With two successful Broward-based companies to his name (Matthew Giampietro Garden Design in Fort Lauderdale, and Waterfalls, Fountains & Gardens in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea), Connecticut native Matthew Giampietro has become one of Florida’s go-to masters for spectacular outdoor spaces since planting roots here in 2003. With projects all over the state and New England, the landscape wiz is well-versed in dream gardens where no detail is overlooked. Here, he shares some insight on the alfresco features he’s perfected throughout his career.
Florida gardens seem incomplete without a pool. And whether it’s a minimalist tub or a jungle-like lagoon, nothing ruins the experience like the wrong plant life around it. In terms of that, Giampietro suggests coastal vegetation that’s salt tolerant (for saltwater pools) and sturdy specimens that can take water saturation and some exposure to chlorine. As for grass? Giampietro says to go faux: “Natural grass is challenging, even in small spaces. Technology has come a long way and there are realistic options with fine texture that work very well in Florida gardens, particularly with modern and contemporary designs.” In terms of stone selection? “We tend to go natural with coral, flagstone, quartzite, and marble,” says Giampietro. “And when it comes to safety, I find that non-slip porcelain pavers are best.”
“I spent time studying Japanese gardens in Kyoto and I’ve loved incorporating them into my practice,” says Giampietro. These Zen spaces are ideal for Florida’s climate, provided homeowners follow one key rule: using native plants that will not overgrow their space. “We often select plants that have more of a northern appearance for these spaces,” says Giampietro. “Juniper or sedums are common, and I like to use variegated pittosporum, Indian hawthorn, Green Island Ficus, Eugenia, and ilex as well.” Small trees with beautiful branching habits, like lignum vitae, Simpson’s stopper, and cassia, are also ideal.”
Anyone who’s seen a natural one can attest to the bewitching allure of waterfalls. What makes them such attractive pool features? “They add a sense of movement and sound, and they can be the focal point of the landscape, or just a subtle accent,” says Giampietro. “A tasteful, well-designed waterfall can be a beautiful addition. It’s all about the placement, scale, and sound. Incorporating vegetation is key to make them look natural and not overbearing.”
Surprises and Extras
What’s a garden without some visual intrigue and creature comforts? These days, outdoor kitchens that can withstand the elements are de rigueur, especially for use during our mild winters when dining alfresco becomes more commonplace from Miami to Jacksonville. Even more engaging and convivial are firepits, which encourage socializing. For these and other additions involving fire, Giampietro suggests extra space to avoid any mishaps. In terms of privacy, consider screens, which can add another layer to the garden design and help to create effects depending on how the plant life is used around them.
Photos courtesy of Matthew Giampietro Garden Design
Text by Christopher Day