After a natural progression that led from a degree in botany in England to a deep-dive into landscape design in Canada, Jonathan Davis found that his love of the natural world was a natural fit on the East End. We caught up with “Jonny” to learn about how he creates his show-stopping landscapes and how his global experience makes him the landscaper of choice in the region.
Jonathan, how did you get involved in landscape design? Did you study landscape architecture?
I grew up in the English countryside surrounded by beautiful landscapes, both natural and manmade. I always knew I wanted to work outside with nature. A degree in Botany and Zoology from Edinburgh University didn’t appear to offer much financial return.
Fortunately, a coincidental meeting with a practicing landscape designer from Montreal led me to the Inchbald School of Design. This boutique college in the heart of Victoria offered an intensive curriculum tutored by some of the leading garden designers tailored specifically for a career in the field.
There’s a modern edge to your work though you work on both modern and traditional designs. What is your process after viewing the property?
Hopefully, an immediate visceral response to the space or the architecture will direct the design. And then a lot of hard work! We start with an initial outline plan that is loose and interpretive. Following that, we continue to develop the design through hardscape details and a planting plans. It’s a fluid process and is typically different with every project.
Also, technology now allows us the ability to capture and recreate a vision to the client in a manner that was unimaginable a few years ago. Photo realistic renderings help both the client and us see the potential in a property.
How closely do you work with a home’s architect or builder? Is it a joint venture or do you work off of their plans?
In an ideal world, very closely. However, typically the landscape gets left until last and we are in charge of pulling everything together when there is no money left in the pocketbook.
Do you work with specific builders and architects or do you work with the homeowners who bring in the landscaper? How does this work?
My father is a builder on the East End and we have performed a number of projects together of the last two decades. However, most often it is the homeowners who hire us directly — they are the ones who will be growing with the garden, so it is most important to tailor the landscape to meet their needs and desires.
Is there a favorite project that you can share with us?
One of my earliest projects was on a converted potato field in Sagaponack. The clients wanted a traditional house with a modern feel — transitional. The landscape took this to heart and developed into a truly unique experience, blending space and nature together in a modern framework. The best part is the property changed hands a few years back and now the new clients have only improved upon the original design.
Is there a systemic process to the projects or is it a free-form process depending on the client?
Always bespoke. Similar plants will turn up between projects, or materials, but the goal of the garden is to meet the clients’ specific needs.
Do you also offer accessory structures to your work? Is the building of them, the lighting and masonry, part of the Davis Landscape Design offering?
Very much so! We design and build everything from the outside of the main house to the property line. Often new home owners feel lost in the daunting task of developing a property and we love to designing the many different elements of a property.
What are some key maintenance tools needed to upkeep landscaping, such as pesticide control?
This is a tough subject, because often a client’s idea of what a landscape should look like and what is required in order to maintain that look are not in keeping with what we would like to see and hear as people who live and work in the local environment.
Fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides all leach toxins into the landscape and the wider environment. However, there is a way to have both a beautiful landscape and a healthy environment!
How are you incorporating green design into your work?
From the day I started designing gardens, I have tried to “be green.” We promote buying local materials and plants. Native plants have innate disease resistance and tend to be better suited to cold harsh winters and hot, humid summers, and as a result, they are lower maintenance. Also, I try and not use irrigation where possible —properly sited plants will not need persistent watering that often is more of a curse than a blessing.
How have you seen the landscape design change over the years on the East End? Have you noted any trends?
Outdoor living has become a buzz, including cooking, lounging, and anything else you could do inside a house.
Vegetable gardens. Can there be anything better than growing your own vegetables, or at least trying to do so? Organic gardening. Yay!
Do you believe in the famous Hamptons “light?” If so, what do you think attributes to it?
Of course. It’s the water, and all of that lovely sky.
What would you say makes your work so successful?
For me, success has been all about hard work and a passion for nature and design. I have been blessed with a line of work that rewards me every day.
To reach Davis or inquire about his work, call 631-236-8659 or visit http://www.davislandscapedesign.com.