Conversations with Paul Hendershot

When I reached out to Paul Hendershot to feature one of his projects, what I received in return was one hour’s worth of landscape wisdom. From there, I decided rather than to feature one of his project’s, I would exploit his knowledge with this feature titled “Conversations with Paul Hendershot”.

Within the first 5 minutes of our conversation, Paul said something I will never forget.

“Landscapes are not meant to be looked at, landscapes are meant to be lived in.” – Paul Hendershot

I was a big fan of Paul’s work before reaching out to him, but after our conversation, I looked at his work differently – noticing that exactly what he said was embedded in everything he did. For example, his work conceals and reveals different types of rooms for one to occupy.

So how does Paul arrive at each final landscape masterpiece? Paul doesn’t give credit to himself; instead, he mentions that the ideas and imaginations are pulled from 3 different places:

  1. Client
  2. Surrounding Environment
  3. Architecture of the House

Paul mentioned one of the most important questions to ask a client is “Where do you want to hang out right now?” – Paul Hendershot

Paul utilizes this question because he knows the client will utilize a space where they want to hang out. Once this area is established, Paul focuses his effort on that particular space before everything else.

When talking about Paul’s design process, this question “is just one of a million” says Paul. His interactions with clients are very engaging, passionate, honest and even sometimes they involve a little bit of swearing.

But the biggest aspect, Paul mentions, of being a good designer mainly revolves around listening to the client and educating them on “why certain plants the homeowner desires in their landscape, are not ideal for their property.”

Most of Paul’s designs are built in Ojai, California – where prairies with natural boulders meet mountain ranges in the background.

When discussing with Paul about the types of plants he uses on projects, he recommends “sticking to a plant palette of four plants, similar to European Gardens. This allows the surrounding context to bring in the nearby gray and green mountains because from a distance, it looks like clipped shrubs.”

Paul later mentioned, “If you put color in the landscape around your home, you distract yourself from the naturalist context around you.”

One of the most fascinating things I found out about Paul is that he’s a professional landscape designer from experience. He did not attend college to learn landscape design. In fact, Paul is a literature major and read many books of renowned landscape architects like Russell Page and Frederick Law Olmstead to get to where he is today. Paul’s experience is an example of how powerful the desire to learn, succeed and help others can be enough when deciding to build a business.

Through his own self-taught discipline, Paul starts every landscape design with what he learned from some of the most prolific designers in the world – “hardscape design comes first, trees second, then everything else last.”

Paul Hendershot has been in practice for over 35 years and calls himself, “simply an educator”. He focuses all his energy into listening and understanding his clients and creating spaces for calmness and a sense of security.

“If kids love the garden, you designed a good garden” – Paul Hendershot


Landscape Designer: Paul Hendershot Design

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