ISSUE 33  |  Summer Cottages

Best Professional Landscape Winner: Adam Woodruff & Associates

August 18, 2014 6:30 PM

BY Meredith Swinehart

The winner of the Gardenista Considered Design Awards Best Professional Landscape is Adam Woodruff & Associates of St. Louis, Missouri. 

Their project in Girard, Illinois, was chosen by guest judge Flora Grubb, who said, “The garden at Jones Road doesn’t so much borrow the surrounding landscape as collect it. The plantings near the house evoke the spirit of the long view, but with an intensified palette that remains prairie–subtle and intoxicating.”

Take a look below and read what Adam Woodruff has to say about the landscape, his favorite features, and his best secret design source.

N.B.: This is one of a series of posts spotlighting the winners of the Gardenista Considered Design Awards. We’ll be featuring one winning project every weekday. Go to the 2014 Considered Design Awards to see all the entries, finalists, and winners. And have a look at the winners of the Remodelista Considered Design Awards, too.


Adam Woodruff & Associates’ Design Statement: I strive to connect my clients to nature and the larger landscape while creating a rich, evocative experience for them. Jones Road is one such example. My clients, a couple with grown children, were in the midst of a home renovation when they engaged me to design the landscape of their rural property. Their bi-level house sits on a ridge with views of pasture, timber, and a meandering creek. They requested a design that would be sensitive to the borrowed landscape and not disrupt their views. I imagined a grand, stylized prairie enveloping the house to complement the pastoral setting.

The property was largely turf, with few trees and a pool surrounded by a poured-concrete patio. The grade abruptly dropped off at the back of the house, so an entire hillside had to be moved and soil repositioned to accommodate expansive new beds. The bold move improved aesthetics and overall functionality. The new garden seamlessly blends the wild and the domestic, bringing pollinators, birds, and wildlife to the doorstep. Grasses form the foundation of this naturalistic design, a matrix through which shrubs, perennials, natives, and bulbs emerge. The feeling is spontaneous and natural.


Q: What are your favorite features of the project?
A: I like to visit the garden in the late afternoon. It’s a magical time when the plants are backlit and the garden moves: Grasses sway in the slightest wind; bees, butterflies, and birds flit from flower to flower.


Q: Where did you get your design inspiration?
Nature and native plant communities inspire me. Also, I travel a great deal to visit significant gardens. When I’m traveling, I look to see how a garden relates to the larger landscape, and how the designer defines space within the garden. I note the plant palette and consider how all these elements work in concert to evoke a response.


Q: What was your biggest splurge?
My clients fell in love with the work of Thomas Yano, a sculptor in Vermilion, Ohio. His graceful pieces are the perfect enhancement to this garden.


Q: Who worked on the winning project?
Adam Woodruff worked on planting design and installation, Can Am Professional Landscaping (of Girard, IL) worked on the hardscape, and Mark Prose (of Girard) worked on grading and drainage.

Q: What does your firm specialize in?
We strive to evoke a visceral response with contemporary designs that define space and artfully blend plants in new ways. Our imaginative planting schemes are stylized interpretations of nature, where herbaceous plants mingle with woody plants to form a tapestry of year-round interest.

We work on a wide range of projects–from intimate residential gardens to large commercial properties. Our unique and enduring solutions are site-specific and reflect our clients’ tastes and lifestyles.

Q: What is your favorite local shop?
Bowood Farms in St. Louis and Cottage Garden in Piasa, Illinois.

Q: What is your best secret design source?
Other designers. I’ve been a member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers for several years. I find colleagues in the green industry to be very open and willing to share ideas, knowledge, and experience.

Q: Who is your dream client?
I am fortunate to have clients like George and Lorraine Hart, the owners of the Jones Road property. They afford me creative license. More important, they are patient: They appreciate that it takes time to create atmosphere where little existed before. My design solutions are heavily plant-based, and a residential garden is built over several seasons. I start with a good base layer, then add enhancements to create visually dynamic displays with good bloom succession, diversity, and seasonal interest.

Q: Which architects or designers do you admire?
Piet Oudolf and Roy Diblik have undoubtedly influenced me the most. I also admire the work of Michael King, Jacqueline van der Kloet, Ton ter Linden, Nico Kloppenborg, and Carrie Preston (in the Netherlands); Dan Pearson, Tom Stuart-Smith, and Sarah Price (in the UK); Cassian Schmidt (Germany); Amalia Robredo (Uruguay); and Thomas Rainer, Claudia West, Raymond Jungles, Dan Benarick, and Matthew Cunningham (USA).

Q: What is your next project? 
I am currently involved in three projects. I am designing two acres of landscape and gardens for a new French-style home in Ladue, Missouri. My clients are a young couple with three children. The aesthetic is soft and naturalistic, with the introduction of formality through clipped plantings and the patterned repetition of structural elements like trees and shrubs.

I am also working on a master plan for a residential condominium tower in Clayton, Missouri. The property is 12 years old and the landscape is in need of renovation. The project includes reimagining the ground floor faí§ade, a courtyard garden, and two large roof gardens.

Finally, and perhaps my most challenging project at the moment, is designing a garden for our new home.

Congratulations to Adam Woodruff & Associates! See all the winners of the 2014 Gardenista Considered Design Awards here: