It Takes Two
Q&A with garden designer Lisa Stamm and her husband, architect Dale Booher, of The Homestead Garden Design on Shelter Island.
Lovely Layers | At Stamm and Booher’s own garden on Shelter Island, colorful blooms play off dense evergreen plants.
Where did you get your start?
Lisa Stamm: After studying garden design, I found myself designing penthouse gardens in Manhattan. Much of it had to do with structure and color and designing lots of boxes—essentially container gardening.
Several of your clients are notable for having a strict sense of what their gardens should be. How do you maintain your identity on those projects?
LS: We always react to the client’s wishes and needs. When we started with Charlotte Moss, whom we’ve worked with for 22 years, she loved English gardens. Lately, though, she has been visiting French gardens, and her own garden has evolved accordingly. But no matter what, she has always liked structure in the garden. For the most part, our clients are all different. Some are very relaxed; others like color ad nauseam. And then there are people like André Balazs, who want everything to look totally natural. It can be very exciting, trying to figure out what the clients want and deliver something you are proud of.
How do you two divvy up the work?
Dale Booher: I think of myself as a planner more than an architect. I can do architectural things, but I don’t want to be thought of as someone who just builds the gazebo or designs the pool house. It is always very satisfying to see a garden plan work. You map out a walkway, and suddenly it makes sense. Give me a problem to solve, and I’m in heaven.
LS: I do the plant design and purchasing. I feel it is very important to see what is being planted. Sometimes I change my mind and replace a plant with something else that’s fabulous. It’s important not to get locked in.
How formal are your plans?
DB: Before we start on any project, Lisa and I always like to put ideas down on paper first. Luckily, I draft.
LS: You can’t really just shoot from the hip. Once we have the plan down, I like working in stages. First, you get to know the client better and develop a sense of trust, which is so important. Second, working over a longer period helps ensure that the design matures. And I get so excited when Dale asks, “What do you think of this idea?” I know we’ll be going on an interesting design journey.
How do structured plants like clipped boxwood work into your more naturalistic designs?
LS: I think you can incorporate more structured plantings close to a house without it coming off as too jarring.
DB: And I love the idea of having a wild area right next to a more formal section.
LS: But no matter what, it has to be subtle. The older I get, the more I think, Nature is amazing. She does everything very well all by herself!