PHYLLIS ODESSEY began her career in the fine arts at The New York Studio School. She received a BA from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and subsequently attended Parsons School of Design. She began her career at Time Warner as a Junior Art Director and rose to the position of Creative Director. Following a long career in graphic design, Phyllis studied garden and landscape design at The New York Botanical Garden. She worked on The Battery Bosque: the garden designed by Piet Oudolf in Battery Park. Phyllis currently works in New York City on public gardens and in Vermont on private gardens. Winner of The Perennial Plant Associationís highest honor for landscape design, Phyllis says her education as a gardener began “by picking the bloated buds off my mother’s peony bushes.”
More interested in structure, then individual plants, she approaches every landscape with a painter’s eye. The starting point of all her designs is the site specific landscape. For Phyllis every landscape has a particular emotion. She uses seasonal change (winter decay and summer decadence); light and shadow; changes in topography as tools to create emotional resonance. Her designs reinterpret traditional garden motifs. This translation produces landscapes that are both contemporary and personal.
Working collaboratively with clients and artists, the first step is to discuss what makes a garden a garden. Inspired by art and architecture, Phyllis explores in depth with clients their aesthetic ideas. Many of her gardens include works of art, which actuate structure, mystery, and beauty. She believes all contemporary landscapes should be sustainable and respectful of the environment. Whether large or small, the gardens Phyllis designs reflect the owner’s individuality, “gardens are explorations of who we are: this is the journey I encourage clients to undertake.”
“I know that I cannot make anything new. To make a garden is to organize all the elements present and add fresh ones, but first of all, I must absorb as best I can all that I see, the sky and the skyline, the soil, the colour of the grass and the shape and nature of the trees. Each half-mile of countryside has its own nature and every few yards is a reinterpretation. Each stone where it lies says something of the earth’s underlying structure; and the plants growing there, whether native or exotic, will indicate the vegetable chemistry of that one place.”
~ Russell Page, The Education of a Gardener