Brazilian-born landscape architect Frederico Azevedo seemed like just the guy to talk to about dramatic—yet decidedly sane—lawn ornaments. Azevedo owns Unlimited Earth Care, a garden shop in Bridgehampton, N.Y., where he runs a landscape design business, as well. In 2006, he launched a series of oversize planters that was immediately embraced by his jet-setting clientele—he tells the story of a California woman who painted her fence with white-and-purple stripes and chose one of Azevedo's 72-inch-high purple planters to stick in front of it. Here, we talk to the guy behind all this grandiosity.
Let's talk about these planers. What do you think inspired you to start designing them?
Well, everybody was going with a certain scale—maximum 36 inches—and the problem was that in certain places you need more height than width. So I started to have the idea to make them narrower and longer, so they fit in any space. They can fit in a terrace, a large landscape design, around swimming pools, or even in a small city balcony, because the base is very narrow and it doesn't have a very big diameter. That is the trick and the way so then you keep them balanced.
What sorts of plants were you designing for?
To use in these particular design, usually the plants are low—you can go with low palms or make a great visual because actually that's what palms are. They have very narrow trunks and big canopies.
How big is the biggest planter you offer?
82 inches with a base diameter of 30 inches.
Do you sell many of those really huge ones?
Yes, actually yes, people from California—they have completely different environments. The colors make them really great, too.
What types of gardens and landscapes would you say have impacted you and your work?
Always modern gardens make an impact on me. I'm from Brazil, and I grew up in the
'70s when all the modern architecture was exploding in Brazil with the creation of Brasilia, the capital. It was done all by Oscar Niemeyer, and the gardens were designed by Roberto Burle Marx, the father of modern landscape design. All this modernism was a great inspiration in my career. Also, in Rio was the development of Flamengo Park, which is a park that crosses the south part of the city to downtown. That's where the modern museum is and other things that all create an image of how to treat the environment differently and be careful with what you plant. They searched for all native plants and put them there. That is really what inspire me—how you can make all landscaping very sustainable by researching species that were here and for some reason disappeared. If you can bring them back and group them in a specific way, they will look great.
So you always use native species?
I try to—I try to always to do what's going to grow in a healthy way because everything that you try to force is going to be forced not natural.
Would you say you're drawn to one type of garden or landscape?
Everything is fascinating. I just like to observe everything—the woods, sometimes when you go to Europe you'll find species along the road that came from a completely different environment and turn out to be invasive now. I'm very curious about all the little details. I like everything—any garden, any time.
So what style would you say defines your work for clients?
I try to push for modern style so I have more of a concept about what the garden is and what landscaping is involved. With very defined concept that will help the garden to have more style. We all like a lot of stuff, but we have one body, and one style, and we cannot mix everything that we like. That's what i try to develop with my clients: to get into a concept and translate the ideas to an environment. Everything changes and what remains is the style. In the moment you achieve garden that will stay forever.
What do you mean by "concept?"
The idea of blending, repetition, and the ability to translate ideas. Sometimes people have a definition of what they think is an English garden but it's actually an Italian garden. The key is to translate everybody's ideas into one reasonable concept that will blend into nature and will be acceptable to the architecture and the environment.
Where do you live? What's your outdoor space like?
North Haven, N.Y., which has lots of deers. The first time I saw deer in my life was when I went to Austria, and friends took me to their country house in Salzburg. I woke up and I was staring at deer for two hours. I thought it was so beautiful. When I came to America, I said, "I want to live where the deers are!" Some people don't like it. I love it. I stared to experiment and research and I developed these gorgeous perennial gardens—everything is deer proof. We have the deer, and the dogs, and everything blends in with each other. It's no problem. That was a challenge for me; what I didn't have from past experience became a great pleasure. I developed a beautiful garden in a natural environment without fences.
Photos by Eric Striffler