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May 2010

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James Doyle, principal of James Doyle Design Associates in Greenwich, founded his firm in 1993. He has visited gardens all over the world and worked as head of a garden in Ireland that was designed by famed landscape architect Russell Page. Combining horticultural experience with a defined design aesthetic, Doyle has made a splash with both his modern and traditional gardens. He serves on the Architectural Review Committee of the Town of Greenwich. "A well-designed garden should relate to the wider landscape, and the transition from designed to natural should be subtle," says Doyle.

Let's start from the beginning: how do you approach a landscape? How do a space's natural features influence your design work? Intuition comes with experience and there is always an immediate reaction to a site. A design can also be immediate and is always within the firm's philosophical approach. Designs are embellished during the creative process, which involves a design team dedicated to each project. Understanding a client's functional needs is first and foremost all-important and we then add a design sensibility through bold structural forms and an abstracted type of formal design.

We always strive to generate harmony between architecture and the surrounding landscape. A well-designed garden should relate to the wider landscape and the transition from designed to natural should be subtle. It should all relate.

Francis Bacon once wrote, "Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed." Do you agree? How do you view your personal relationship with nature? In my opinion, one always has to have a healthy respect for nature. From a design perspective, we work within strict codes and regulations to ensure that the natural environment is preserved and encouraged.

Being a landscape designer with a horticultural background, I couldn't survive the trials and tribulations of running a business without the escape that nature and plant material provides. They're a solace.

If a landscape designer is an artist, what are the tools and materials he needs to create a masterpiece? What do you look to first? Of course, it would be a palette of plant materials. Also to consider are new architectural materials that become available to us and allow us to explore more.

Are there any special places in your life that seem to be alive with inspiration? Great European gardens continue to inspire me. The past should always have a great influence on us and it is our reinterpretation of tradition that is the most exciting challenge.

Of the endless varieties of flowers, plants and animals, which can you live without? Colorful annual plantings. Structure and form are more important to me.

What do you think is one of the most underappreciated aspects of nature and landscape design? The resilience of plant material and the beauty of dormant plants.

What's your favorite material to use in your work? Beech and Hornbeam hedging. They have strong branch systems that maintain defined forms, even without leaves.

What elements will you never see included in a James Doyle design? I don't think that we will ever be known for designing free-form swimming pools!