our front deck each spring, after they died two winters ago. (see our June post, "Forever and EverGreen"). And yes, our idea of weeding is Roundup. I should also confess an aversion to most flowers, which I often prefer cut in vases and which Mouse prefers to nibble on much like the rabbits she chases. But make no mistake, we have a deep affection for garden design. So deep, in fact, that we have our outdoor architectural heroes. And at the top of that very short list is Craig Socia.

The best designers can make a truly great room on any budget. Likewise, Socia has no need for big, showy blooms. The simplest shrub or paver stone is rich building material in his hands. Soft blue hydrangeas rise in stacks to create a cushy garden wall, while shrubs are pruned into full, round tufts of fun. The result strikes a delicate balance between this designer's sheer control over nature and his utter respect for how each plant material wants to grow. And if you look at where his carefully sculpted garden paths lead, they always take you into the wild—or at least a sense of it.

But have no fear. Socia drops
breadcrumbs to let us know that the further we wander on a path, we remain inside his artful plan. A sole spot of red grows in a formal urn sited amidst depths of green or— more fun yet— one of the designer's fanciful twig constructions rewards explorers with their own secret spot to hide away. Outfit, of course, with sophisticated twig furnishings—also of his own design.

Closer to home, the reverse is true and Socia welcomes wildness where others would impose order: in the meandering plantings of a poolside container, for instance, or the tufty vines that engulf a terrace portico.

If Socia has a formula, it's a one-to-one ratio of structure to fantasy. That's the kind of gardening we enjoy: an artful, succinct statement of our own bravado at trying to tame Nature who remains defiantly at play.