“To me, there’s a spirit to every place, a gentle connection to the earth,” shares Linda Greenberg, a horticulturist and owner of Linda Greenberg Landscape & Design in Charleston. “When I consider a garden project and begin planning what to include in there, I’ll walk it myself and get a vibe for what the garden is calling for, like shade or sun planting beds, adding hardscapes, stone or other unique details.
I’ll breathe life into the space like a garden whisperer.”
As lofty and poetic as that may sound, it’s clear that Greenberg’s approach is down-to-earth. No matter what the project—from repurposing an existing garden area for a homeowner to starting from scratch for a newly built home—connecting with the client and learning how they live is vital.
“There are so many moving parts to every project,” she explains. “During an initial consultation, I’ll make 75 to 100 different notations. I’ll consider everything from what is already in place, like planters or hedges, to how the area is accessed. Even the pitch and height of a roof can make a difference.”
Interestingly, how the garden, or any outside area that requires planting, is viewed from inside the house plays a role in how a new or newly refreshed project is approached. “It’s important for there to be connectivity between inside and out,” says Greenberg. “If the clients have a favorite color or fabric, or a muted versus neutral aesthetic, it’s nice to introduce that to the plantings outside.” For a garden surrounding the front entry of a home, fragrance, color, form and texture are considered. “It helps make it enchanting and welcoming,” she says.
These days, the value and appreciation of gardens in general has increased even more. “With COVID and the world moving so fast, people have been getting back to basics,” says Greenberg. “They’re more outdoorsy and appreciative of what really matters, like family and home.” As a result, introducing the “inner core” of a home (everything from kitchens and dining rooms to offices and even bathrooms) to the outdoors has become increasingly popular. “It’s kind of sexy,” she says. “People want to be around their space and make it special.”
Something as simple as lifting the fallen canopy of a tree can begin to transform an outdoor space, and new native plantings, including hydrangeas, roses, boxwoods, gardenias and other ornamentals (“It is the Lowcountry, after all,” Greenberg quips), make a big impression while being easy to care for. Layering in other natural elements, like water and fire, add to the experience.
“Water, which I try to include in every garden, is visually soothing and calming, very Zen,” says Greenberg. “It gives all things life—bees, hummingbirds—and the sound creates ambience, especially in smaller spaces and courtyards.”
Fire elements, which range vastly in size and style, from simple cast stone firepits to fancy and ornate, add warmth and atmosphere. Sculptures of all shapes, sizes and materials are finding their way into gardens more and more, as are indigenous rocks and boulder groupings. Well-placed lighting enhances the overall experience.
For the past five years, Greenberg has been designing the gardens for the Charleston Symphony Orchestra League Designer Showhouse. In 2020, she transformed the garden of a circa 1883 home, repurposing the original brick pathway, refurbishing a fish pond, planting redbud trees to anchor the front garden and adorning the bay window with flower boxes. “It’s always a wonderful experience,” she says. “The gardens get lots of love, people get ideas and I get some clients, too.”
Throughout the life of any garden, care and attention, which Greenberg likes to refer to as “mindful gardening,” is essential. “You need to pay attention to details, like amending the soil, fertilizing and trimming,” she says. “I like to say a little prayer for a plant that it is going to do well and grow.” *
Linda Hayes is an Aspen, Colorado-based freelance writer specializing in architecture, design and the luxury lifestyle. Her articles have appeared in LUXE, Hawaiian Style and Elle Decor.