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In the garden with: Alexander Koch (Koch+Koch landscape gardeners)

Alexander Koch (Koch+Koch landscape gardeners) © Alexander Koch

A garden from the 1950s, which he redesigned with care, was recently honoured as “Garden of the Year 2018”. We spoke with the landscape gardener Alexander Koch about the basic principles of garden landscaping, the conveying of a feeling of comfort and dancing apple trees.  

Mr Koch, the “Garden of the Year 2018” is a garden from the 1950s that you redesigned. What is the design concept behind these gardens?

Good gardens like this are created with staggered garden spaces, set into motion by shifts of scenery arising when strolling through it. For this concept, the entire interior of the garden was emptied, while overmature trees that disrupted the sight lines were removed. New spaces were created with large, individual trees and shrubs, and especially through a copse of 27 standard grabapple trees, blossoming in white and dancing up the slope.

“Garden of the Year 2018”: Garden from the 1950s, redesigned by Koch+Koch landscape gardeners © Koch+Koch Garten- und Landschaftsarchitekten

Does the redesign incorporate reminiscences of the 1950s?

A 16-metre tall, grey-green cypress, a classic in the landscape gardening of the 1950s, remained standing as a condensation point for the garden being renewed. Paths of Jurassic rock and a gazebo were also incorporated into the redesign. Good gardens were already capably planted with large solitaires by landscape gardeners like Roland Weber in the 1950s. The breeds have changed. While the staghorn sumac, the willow-leaved cotoneaster or fruit-bearing apple trees with bizarre trunks were popular at that time, today it is serviceberry, hybrid cockspurthorn, grabapple trees and Japanese maple that are in demand. With the “has always been there” impression awakened by large new plantings, the viewer overlooks that work has only just been carried out here, that these are no longer the green protagonists of the 1950s.

“Garden of the Year 2018”: Garden from the 1950s, redesigned by Koch+Koch landscape gardeners © Koch+Koch Garten- und Landschaftsarchitekten

What do you principally attach importance to when designing a garden?

Good gardens grow over a period of years. For this project too, we were able to further develop the initial concept at a 1:1 scale, constantly readjust and build the spaces in accordance with a good feeling. First of all I paint and draw the idea of a garden on paper. The details are then realised step-by-step on location. Important is to first allow the best part of the overall concept to come into being, and in this way provide the garden with a new mood. This can mean unusual foreground plants along the house, on the patio or, as in this case, the dancing copse of apple trees.

“Garden of the Year 2018”: Garden from the 1950s, redesigned by Koch+Koch landscape gardeners © Koch+Koch Garten- und Landschaftsarchitekten

Have the demands for the design of gardens and outdoor areas changed in past years? And if so, what does that mean for your work?

A clear no for my clients and their gardens – it’s still predominantly about developing a pronounced sense of comfort in the garden. A sense of well-being arises through the maximising of orientation aids. The size of the space must be comprehensible, every shadow edge, every foreground and every perspectival line supported. In this respect, only the choice of the means has changed since the gardens of the Renaissance.

Garden in Pähl am Ammersee by Koch+Koch © Koch+Koch Garten- und Landschaftsarchitekten

Which challenges do you currently see for your profession?

In the private gardens segment, the planning competitor from landscape gardening already promoted landscape gardeners 30 years ago. There, everything was and continues to be offered from one source, with no fee ostensibly being calculated for the planning, against the provisions of the Official Scale (of Fees for Services by Architects and Engineers) (HOAI). We independent landscape gardeners concentrate on aesthetics, and are in this sense the custodians of the client. However, we are primarily custodians in an economic and financial respect, responsible for the supervision of building and the invoicing of the project in the interests of the owner. So, it will always be a challenge for the architects of the garden to convince clients that a bonus in garden quality and building security is being procured for what seems like somewhat more money.

The winning project by Koch+Koch and all other projects of “Garden of the Year 2018” can be found in a book appearing for the competition:

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