Garden Design

4 Women Garden Designers Who Influence Raleigh Gardens

Plants

We are so fortunate in the Raleigh area to have the weather allowing us to garden year-round and local women garden designers who are infectious in their enthusiasm. I’ve been designing gardens for years, including recent ones for the City of Raleigh. With Women’s History Month in March, I decided to reach out to four other area women in garden design for their tips on improving gardens. I hope their thoughts will help motivate you to make 2021 the year of gardening.

Edith Eddleman

For those few of you in the design arena who have not heard the name, you certainly know her work. Edith is quick-witted, with a keen eye for color, and a graceful, pleasant pace that makes one sit back and listen to the wisdom of her words. Edith’s talent? English-style perennial borders. I don’t doubt if Edith were a British subject, she would have been honored with the title Dame Edith Eddleman; although as humble as Edith is, this suggestion probably made her blush.

What sparked your calling into horticulture and design?

I was inspired by a volunteer at Mordecai Historic Park in Raleigh to become a professional designer, sharing with me a design school. The school was in England, called the Clock House School of Garden Design, founded by John Brooks. I spent a month learning from Mr. Brooks, then spent another month traveling around England studying English gardens.

Brief background of a notable project you spearheaded?

It would have to be the 18 by 300-foot English-style perennial border at the JC Raulston Arboretum. I began this volunteer project in 1981, and have worked on designing, planting, and maintaining, as time allowed, since that time. In 1985, Doug Ruhren joined the project. Even though Doug is now the gardens manager at the JC Raulston Arboretum, he still volunteers his time working on the perennial bed.

What is your creative approach when evaluating a site for a new design? 

This may not sound very interesting, but I start with one perennial and build from there.

Is garden design an art form?

Yes! Like performance art, a place where different plant performers, like actors, take center stage, then step back for other plants to take the lead.

Suzanne Edney

What sparked your calling into horticulture and design?

When I owned my first house and property I began decorating the yard. Will Hooker, a beloved landscape architect and professor of Landscape Design at North Carolina State University, happened to be my neighbor. He encouraged me to become a garden designer.

Brief background of a notable project you spearheaded?

The opportunity to relocate the Finley Nottingham Rose Garden in 2006 at the JC Raulston Arboretum when it was expanded from eight to ten acres. To draw visitors into this newly acquired two acres at the arboretum, a site was chosen for the redesigning of this important and endowed rose display. It has become a prominent destination when visiting the JC Raulston Arboretum.

What is your creative approach when evaluating a site for a new design? 

To look at a site from prominent entry and exit points. I always insist on going into a client’s house to see the views from all the windows. I take photographs and use those to balance the two-dimensional images.

Is garden design an art form?

To me, it is the ultimate sculptural experience.

Amy Strunk

What sparked your calling into horticulture and design?

I am extremely fortunate to have spent several years of my childhood overseas due to my father’s job. Living in the tropics had a big influence on me as we were surrounded by four seasons of lush beauty.

Brief background of a notable project you spearheaded?

I did the initial design for an outdoor island and built-in grill, water feature, and patio along with seasonal plantings focusing on native plants and pollinators. Over the years, it has been a joy to continue to work with the customer and watch the garden evolve, add new plants to fill in overtime, and even replace a few things that just didn’t thrive. Such is gardening.

What is your creative approach when evaluating a site for a new design?
I start all of my projects with a site visit where we walk the property so I can get a feel for the space and learn more about the client. Most people give me a wish list of plants, materials or items they’d like in their space. My job is to listen to what they’re asking and translate that into a personalized space they love.

Is garden design an art form?

I certainly believe so. Anytime you create something based on your own experience and can show it and share it is art in my opinion. A well-designed garden engages all of your senses at once and that is an incredible feeling!

Jan Watson

What sparked your calling into horticulture and design?
I’ve always loved being outside and I think that naturally led me to a career in horticulture and design. It is an absolute privilege to be able to create beauty for a living.

Please share a notable project you spearheaded.

Duke Gardens recently completed a renovation of the Mary Duke Biddle Rose Garden. One of the main goals of the redesign was to create a space with four seasons of interest. Roses, perennials, and evergreens are surrounded by an abundance of ornamental grasses, providing filler and strong vertical accents.

What is your creative approach when evaluating a site for a new design?
For me, the creative process starts with having some practical information about the site’s present and future. Once I know my parameters, I can make design decisions that are not only functional, but also excite and inspire.

Is garden design an art form?

It is most definitely a form of art. And, just like other art forms, it takes heart and a lot of practice to succeed.

Winter is the perfect time to evaluate what you want from the garden, with time to read, learn, and build the garden of your dreams.

Helen Yoest is the executive director of Bee Better, an area non-profit 501(C)(3) designing and educating area homeowners about building better backyards for birds, bees, and butterflies.

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