James van Sweden, Father of the New American Garden, Dies

The Dirt

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One of America’s most influential landscape architects, James van Sweden, FASLA, co-founder of Oehme van Sweden, died last week at age 78 from complications from Parkinson’s disease. Both a designer and prolific author, van Sweden is credited with changing the look and feel of the American landscape, introducing the “New American Garden” aesthetic, which included perennials and wild grasses. His influential gardens go beyond surface aesthetics though and had deeper impact. His free-flowing, grass-filled gardens led the way to today’s broader movement of more sustainable, ecologically-sound landscapes.

In a thoughtful obituary, Washington Post garden critic Adrian Higgins wrote that when Oehme and van Sweden first started their firm together back in 1975, they soon became internationally known for their “radically different approach to landscape design — replacing staid evergreen hedging, bedding annuals and groomed lawns with broad sweeps of long, flowering perennials and ornamental grasses. The vision was…

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