2014-03-13 / News

Landscape professionals collaborate

By Ken Shane

Matt Berger, of Jamestown, graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a degree in landscape design. He is a principal of Jamestown Gardens. 
Photo by Andrea von Hohenleiten Matt Berger, of Jamestown, graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a degree in landscape design. He is a principal of Jamestown Gardens. Photo by Andrea von Hohenleiten A new business specializing in landscape design is up and running for local residents.

Jamestown Gardens is a collaboration between landscape designer Matthew Berger, graphic designer Antonio Mora, horticulturist Gary Tozzi, and landscape architect Jan Johnsen.

Berger has lived in Jamestown for five years. While studying landscape design at the University of Rhode Island, he began gaining experience by interning for architects. Since graduation, Berger has designed gardens locally, regionally and overseas.

One of the international projects took Berger, along with a team, to help rebuild Christchurch, New Zealand, following a devastating earthquake in 2011. Following an interview on Skype, Berger was given a paid trip to the South Island, where his team came up with preliminary designs. Working with real-estate developers and other stakeholders, the plans included new parks where buildings were so badly damaged they couldn’t be rebuilt.

“Some of it is being built right now,” he said. “Some is being put on hold for several years while they come up with money.”

Berger has also worked in the world’s most populated city, Shanghai, China, where he designed small gardens for homeowners, as well as the country’s capital, Beijing. He also traveled to South Africa, where he worked with 65 landscape architects from 65 countries on sustainability issues. Back in the United States, Berger worked with a firm on a large tea garden for former President Bill Clinton’s home in Chappaqua, N.Y.

Jamestown Gardens was founded last summer to serve the region, and now includes a website, JamestownLandscapes.com. It was while Berger was interning with Jamestown Town Planner Lisa Bryer that he began to understand the unique needs and permitting requirements to complete projects on the island.

“For a waterfront project, you might need to specify certain plants,” Berger said. “Some plants might not thrive in a high watertable environment. I found that Jamestown has a variety of environmental needs that I could focus on in order to create a garden that is going to last.”

Berger’s colleagues include Antonio Mora, who lives in New York and has worked for the United Nations. He was also a graphic designer for the Journal News, a newspaper that serves the New York City counties in the Lower Hudson Valley. Mora’s job is to complete concept drawings used to market a project to a client.

Jan Johnsen is also from New York. She has been in business for 35 years as a landscape architect, and oversees each project as it moves forward. The fourth member of the team is Gary Tozzi, a landscape designer with a strong focus on horticulture. He received a degree in landscape design from Cornell University, an Ivy League institution in central New York. As a horticulturist, his role at Jamestown Gardens is to choose the best plants to fit a property’s environmental needs. Tozzi divides his time between New York and Jamestown.

A day on the job for Tozzi includes a visit to a client’s property. He then tests the soil, identifies shadows and sunlight, and pinpoints the microclimates. Finally he decides what plants should go where. Tozzi ensures the garden grows within its designed space and doesn’t require a great deal of maintenance. His role is to make sure every garden will last a lifetime, and then some.

“What I love about Jamestown is there are so many unique environmental demands,” Tozzi said. “Having a deep understanding of plants is critical when determining where to place a specific plant so it thrives for years to come. My hope for the company is that it thrives on this beautiful island.”

Berger’s company also gives back. A portion of every project is donated to The Happiness Assembly, a women-led NGO dedicated to prioritizing happiness for everybody across the globe. The nonprofit is partially funded by the United Nations Foundation. By researching happiness, it curates campaigns to inspire people to strive for a more joyful world.

“It brings together investors to raise money for school and city infrastructure improvements in areas of the United States that are not as fortunate as other areas,” Berger said. “Outside of the United States, its plans include bringing water to communities that don’t have it yet.”

Jamestown Gardens is looking to tackle local projects that require a strong focus on detail, Berger said. The company works on gardens, swimming pools and stone walls, and the team can also help homeowners build their own gardens.

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