Lisa Delplace
Gardens Illustrated|December 2017

The principal and CEO of US landscape design company Oehme, van Sweden on pragmatism in gardening and how the OvS spirit continues to flourish in the 21st century

Tim Richardson
It’s a pretty standard interview question: so what was the garden you grew up with like? Lisa Delplace’s response initially sounds fairly standard, too: it was her mother who was the gardener at the family home on the outskirts of Detroit, where she created “the blowsiest ever border” with mop-headed hydrangeas, peonies and roses. But then, as an afterthought, Lisa mentions that in winter her father “turned the entire back yard into an ice hockey pitch”, pooling water evenly across the lawn, flattening out bumps and clearing snow. “My dad and brothers played hockey – our house became a nexus for all the boys in the neighbourhood,” she recalls.

Perhaps this seasonal transformation at least instilled in the young Lisa a sense that a garden might be a functional space that caters to the needs of its owners. When she graduated in 1988 from the Masters programme in landscape design at Michigan State University, she came top of her class. It was at this point she started looking for a job, and it so happened that the very first interview she had was in Washington DC with James van Sweden. Extrovert and exacting, he was one half of the design duo Oehme, van Sweden (OvS), the landscape company founded in 1977 with Wolfgang Oehme that rapidly established itself as the US specialist in naturalistic planting.

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