Celebrated Landscape Designer Fernando Wong

A SocialMiami Q&A

Called a “design genius with the soul of a poet”, Fernando Wong is one of Miami’s most sought after landscape designers.

Two of Wong’s most notable projects include Cher’s Key Biscayne estate and the private penthouse of the Setai in Miami Beach. He has also been featured on E! Entertainment Television’s “Luxe World” and on an episode of Outdoor Living on the HG/DIY Television Networks. Most recently Wong appeared as an expert panelist at DCOTA to discuss “Outdoor Living.”

Socialmiami.com sat down with the ebullient designer for an illuminating Q & A that explores the ins and outs of what clients should expect when they hire a professional to design their landscape.

See more sketches in our slideshow gallery!

SM: What is inspiring you now?

I just got back from Maine where I stayed at a lovely estate in North East Harbor with the most magnificent cutting gardens I have ever seen. There is nothing more beautiful than a house with flowers in wonderful vases scattered all around. There is also something very satisfying about cutting your own flowers. Not to mention, the fact that when you look at what florists charge – it also saves a TON of money.

SM: Would that work in South Florida?

Absolutely – we have a perfect climate for that here. These particular gardens were kept up by seven fulltime gardeners, which is a little over the top, but there is no reason that someone could not grow a superb but manageable cutting garden in Miami year round. Imagine being able to go outside and cut your own flowers anytime you needed them – it would be heaven!

SM: What are the trends in landscape design today?

It is an exciting time because there is so much innovation in so many different areas. For instance, LED lights have revolutionized landscape lighting. Not only do they look amazing, but they use a tiny fraction of the energy of the old ones and the bulbs do not have to be changed for five years. Another trend is elaborate outdoor rooms that bring all the comfort of the inside out. Clients want full outdoor kitchens with everything from pizza ovens to outdoor dishwashers. I have also designed outdoor living rooms with big screen TV’s and in one case a sail cloth that served as a movie screen that the clients not only showed classic movies on but also wonderful underwater scenes of exotic fish that served as a really cool cocktail party backdrop.

SM: Why should people hire a landscape designer?

Just as everyone does not necessarily need an interior designer – I do not think everyone should. It is definitely a luxury. However, there are real advantages. It saves you time, helps you define your own style, increases the value of your home, and saves you money by suggesting what works where and when. I have had a developer tell me that landscape is easy, all you do is…”toss a few palms around.” I cannot tell you how many times I have had meetings with clients who have gotten this treatment and are then horrified that their yard has landscaping that is either dead or has the charm of an office park. My job is to interpret my client’s ideas and create beautiful outdoor spaces that reflect their taste and increase their enjoyment of their homes. True, you pay a price for that, but it adds so much to the way people are able to better use their homes and it is amazing how much more quickly a professionally landscaped home sells than its neglected counterparts.

SM: What if you do not know your style?

Part of designer’s job is to help you discover it and translate into reality. I also base a big part of my design on the architecture of the house which is obviously a big window into what the client style is and what they like.

SM: What homework should people do before hiring a designer?

My business is almost completely word of mouth. I think the best way to find a designer is to ask your friends who they have used – especially if you really like the way their yard looks. I also always ask my clients to look at lots and lots of magazines and rip out anything that appeals to them.

SM: How does the process work once you have been hired?

If they have not already, I ask them to tear out inspiration pages from magazines. After I get an idea of their personal style, I ask millions of questions about what they want (pool, outdoor kitchen, soccer field for the kids etc.) and what their life style (active and sporty, sedentary and boozy or some sort of combination of the two). After I get a good idea of what style is appropriate, I do elevation sketches (please see gallery) that let the client preview what areas will look like when they are completed. After getting the client’s approval on those, I create a planting plan that is very similar to the floor plan of a house. This plan will have the location and type of plant along with detail on irrigation and landscape lighting.

SM: Do you have any other tips?

Yes, have a budget in mind and be upfront about what your expectations are for the project in terms of when the project will be finished and whether you want more mature palms, trees and plants or if you are willing to wait and let things grow.

SM: What are you working on now?

I just finished a wonderful resort like estate on one of the Sunset Islands and am in the middle of a large scale renovation in Coconut Grove with a breathtakingly beautiful pool, as well as an incredible floating glass box waterfront house near Bal Harbour by the same architects who are doing the Guggenheim Museum in Mexico. I am also designing parks in Miami and Coconut Grove, a Condo building on Brickell and historic estates in Maine and New Jersey.

Fernando Wong

Outdoor Living Design

305 321 0546

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