O.C. Simonds - An American Landscape Design Pioneer

Ossian Cole Simonds was one of the early practitioners of modern American naturalistic landscape design. His technique of using thickets of native trees and gently sculpted landforms in the early part of the 20th century caught the public’s attention and he became an influential landscape designer. He humbly attributed his design approach to “old principles” yet his innovative ideas were the inspiration behind the Midwestern ‘prairie style’ school of landscape design.

In a 1922 talk at the University of Illinois, Simonds urged design students to become familiar "with the hills and valleys, the level areas, the location of buildings, the distant views, the existing growth, the surrounding property…" before beginning a design.

He noted that a landscape designer has "a mission to investigate, study, and acquire knowledge regarding the beauty of Nature and to impart this knowledge to those with whom he comes in contact."

This ‘old principle’ of looking to Nature as teacher is still relevant today and at the heart of what I term 'the power of place'. So keep talking to those trees!


  1. I'll keep talking to the trees...hoping they will wake up soon. I have birches in my yard, much smaller than the ones pictured though. They should be leafing out in the next few weeks.

    Christine in Alaska

  2. I find that going for a hike always helps to clear my mind and inspire before I start on a big project. In design it can be difficult to see the forest for the trees, and the scope of the Woods of the Northeast always grant me some perspective.

  3. We all need some perspective these days ...a rare trait, I feel.
    I took the photo of the grassy mound, above, at 'Innisfree' in Millbrook, NY..it is a 'must visit' for all in the NY area...Christine,look it up on the web and enjoy early spring!

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  5. He designed John Henes Park in Menominee Michigan. 45 acres on a peninsula in Lake Michigan (Green Bay) simply beautiful.

    1. Thank You for that fact - I did not know.


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