Local JMMDS creating landscape designs around the world

The new park in Saxtons River, a JMMDS landscape design.
The new park in Saxtons River, a JMMDS landscape design. Photo by Joe Milliken

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – With a new office now located on the Square, 17 Rockingham St., in Bellows Falls, Julie Moir Messervy Design Studio is a full-service design studio specializing in a signature process that includes the envisioning, creating, managing, and refining of one-of-a-kind landscape and garden projects. She is also a published author on the subject.

“For 16 years, we worked happily at our sunny studio in an old tinsmith building in Saxtons River, but recently the building was converted to residences,” Julie Moir Messervy said. “Fortunately, the third floor of the old firehouse in Bellows Falls was available. It was perfect for us with high ceilings, lots of sunlight, and a view of the Square, train station, and Fall Mountain, which makes it a great space to work.”

Julie’s passion for landscape creations was a love that blossomed over time. “I was first inspired as a child playing in the woods and fields around my family’s home, but I didn’t know then that I wanted to design landscapes,” she said.

“I went to college and majored in art history, then I got a master’s degree in both architecture and city planning. While in graduate school, I came upon a book of Japanese gardens and thought ‘these remind me of mossy places where I played as a child. How can I create spaces like this?’”

This idea eventually prompted Julie to apply for and receive a Henry Luce Scholars Fellowship to work with the highly respected garden master, Professor Kinsaku Nakane in Kyoto, Japan. She learned about setting stones, pruning, and maintenance techniques, and visited nearly 100 gardens, and would return to Kyoto five years later on a Japan Foundation Fellowship grant.

“While Japanese gardens have always been the deepest influence in my life as a designer, I was able to extend my knowledge of landscape styles when I wrote my first book, ‘Contemplative Gardens.’ For that book I traveled to many different ‘garden realms’ around the world, including Italy, Russia, England, Morocco, and Kashmir. Since then, I’ve been very eclectic in style, taking inspiration from any number of places, sources and ideas.”

Julie has now been designing gardens for over 40 years, first in the Boston area before moving her studio to southern Vermont 16 years ago. Julie and her team of designers collaborate with planners, architects, engineers, contractors, artists, and residential clients to create and install unique, sustainable, environmentally sensitive projects. Their clients have included public parks, museums, arboreta memorials, cemeteries, children’s gardens, academic and corporate campuses, and residential homes.

A local residency
A local residency. Photo by Jennifer Silver

“My best-known work is the Toronto Music Garden, which I designed in collaboration with eminent cellist Yo-Yo Ma,” Julie said. “This three-acre public park is located on Harbourfront in Toronto and its design is inspired by a piece of music: ‘The First Suite for Unaccompanied Cello’ by J. S. Bach. The park is 20 years old this year and has been enjoyed by millions of people a year. Music is performed in the garden every Thursday night throughout the summer – it is a joyful place!”

A couple of JMMDS’s recently completed projects include a Japanese and Scottish-style garden in Edinburgh, Scotland in which Julie set some of the oldest stones in the world from the Isle of Lewis. Locally, they recently designed and created a beautiful new park in the village of Saxtons River.

As for residencies, there are homeowners who wish they could afford to landscape their property, but feel they can’t afford to hire a designer. To accommodate this, Julie wrote “Home Outside: Creating The Landscape You Love,” to help homeowners landscape their own property. From there, they created the “Home Outside” online service, which offers their expert landscape design online.

“Once I wrote the book, I realized it would make a great app. Home Outside offers the 800 pre-drawn elements that are part of every property. From the house to the driveway, patios and planting, all the way down to the composite pile.”

Homeowners can upload their property from Google Earth and design right on their tablet by simply dragging and dropping elements into place. JMMDS utilizes the app to remotely design homeowners’ properties all over the world. They have completed hundreds of designs for people who could not necessarily afford such landscape services. The app is designed for iOS and Androids and has garnered over 500,000 downloads.

“I have a team of five women: two landscape architects, two landscape designers and a communications manager. We’ve worked on many local residential projects large and small,” Julie concluded. “We’ve had the privilege of working with homeowners with very special properties and budgets that allow for total blue-sky creativity, but we also want our local friends to know that we love doing smaller projects and have services for a whole range of budgets.”

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