Landscape Architect James Doyle's Own West Hill Garden Emanates Tranquility
I have been lucky to have had the opportunity, along with my business partner Kathryn Herman, to create wonderful landscapes across the U.S. and beyond. Leaving an artistic footprint for others is extremely fulfilling, but all paths lead me back to my own garden. Mary Oliver asks in her poem “The Summer Day,” “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Perhaps my garden, and the creation of it, allows me to find the answers. Tending this landscape is where I am most at peace, and creating an environment of flora and fauna and sustainability gives me a connection with the natural world. This safe habitat supports an extreme abundance of local insects, pollinators and wildlife.
My wife, Olive, and I share this garden together. I am digging in the dirt, the keeper of my bees and the carer of our flock of hens, while she is reaping the rewards of a large organic edible garden. Her cooking and baking mastery is enjoyed by many, and we share the spoils from the vegetable garden and our nutritious free-range, organic eggs with friends and neighbors. As importantly, we both enjoy the tranquility and beauty that this landscape brings.
Simply described, the garden reflects the intersection of nature and art; the juxtaposition of designed and natural; and the marriage of aesthetics and productivity. This design is also very personal and experimental with bold, contemporary, dynamic gestures in the form of structural plant material and an infusion of landscape art. Hedges and forms of hornbeam, beech, yew and boxwood, and masses of herbaceous plants are used to structure these garden spaces. All are designed to emphasize seasonality, color and light, with these qualities changing from one space to the next. The mixture and diversity of plant life not only creates a visually striking four-season garden, but also serves to support my colonies of honeybees and all other creatures that pass through this suburban garden.
This garden is part private, part public. It is a space onto which others can look, enjoy, examine or judge as they pass by in the neighborhood. A glimpse of a whimsical sculpture and a passing garden view of this cultivated landscape may instill interest or a connection to nature. I believe that garden-making remains a potentially powerful way of making a statement and educating as we move forward in this world.
As a gardener, I understand the curative powers of digging in the dirt. I understand that everything we make comes out of the ground, and everything we eat depends on soil and pollinating insects. As a designer, my effort and creativity brings tranquility, beauty and happiness to others. Landscapes have the power to become our sanctuaries, to be uplifting and relaxing and thought provoking with an appreciation for nature. My goal is to continue to create sculpted landscapes with natural elements and help people find beauty in nature.
James Doyle is a principal at Doyle Herman Design Associates and founded the firm in 1993. A version of this article appeared in the April 2018 issue of CTC&G (Connecticut Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Beauty in Nature.