6 Questions for Garden Designer Justin Terzi

For a project in Sag Harbor, Justin Terzi defined garden "rooms" with coping, pea gravel, and lanterns.HC&G: How did you get your start?
Justin Terzi, owner, Justin Terzi Design: I worked at Mario Nievera’s firm while I was getting my graduate degree in landscape architecture from Columbia, and I’ve had my own company for six years now. I’ve also had experience in the creative services field in fashion, working for brands like Tommy Hilfiger and the Limited.

What brought you to the East End?
My first project—at a new house being designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects for a client in the Georgica Association. I came out East in the dead of winter to work on it.

Clipped box adds drama to the façade of a stately Victorian.Your work is very detail-oriented, but what ultimately defines a Justin Terzi garden?
I design everything specifically for each environment and client, always keeping a lighter carbon footprint in mind. I feel more like a couture tailor: Some of my projects are so natural in spirit that they look like no one has ever even been there, and then others are more formal and manicured—although the latter are more typical of gardens that you’d find in Palm Beach, so I take that approach sparingly. One thing that’s very important is to be involved in the maintenance of what I’ve built. Something that is intended to be soft and billowy should not be sheared into the shape of a meatball.

What are your primary goals with each project?
Outside of client requirements, I try to create opportunities for users of a garden to relax and connect with nature—something they might not even realize they want. If you are coming to your house in the Hamptons, it’s probably because you want to relax, and your garden should be a big part of the equation.

Outlined in grass, rectangular pavers mimic the shape of a swimming pool.How do you achieve this?
Sometimes I like to change the grade in a garden to delineate different levels and spaces, particularly in a hilly or slope-y site. And details always add further definition, depending on what stone you use or what pattern you’re creating, or what the edging is on the driveway and garden beds. Gates, too, are extremely important transition points that connect people to gardens. Your first impression of a property is often a gate, and it’s important to tie it both to the architecture of the house and to the garden.

An outdoor sitting area is at once an intimate, private retreat and an extension of the house.How important is a house’s architecture vis-à-vis its garden?
Everything starts with the architecture. For a modern house, I’ll do a garden design that’s minimal and clean. And if it’s traditional, I’ll lean toward more classic gestures. In both cases, though, the further you are from the house, the more naturalistic the garden becomes, since I’m always thinking about the transition from tamed garden to wild nature. Even if you don’t live on a vast reserve or at the edge of a woodland, you can still create nature zones. The birds will be visiting before you know it.

A version of this article appeared in the August 15, 2016 issue of HC&G (Hamptons Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Zoning In.