Juan Grimm
Gardens Illustrated|November 2017

The renowned Chilean landscape architect on responding to topography, his passion for evergreens, and why herbaceous perennials are overrated

Tim Richardson
Great designers tend to have a crystal-clear rationale about what it is they do. Juan Grimm is no exception. The most celebrated landscape designer in South America is in London to speak at a conference, and we meet at the Kensington Hotel where he has been put up; one of those ‘wedding-cake’ white-stucco buildings with clipped topiary and evergreens in window boxes. It’s a rather stuffy place, which seems a world away from the wide open spaces of Juan’s home environment in Chile – that long, narrow country, which boasts multiple climates and habitats.

“My landscapes look natural, but they are composed,” Juan begins. Having been to Chile and seen a number of his designs, I can certainly concur. But this summary seems a little too simple. A typical Juan Grimm garden (most of his work is in the private sphere) consists of native shrub plantings that subtly direct the visitor through a variety of spaces that respond delicately to the surrounding topography. As well as this underlying poise there is a dynamism about the plantings that imbues his work with great expressive power – and I want to know how he does it.

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