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Best of the Best 2005: Landscape Architects

Adele Cygelman

Every great estate deserves an equally grand garden. To this end, Robert Truskowski, over the course of his 34-year career, has created formal gardens in the South of France and tropical sanctuaries on Mustique. The landscape architect has floated king palms down Florida’s Intracoastal Waterway, trucked in 40-foot conifers to a Lake Tahoe property to provide an instant wall of privacy, and researched saltwater systems for a shark lagoon in the Red Sea.
 
“The best projects are a function of working on a team with an architect and an interior designer. It makes it more interesting,” says Truskowski, who established his landscape architecture business in Laguna Beach, Calif., in 1971. In the mid 1980s he moved to Greenwich, Conn., where he worked with the late Sister Parrish, the influential doyenne of the New York decorating firm Parrish-Hadley. “She was a great person,” he recalls. “She had a reputation for not being easy, but she gave me the opportunity to do some wonderful gardens on the East Coast.”
 
Working on such a grand scale (his larger projects average 8 to 10 acres) requires Truskowski to maintain three offices in Southern California and one in Palm Beach, Fla. He and his staff of 16 manage every aspect of the grounds.

“I try to do gardens that are timeless,” he says. “There are certain things that date design, such as plants that go in and out of favor. I got a letter in the late 1970s from the Irvine Company [a real estate developer in Newport Beach] telling me that palm trees were inappropriate for Newport Beach. Obviously, that’s not the case today.” The most common requests these days are for complex water features—fountains, grottoes, lagoons. For a client’s lakeside house in the south of France, Truskowski designed a pavilion that floats on the water. The homeowner uses the space to take his massages. “Clients want all the amenities of a resort at home,” he says.

Current projects include restoring and expanding a classic Lockwood de Forest estate in Montecito, Calif., and designing a private 30-acre botanical garden in Hawaii. For each, Truskowski researches new plants and materials, scours local sources for decorative antiques, and allows the architecture of the structure to determine the direction of the garden. “I am very fortunate,” he says. “I create other people’s fantasies.”

 

Robert Truskowski, 949.494.6650, www.truskowski.com

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