The Power of Passion
- By Melanie Jauregui - April 2001

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     It's natural for me to wax poetic about my work. Gardening and garden design are what I call my "magnificent obsession" - so much that the other arts in which I have an interest and for which I even have talent will generally take a back seat.

     After more than 19 years as a professional landscape designer, I am still driven and excited by the challenge of creating comprehensive landscapes for my clients. I thrive on the complexity of organizing the myriad elements required to create outdoor spaces that function properly, are beautiful and harmonious to the eye - and even touch the heart.

     A garden design typically evolves from a practical and relatively impersonal list of needs. The client, for example, may want an outdoor barbecue, a terrace for dining, a lawn for play, an herb garden and, often, a beautiful watershape of some kind. What I've found through experience is that the way these elements are organized and applied can enrich and add deeper meaning to the work.
The Right Touch

     What I'm after here is a personal touch that means something to my clients. In some cases, it's and architectural element or pattern woven through the work that calls to mind a favorite architect or artist. Other times, it's setting up an arbor bedecked in sweet pea because grandmother had one just like it.

     Through the years, I've found that the various elements in a garden - plants, trees, structures, furnishings or water - can carry great meaning for my clients. In a moonlit garden, my clients might want gardenias because the fragrance evokes memories of their long-ago honeymoon. In another, a client might want an oak tree because he or she climbed one as child. Or someone of Scottish or Irish descent might crave a Celtic cross or a "knot garden" as a key part of the garden design.

     When you consider these creative or decorative elements as part of the design, there is no end to the possibilities. Best of all, every situation with every client and site is completely different.

     So, armed with sensitivity, creativity and a bit of detective skill, landscape designers and watershapers can create spaces that absolutely resound with personal meaning. We can create designs that remind clients of their past and heritage, or we can reflect their spirit and embody their deepest interests and passions.
     For me, this whole process begins in walking the site with my clients for the first time. On this occasion, I make a conscious effort to suspend my preconceptions. I listen and carefully observe my clients as we move through the property. I also ask for a detailed tour of the home, both to observe the views it offers to the outside and to look for clues in the art, photographs, mementos, awards, furnishings, and even the architecture of their home.

     This is where I gather many of the puzzle pieces I will fit together to gain a clear understanding of my clients and their personal style. I even ask each member of the family to show and tell me about their favorite photos, paintings, books or poems. I want to hear their stories - and I'm always looking for clues.

     Quite often, this process relaxes my clients. They'll open up and begin answering even questions that seem personal. This is where barriers break down and where friendships and collaborations are born with bonds of trust, openness and communication. This, in essence, is the creative base from which my designs are conceived and developed.

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This is a reprint of an article originally printed in Watershapes Magazine - Volume 3 - Number 3 - April 2001