Planning, Patience and Purpose

Artist and landscape designer Jan Kirsh inherently knows the process to sculpting Eden-like gardens for her clients

Written by Joe Willey  |  Photography by Jill Jasuta

Healthy things grow but need a watchful eye and experienced touch to be tamed. Creating a garden is a labor of love and purpose that requires collaboration, planning and patience. For Jan Kirsh, a landscape designer and artist whose work reflects both order and whimsy, knowing when to act and when to wait is simply part of the process.

For Kirsh, understanding her clients is paramount. She considers the collaborative element an important part of the garden. She and clients are a team working together toward a common goal, so she educates them about what they should expect and when they should expect it. Gardens can be surprising, with plants that add exciting and wild punctuation to the area, and she has become known for the sense of surprise that she brings to her designs. After years of experience, she understands the rhythms of plants’ growing, bearing fruit and maturing. How the landscape will develop in the future is as clear to Kirsh as a newly sculpted garden, perhaps more so.

It may be her unique way of planning landscape designs that has kept her client list long. She has worked with some clients for 20 years. She studies a landscape from a client’s perspective. Where do they like to sit when they are outside? She sits there. How do they walk through their yard or garden? She walks where they walk. She stands at the kitchen sink or at the bedroom window to glimpse what they see, considering small but salient factors before she begins designing. This eye for detail and the consideration she gives to each client’s home and property are why she has had some clients for decades. The garden landscape is simply an extension of their home.

Kirsh calls the gardens she has designed a living portfolio. That is precisely what they are — growing, transient views, as different in the summer and winter as the sun and snow. She paints with plants and has the benefit of watching her paintings change with the seasons.

With unique flair, she also helps her clients develop useful areas that fit within the natural environment. When a client wanted a solution to divide a small patio within the confines of the garden that reflected the home’s architecture, Kirsh designed a unique way of loosely separating the space. Her “Mid-Century Modern Screen” is a Corten steel partition standing four feet high. The creation reflects both the design of the home and the garden landscape with a sense of stylish amusement.

The luxuriant, gentle gardens, with their blend of order and fun (trademarks of her work) are not created by accident. Kirsh is meticulous in her research, planning and execution. She is also patient. And patience is needed by both Kirsh and her clients as they await with enthusiasm the changing landscape that each season brings, knowing that each year will show another glimpse of their plans. CS

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