GARDEN SPIRIT

by ROBIN HOWARD / photography by HOLGER OBENAUS

WHILE GOOD LANDSCAPE DESIGN considers standard elements such as color, scale and texture, landscape designer Linda Greenberg approaches her work with a reverence that adds another dimension. Greenberg doesn’t just create beautiful outdoor spaces, she ensures that a garden is spiritually aligned with the people who live there. This year, as we’re sustained by our homes, yards, gardens and patios, we’ve collectively discovered that beauty is not a luxury. It’s something we need on a primal level.

Greenberg has been tuned into this notion for decades. “Capturing the spirit of a space and honoring it, that’s my obligation, and it’s something I take seriously,” she says. “The sky is my ceiling, and the earth is my floor. It’s up to me to figure out what to do with the walls.”

Landscape designer Linda Greenberg pays close attention to a client’s lifestyle, taking careful notes about what the homeowner wants and needs and about the choices they’ve made in their interiors.

With more than 25 years of experience designing residential and commercial landscapes in Charleston and Charlotte, North Carolina, Greenberg has the expertise to design technically functional and aesthetically pleasing landscapes. However, it’s the quality of her approach that allows the true potential of a space to blossom and the homeowner’s unique personality to shine.

Starting at the front door, let’s look at how that works. For Greenberg, optimized outdoor space begins with an “arrival sequence,” or the experience you have when approaching a home. From the time that you or guests arrive, she believes the landscape should be warm and welcoming. Curiosity is also essential. Whether it’s a hint of a view or an element that previews the interior, something about the landscape should make you want to see more.

Greenberg designed an outdoor living area that blends with this historic Charleston home. The creative use of plants highlights the background and disguises unwanted elements.

As for the rest of the outdoor space, Greenberg pays close attention to the client’s lifestyle. From outdoor dining rooms, entertaining areas, outdoor kitchens, places for pets and kids to play, meditation gardens or even outdoor office space, she takes careful notes about what the homeowner wants and needs and about the choices they’ve made in their interiors. “I like to walk through the house and note things like their favorite art and the colors they used inside so the garden blends with the home,” she says. “If it’s done correctly, it’s a seamless flow to the outside. Having a professional landscape designer working with the homeowner allows them to enjoy every inch of their property.”

And by every inch, she means it. Those of us who DIY our gardens tend to think of the square footage we own as all we have to work with. Greenberg thinks bigger, employing the ancient Japanese practice of shakkei, or borrowing scenery, to add depth and drama.

For example, if you have a marsh or ocean view, she’ll design your landscape so it becomes as much a part of your space as if you owned it. Maybe your neighbor has a magnificent tree in their yard, or there’s a glimpse of a historic church steeple in the background. With Greenberg’s design skills, elements outside your property become part of your little kingdom.

A curving brick path creates a magical vignette, inviting guests to follow it to the backyard.

It’s OK if you’re not sure what you want, or if you don’t know a rose from a red maple. Greenberg will help you discover your favorite plants and guide you through options that are sustainable and low-maintenance. Whether you have a pocket garden, are restoring a historical garden or have an expansive suburban space, “native plants make your life easier,” she says.

Native plants also support native species, like birds, dragonflies, bees and butterflies. “A well-designed garden will be beautiful 365 days a year, and we can change textures, colors and forms for different seasons or holidays,” Greenberg says. “People want the garden to be beautiful, even when it’s dormant. I like to plant so something is always of interest and blooming all year long. There shouldn’t be a moment that something in your garden isn’t beautiful.”

Greenberg takes one client and works on one project at a time, which allows her to give her full attention to the task at hand. “Most of my clients are already on this journey, and I just walk with them to help create whatever they’re imagining,” she says. The firm can design, custom build and install pergolas, stone patios, walkways, meditation rooms, water features, outdoor kitchens, entertaining areas, landscape lighting
and more.

Everyone has a budget, and having a landscape designer can be less expensive than trying to do it yourself. “I save my clients from the pain of buying the wrong plants that have to be removed in a short time. I help them understand the costs of what they’re envisioning and then optimize their budget,” she says. “I have several clients who have been creating their dream landscapes in phases, and I’ve worked with some of them for years. We continue to add layers.”

Greenberg is known for creating or restoring historical landscaping that aligns with the architecture of a home. In a city known for its gardens, people like to stroll the streets and peek through gates. Gate-peeking is encouraged, or at least sweetly tolerated, in line with Charleston’s legendary hospitality. Greenberg is the designer behind many lovely downtown peekaboo gardens, lush entry urns and Instagram-worthy planter boxes that delight locals and visitors alike. “I feel so close to God when I’m working in a garden. Chances are these gardens are going to outlive me,” she says.

It is a joy to encounter someone who is doing what they are meant to do in life with their natural gifts. Irish philosopher John O’Donohue once wrote, “When we walk on the earth with reverence, beauty will decide to trust us.” Every project Greenberg undertakes, she invites beauty to trust her, and it does. *

Robin Howard is a freelance writer in Charleston. See more of her work at robinhowardwrites.com.