Q & A with Gregory Lombardi

By Paula M. Bodah

Don’t be fooled by a landscape that looks as though it grew straight from nature—lush with native blooms cascading over rocks that could have been deposited by a retreating glacier eons ago, and alive with masses of flowering bushes that cozy up to one another like old friends. A garden like the one we featured in our September-October issue may look natural and carefree, but behind all that beauty is a well-though-out design and carefully considered plan. For a North Shore home updated by the architectural firm Charles R. Myer and Partners, landscape architect Greg Lombardi and his team designed the six-acre sloping site to look as though the gardens had evolved naturally. As he told writer Megan Fulweiler, the goal was an “it’s-been-this-way-for-a-long-time ambience—nothing formal or pretentious.”

Here, Greg gives us some insight into his thoughts about what makes great gardens.

gregory lombardi

Photography by Stacy Bass

What two or three elements of this landscape would you say are your favorite aspects of the plan?

The most intriguing elements of this project have to be the rich and romantic sense of materials: granite in various finishes, bronze rails and finials, and lush and varied plantings. We took our cue from the fact that a portion of the main house was once a music pavilion for an old estate. Pure fantasy, and we continued on a theme of the surprising and almost eccentric in the unfolding of spaces, highly-crafted elements, and, most important, the visceral sense of unique materials.

gregory lombardi

What are the two or three most basic, important things to think about when designing a landscape?

When designing a landscape, always think about creating a narrative that links all of the spaces. Every move should follow a vision; this can be based on intrinsic characteristics of the existing landscape that can be distilled and accentuated into unique spaces that flow together or contrast. (In every season too, since landscape changes constantly as time passes.) The land will often tell you what to emphasize and what to ignore, but always have a point of view of a designer and critic, and never be afraid of making something beautiful.

gregory lombardi

Is there a current trend when it comes to looks in landscape design?

Currently, there is an embrace of a more minimalist landscape as modern, simple forms prevail. Having said this, I do like to mix things up, and add classic forms and elements to keep things timeless, yet unexpected.

gregory lombardi

Is the current emphasis on incorporating native plants more than a trend? Why is it important?

The demands of maintenance and cultivation are in favor of a native plant palette. Native plants are acclimatized to their region and survive better in their own habitats and local weather; they don’t become invasive, and tend to require less care and chemical support to flourish. A project with an indigenous and well-chosen planting layer can integrate with the broader surroundings, and can look less self-conscious and more “believable.” I think this is now an accepted part of landscape architecture planting design, but the rigidity of native plant use only can be a bit too limiting if it’s taken to extremes.

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