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This landscape architect is making neighbors green with envy

We sit down with Max Vedder on his most in-demand materials and why "texture" is the 2024 buzzword

Image Credits Brett Hilton Photography

Max Vedder is having his moment in the sun. The landscape architect behind Max Vedder Land Design has become sought after for layered layouts that are diverse, modern, and lush but low-water. Fun not fusty. Afterall, Vedder’s design philosophy is drawing homeowners from outside their four walls. Here, Vedder shares 7 things on his 2024 radar. 

Max Vedder
Max Vedder

1. Wild & Native “We’re embracing more native plants, which reflect San Diego’s seasonal change. Previously, natives were pushed to the side because they weren’t green all year. They turn brown in fall and winter. People are starting to like the wild look more.” Case in point: The Del Mar residence by architect Brian Church, which earned a 2023 AIA award. Here, Vedder enlisted native grasses (deer grass) and coastal scrub (coyote brush) on the perimeter of the house while the dramatic interior features a koi pond and pool punctuated with agaves, Euphorbias, and senecios. 

2. Shades of Green “That’s our big method for bringing colors — instead of relying solely on flowers for pops of color which can sometimes be visually overstimulating and fleeting we add grasses and textures with hues of greens, blues, yellows, and oranges for year-round color and minimal maintenance.  For this La Jolla project, Vedder anchored his design around two huge ficus trees, creating a rhythm of greenery, graphic concrete, and Thermory wood. 

3. Hedging His Bets “Blocking off your neighbors is the antithesis of living in a neighborhood,” says Vedder. Wherever possible, he prefers creating privacy through a more diffused planting screen with varying heights and textures rather than a single species solid hedge. Ficus hedges, he says, make yards feel smaller while severing that vital sense of place. At this Cardiff house, Vedder enlisted olive trees and fast-growing Pacific Wax Myrtle to create a perimeter of dappled light and shaded spots. “It’s more dynamic than a hedge. You can see more sky and sun as it peeks through the branches.” 

4. Splendor in the Grass “This year, we’re seeing more of the Japanese plant, Kurapia. ”The highly versatile, drought-tolerant groundcover is slowly replacing traditional lawns. The plus: “It stays green all year.” 

5. Uphill Battle The canyon slopes of San Diego have long been a design quandary. Not so for Vedder, who successfully combines plants to bring texture and vivid life to once-barren hillsides. 

6. Deep Fakes Vedder urges clients against faux products like composite woods and artificial grass. “People want this neat tidy yard with zero maintenance but they’re sacrificing the whole reason we go outdoors. The idea is to bring wildlife and the tranquility of nature into a space instead of dropping in a plastic grass rug without any benefits.”

7. His word of the year: Texture. “We are looking for raw natural materials with great texture like natural woods, boulder walls, cobble driveways, and plants with great textures that layer together beautifully.”


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