In celebration of NorthPark Center's inaugural Spring at the Park Home and Garden Show, we sat down for a Q&A with Judy Cunningham, Landscape Consultant, & Alice Goss, Landscape Manager for NorthPark.
How far in advance is the landscaping plans finalized?
AG: We start working on the plans about 18 months out. Since we’ve been doing this for a long time, we always try to beat our own designs year after year. We ask, “How do we do something we haven’t done before, even though we’ve been doing this for so many years?” We start with our imagination, and work toward making that imagination come to fruition.
What type of plant is used most often in NorthPark’s landscaping?
AG: Bromeliads are used most often. We work with growers to bring the latest introductions to NorthPark. Visiting nurseries in Florida and California allows us to keep up with the best varieties for color and longevity. We attend trade shows to learn about species and varieties still in the “test tube” phase. The Aloe trees (currently in Dillard’s Court) are some of the largest specimens of Aloe Hercules. They were brought out of a private collection in California just to be displayed at NorthPark.
What is the story behind CenterPark Garden, the 1.4-acre, open-air greenspace in the middle of the shopping center?
JC: Anytime I visit, I always see visitors out there enjoying the space, and children seem especially drawn to it. NorthPark has also used it as an event space – putting on events like the incredible Dallas Symphony Orchestra concert every October. In regards to the landscaping, CenterPark Garden can sometimes be a challenge because of the climate in Texas. We plan that area a year and a half out. Because of climate change, sometimes we have ten freezes in one year and none the next. We work closely with local growers to make sure we will have something that works each season, no matter how much the temperatures vary. In the spring, you’ll find a blanket of tulips in CenterPark. Those are planned a year in advance. The tulip bulbs are grown in Holland and purchased from a broker in Dallas.
How does the art collection factor in when planning the landscape?
JC: The art always has the No. 1 position. The landscape is interesting, yet respectful of the art and acts as the icing on the cake. The landscape also plays the part of a beautiful protective barrier for many of the works of art. The graciousness of the Nasher-Haemisegger family includes their intent to bring art to the public, and also to protect it in the most aesthetically pleasing way possible. We think of the plants as art too, as a kind of progressive, botanical performance art that goes along with everything else involved with the Center.
What is your history working with Patsy Nasher and her daughter, Nancy Nasher?
JC: I started working there in 1976 with Patsy. At the time, she wanted a landscape program that would be something special. Through her passion, a team was put together – with myself, Alice, and general manager Billy Hines. Today, it’s all driven by Nancy and her passion for landscape that was passed down from her mother. Nancy carries the torch, while also pushing us to the extent of high design.
In your opinion, what makes the landscaping at NorthPark so special?
JC: With NorthPark’s landscaping, everything is done as meticulously as an art project. That’s why many say it’s so spectacular and unique. We want to get that “awe factor” from living plant material. That was something that Patsy always strived for and something that Nancy embraces. She has done an incredible job in curating a non-botanical, botanical garden that has been written up internationally and received numerous accolades. It’s something of a family conviction – they’ve done so much for American horticulture as not only a family, but as an institution.