Q and A with Landscape Architect Susan Cohen

July 30, 2014

By Paula M. Bodah

Susan Cohen loves plants, flowers, trees, and bushes. The Riverside, Connecticut-based landscape architect makes her living creating beautiful gardens, after all. Still, her philosophy is that plantings should enhance a home and its site, not take center stage. As she said in “Natural Selection,” in the summer 2014 edition of New England Home Connecticut, “My work tends to be very simple, especially when there’s a view. You never want to upstage a view.”

Photos by Stacy Bass

What is your favorite part of the landscape plan for this house? Why?

I think the curving drive from the street to the front door is a great success—a lovely entrance to the home, and it affords a glimpse of the water view. I also love the grasses we used on the slope near the water’s edge. They are easy to maintain, relate well to the sea grasses in the cove, and are a quiet and peaceful addition to the landscape.

What does your landscape—your own yard and gardens—look like?

We have a small country garden with some unusual features that we have developed over many years, like the “fountain grotto” we made within the derelict stone walls of an old boat shed on our property. My favorite part of the garden is the shady border in greens and a range of yellows.

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

It’s important for a landscape architect to understand the client’s wishes and suggest design solutions that bring out the best qualities of a site. The professional designer can often see imaginative possibilities that may not be obvious to the client. For both designers and home gardeners, I think the most important thing to consider is the scale of landscape elements. And my motto is, “keep it simple.”

What flower can you simply not live without in your own garden?

I have recently developed a passion for nasturtiums, which I grow in a large pot set on a wall. They remind me of Monet’s garden in Giverny, France. And they can be added to a salad. The most reliable annual in my blue and purple border is Angelonia “Angelface Blue.”