These famous landscapers have impacted the gardens, yards, and patios of the world with their innovation, charisma, and works of green art.
Meet the kings of gardens. And the name is the least of it.
What’s more: purposeful beauty achieved with time, craft, a lot of science, love of nature, imagination, and a superlative aesthetic sense.
They are the best landscapers in the world. And these, some of their gardens are incredible, by the way.
1 – Kim Wilkie: The Green Pharaoh
You go down a path 7 meters deep. It is an inverted ziggurat. In the end, a perfect square pool reflects the sky.
It is the work of the Englishman Kim Wilkie (Malaysia, 1956), who played around the Iraqi deserts and trained at Oxford.
All these landscapes are in his work. For Wilkie the straight line and geometry are essential.
We are in his most emblematic work, Boughton House, and to appreciate all its beauty we should be a bird.
Or a drone.
Times are not ripe for poetry.
From the sky, we observe how he draws the territory like an artist, how he sculpts it like a sculptor, but he affirms that his is not an art installation.
He is a landscape architect. And he is one of the famous landscapers. At the age of 21, working as a journalist in Iran, he discovers his future profession by reporting on environmental projects.
He saves up to go back to university. He studied Landscape History and set up his own studio in London in 1989.
Current projects include redesigning the gardens at the Natural History Museum in London and designing developments where housing and sustainable agriculture coexist.
“If there’s one element that I think is going to be the most crucial in the future, it’s water, the lack of it and how it unites and separates us,” he says.
Definitely, one of the best landscapers.
2 – Madison Cox: The Squeaky Star
He has all the ingredients to make the cover of the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal in any of its supplements, but Madison Cox is elusive.
He doesn’t give interviews. There are few photos of him.
A low profile that contrasts with his clients: Marella Agnelli, the Kravis, Ian Scharger -Studio 54-, André Balazs, Pierre Bergé….
He was Bergé’s friend, supplier, partner, and heir.
Since his death, he has been president of the Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint-Laurent Foundation and of the Majorelle Garden in Marrakech.
And with this background, the Californian -from San Francisco– is elusive with the press.
He has turned sixty and over the last three decades has built some of the most beautiful gardens on the planet.
His trick, besides a constant smile and friendliness, is to adapt to the client’s taste.
He won’t agree to extravagant roses, but he’ll find an elegant way to make them work.
For artist Jennifer Bartlett, in Greenwich Village, he built a rooftop garden with an orchard, a rose garden, and a labyrinth.
Forty-two tons of soil were used.
Cox has her garden paradise in Tangier. He always returns there, although he does not spend more than 5 days in the same city.
His latest project? The garden of the Hotel Epi 1959 and it seems he was always there.
His masterpiece? The garden of Marella Agnelli in Marrakech.
3 – Louis Benech: Building for Louis XIV
Louis Benech (1957, Neuilly-sur-Seine, France) confesses that he has two favorite plants.
Without the need for torture, he speaks of the Fagus sylvatica “Asplenifolia” – a cut-leaf European beech – and the Romneya coulteri – a poppy with a delicate white petal and a yellow center.
That is the key to his success: the blend of the rotundity of the former with the fragility of the latter.
From there, this gardener denies having a style.
His work is characterized by the use of native plants.
He advises to sit down, watch how the sun falls, how the winds blow…
And he studied law – he didn’t have the grades to study engineering – and after a brief stint in a law firm in France, he moved to England.
Later, he worked at Hillier –perhaps the most famous English nursery.
But he did not go back to books or codes.
However, he settled in Normandy, received advice from the great master Russell Page, and met the Saint-Laurent-Bergé couple.
His career took off when he intervened in the gardens of the Tuileries in the historical part.
He has built more than 300 public and private gardens.
As an example, we would like to mention the Bosquet du Théâtre d’Eau, in the historic gardens of the Palace of Versailles.
He collaborates with Jacques Grange, Pierre Yovanovitch or François Catroux.
“It is said that gardening is an art, but I don’t see myself as an artist.
They are free.
Designing a garden is too technical to be art,” says one of the most important gardeners in France.
4 – Piet Oudolf: The Alchemist of Bad Herbs
It seems simple now, but in the 1980s it was a revolution.
Piet Oudolf launched a crusade against seasonal flowers.
Petunias, pansies, geraniums… were banned.
A movement, New Perennial, was born.
“I didn’t want to change the garden all the time. And I didn’t want to replace plants every season. All I wanted is to make gardens that could stay and change on their own,” he explains.
To create his wild-looking meadows he had to remove herbaceous perennials.
But it wasn’t easy. And he is one of the most famous landscapers, don’t forget.
He had to set up his own greenhouse and start selling what some refer to as “weeds.
“Oudolf was born in the coastal city of Haarlem, the Netherlands, in 1944. His first jobs were in his parents’ restaurant.
He got tired, tried a nursery, and fell in love with plants.
The consecration of this movement was the garden of the High Line, in New York, where, with the collaboration of architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro and James Corner, a former railroad track of more than 2 kilometers becomes an urban park.
He is the author of several books and has recently released a documentary about his work, Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf.
5 – Martin and Peter Wirtz: Natural Heirs.
“This world is full of stress.
It’s important to have as much green public space as possible.
I really think trees are the answer to many of the problems we have in the 21st century,” says Martin Wirtz (Belgium, 1963).
His name is synonymous with organic structures in boxwood or yew, sheets of water, clumps of Pennisetum and miscanthus, or the creation of the “urban forest” concept, where green is the only protagonist color.
His father Jacques Wirtz (1924-2018) is a legend.
At the age of 26, he founded his landscaping office, although he felt he was a simple gardener.
His stardom began with the garden of the Belgian pavilion at the Osaka exhibition.
It was 1970.
His consecration? The gardens of the Elysée, commissioned by Mitterrand, the remodeling of the gardens of the Tuileries in Paris, or the gardens of Alnwick Castle in England.
Today his two sons, Martin and Peter, continue his work.
Among his latest works has been to create a labyrinth of Buxus microphylla ‘Rococo’ and naked alders as a backdrop for a Dior fashion show in the time of Raf Simons.
One of our favorite best landscapers in the world.
6 – Dan Pearson: The Wild Gardener
He always wanted to be a gardener.
At the age of six, he was reciting the names of the aquatic plants at Stapeley Water Gardens.
Dan Pearson (b. 1964) grew up in the south of England growing and competing with his father.
One had a yellow flower bed, the other white.
A neighbor taught him to appreciate weeds.
And he learned his lesson.
Pearson has managed to respect the English tradition while adding today’s sustainability and ecological concerns.
But remember that the naturalist trend does not mean going back to nature.
A balance must be sought.
In his work, formality, and informality intersect and fit together. Like one of the most famous landscapers would.
“In my gardens, there is a freedom that has to do with imperfection, evolution, with a sense of belonging.
Gardens should not make you feel that a great deal of rigor has been exerted, they should appear to lack effort,” he says.
He speaks of William Robinson, Beth Chatto, or William Kent as teachers. He writes – he has been a columnist for The Observer – to clarify his thoughts.
However, he has a program on English television while finding time to restore the landscape of Althorp House – where Diana is buried – worked on the Millennium Dome and the Tokachi Millennium Forest Garden in Shimizu, Japan.
And he has collaborated with Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid, or David Chipperfield.
To top it all off, he is an advocate of adding an orchard -or fruit trees- in his gardens.
Also in the urban environment.
“There’s something nice about being able to go to a garden, pick something and eat it. Gowing makes you feel local,” he says.
7 – Kongjian Yu (1963) is a star in China.
He is the founder of Turenscape -a studio with 600 employees- and dean of the Faculty of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at Peking University.
And he has broken with the Chinese landscape tradition. To sum it up, he is a revolutionary who dreams of rice paddies turned into parks.
8 – Martha Schwartz (Pennsylvania, 1950)
This famous landscaper has filled, during four decades of work, the four corners of the planet with colorful projects of simple forms.
Her work incorporates architecture as an element of the garden.
9 – Marc Peter Keane (1958)
Mark has been a great American popularizer of the Japanese garden.
Both in his work as a landscape designer and in his books.
His projects are born from tradition but manipulating its rules to make them contemporary.
And of course, in his work, the stone is as important as the green mass.
One of the best landscapers on earth.
10 – Fernando Caruncho (1957)
Our compatriot stands out in the first division of famous landscape designers.
From his studio, on the outskirts of Madrid, he has conquered the world with his minimalist and organic conceptions.