A Landscape Designer’s Wild Garden
Wednesday, March 27, 2019
Posted by: Dana Walker
THE NEW YORK-BASED landscape designer Deborah Nevins spends much of her time taming profusion. Over her three-decade career, she has created gardens for Tommy Hilfiger, David
Geffen and Michael Eisner — and almost nothing is out of bounds.
Her carefully structured yet naturalistic environments are known for their subtle Blakeian radiance. In a collaboration with the Italian designer Renzo Piano’s firm for the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens, which was completed in 2016, she turned a 42-acre section of a former parking lot for the Olympics into a public green space with 1,500 olive, pine, almond and pomegranate trees interspersed with more than 300,000 perennials and shrubs, including Jerusalem sage and fragrant yellow-blooming coronilla; in the late 1980s, at the Southampton estate of the art collector Paul Walter, she installed roughly 140 feet of copper beech hedge and a pair of soaring cedars trimmed to look like Italian cypress that became as well-known as his accretion of late 19th-century photography and Indian miniature paintings. While contemporary landscape designers rarely have the name recognition of architects (as they did during the late 19th-century era that Edith Wharton conjures, when wealthy patrons were as obsessed with collecting plants as they were constructing mansions), Nevins is among the few who inspire reverence.