01-09-20 | News

Designing for the Change of Seasons

Andrew Kreft, Lifescapes International, Inc.

As flowers wither and leaves begin to drop, landscapes can still be impressive through careful and conscious considerations of the colors that different plants take on according to Andrew Kreft, the executive senior principal and director of design at Lifescapes International. Here at the Encore Boston Harbor, the spruce-lined Oak Plaza promenade features Nellie Stevens holly and fully-grown Japanese maple trees surrounded by flower beds with seasonally changing color in a lush, park-like setting.
PHOTO: Julian Tryba
At the luxury residential community, Beijing Demesne, the location's northern climate and the cultural dislike of the Chinese for using evergreen trees in the foreground results in this colorful autumn vista.
PHOTO: Andrew Kreft
Majestic and colorful maple trees which were brought in from Canada and have become a signature piece of the Village at Meridian in Meridian, Idaho.
PHOTO: CenterCal Properties

There are certain times of the year a garden can really come alive. Recently, I was fortunate enough to see this at Beijing Demesne, a luxury residential community in Beijing, China. I have visited many times over the last couple of years, but never when the leaves were changing. The gorgeous color pallet they created reminded me of how a thoughtful landscape design can show you many faces throughout the year and encourage visitors to return time and time again. It also got me thinking about why it is such an important factor to consider.

Landscape design is about planning for change, whether that transformation is for a purposeful activity in the built environment or seasonal variations. Considering this acknowledges the inherent nature of plants as ephemeral living things, which can be the main focus or a supporting player in the landscape that is created. This is true year-round, but the fall and winter seasons are really times where color in planting can put a new face on a garden. Transitioning to the cooler seasons, as flowers wither and leaves begin to drop, does not have to mean drab and lifeless gardens. Designing impactful and memorable landscapes requires a careful and conscious consideration of the colors that different deciduous trees can take on and how they can be arranged with evergreen planting for the greatest effect. This ever-changing and entertaining display of nature allows the landscape to become a part of guests' or residents' lives throughout the year.

The key is to thoughtfully design for seasonal variations, so the planting is as vibrant and eye-catching in fall as it is in summer - especially as cooler weather brings out the colorful hues of red, orange and yellow but then creates an entirely new palette as warmer seasons begin.

Color can be augmented through annual color planting and change-out gardens, but the best designs incorporate it into the permanent framework of the built landscape. Trees are what most people notice first when entering a garden and can provide color in a variety of ways. The bright green new buds and leaves of deciduous trees make for a wonderful patinated landscape in the spring and summer, along with flowering trees and shrubs, while also offering many possibilities in the fall. Deciduous trees known for their fall colors, such as Poplars, Ginkgos and Maples, can continue this colorful pageant - especially in northern climates. Not to be outdone, there are also shrub varieties that lend diverse colors to the scene, not through flowers, but rather leaves of red, orange and burgundy all year long.

Of course, the plants being used and the way you approach the design depend a lot on the climate. Not in a region with such discernible seasons? Even in a place like California there are a handful of trees, like Liquidambar, that can still kick in a bright shock of fall color. Deciduous trees also enable you to shade an area or walkway from the intense heat exposure in the warmer months, but then open the area up to the sun's rays in the colder months of the year when the leaves have fallen.

So, what happens to the overall design in the winter when the deciduous trees are bare? The non-deciduous and evergreen trees added to the garden palette create a structure to your outdoor spaces, like a green backbone, as the deciduous trees morph around them.

Using this philosophy on all projects can serve you well, but here are some that really showcase it nicely:

• Beijing Demesne, where the northern climate of China and the cultural dislike of using evergreen trees in the foreground combine to create an intensely layered fall experience.

• Encore Boston Harbor is an excellent example of mixing flowering trees and shrubs within an evergreen structure. The majestic spruce-lined Oak Plaza promenade features Nellie Stevens holly and fully-grown Japanese maple trees surrounded by flower beds with seasonally changing color in a lush, park-like setting. Flowers and annual color that can survive cold climates are grown in Canada and shipped to Boston for the sole purpose of being swapped out every few weeks to keep everything lush through the harsh winters.

• Another example is The Village at Meridian, with its stunning, majestic and colorful maple trees which were brought in from Canada and have become a signature piece of the property.

Overall, the goal is not only to design a space that is arranged well and aesthetically pleasing, but to go further and create a space that people want to inhabit and enjoy time and time again. Introducing plants that change color with the seasons is critical to connecting people with the evolving landscape in an emotional way. Whether quiet or dramatic, this change is memorable and drives an interest to return to see what could be in store next.

About Andrew Kreft
Executive senior principal and director of design, Lifescapes International

Andy has extensive experience in conceptual and detailed design on projects both within the United States and overseas. He's been with the firm 29 years; his in-depth knowledge and design skills, together with his vast travels worldwide, make him a valuable leader for the firm. Andy is an active participant with the firm's weekly design review meetings, and his special abilities include project art direction and detail design, graphic presentations, CAD systems and usage, and creatively written "story" scripts.

Andrew's more notable projects include Wynn Las Vegas and Encore (Las Vegas); Fontainebleau Miami (Miami Beach, Fla.); The Mansion at MGM Grand (Las Vegas); Bellagio Resort (Las Vegas); The Grove at Farmers Market (Los Angeles); and a variety of additional hotel, retail, casino, and themed attractions. Andrew has also directed numerous projects across Asia, including The Venetian Casino Resort (Macau), Majestic Mansion luxury residential development (Beijing), and The Westin Zhujiajian Resort (Zhoushan, China).

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