TWO DECADES INTO HIS CELEBRATED LANDSCAPE DESIGN CAREER, 2021 MIGHT JUST BE FERNANDO WONG’S MOST REMARKABLE YEAR YET.
Wong’s Island House project PHOTO COURTESY OF CARMEL BRANTLEY
When Fernando Wong (@fernandowong_old) first immigrated to the U.S. in 2001, he spoke no English. “The only job I could get was on a landscape crew,” says the native Panamanian. But talents like Wong’s don’t go unnoticed, and it wasn’t long before the company’s owner came across the young man doodling designs on a napkin, promptly transitioning Wong to the office where he would create hand-drawn renderings for clients. “I have loved design ever since I was a little boy, drawing plans to redesign my parent’s house in Panama… but it was here that I fell in love with landscape,” he says. “Twenty years later, I am an overnight success.”
Wong’s landscape design at Volk Estate PHOTO COURTESY OF CARMEL BRANTLEY
The past two decades have been filled with countless successes. A few standout achievements include launching his namesake boutique design firm, Fernando Wong Outdoor Living Design, now with offices in Miami, Palm Beach and Southampton; helming the six-year-long Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club project with design hero Richard Meier—“one of my proudest achievements and greatest labors of love”—and being awarded the Palladio Award, one of the most prestigious international honors in classical architecture, as well as an Addison Mizner Award, by the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art. “I also have one of my gardens being inducted into the Smithsonian, so, all in all, it hasn’t been a bad year,” adds a very modest Wong.
Wong and his co-stars judge one of the topiary art creations. PHOTO COURTESY OF DISCOVERY
The year also included a few firsts for the South Florida landscape architect, most notably his television debut alongside the legendary Martha Stewart on Clipped, a first-of-its-kind competition show on Discovery+, diving deep into the “cutting-hedge” world of topiary art. “Going on television had never crossed my mind, so it was a wonderful surprise,” shares Wong. “The best part was definitely meeting Martha—she’s one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever come across.” Also starring host Michael Urie and co-judge Chris Lambton, the six-part show follows America’s best topiary artists as they create larger-than-life living sculptures and compete to win $50,000 and be named Clipped Champion. “I was blown away by how hard the contestants worked. We agonized over every challenge, looking for innovation, creativity and attention to detail,” says Wong, adding that the show aired on HGTV Aug. 14.
Fernando Wong and his team designed the lushly landscaped pool terrace at the 2021 Kips Bay Decorator Show House Palm Beach PHOTO: BY NICK SARGENT
As for what’s next for the design visionary... or shall we say star actor? Be on the lookout for the release of Wong’s product line launching next year—plus, the reveal of major design projects with the likes of interior designers Amanda Lindroth, David Netto, Miles Redd and Daniel Romualdez. It seems the next 20 years will be just as rewarding as his first.
Fernando Wong, Martha Stewart, Chris Lambton and Michael Urie. PHOTO: COURTESY OF DISCOVERY
WONG’S TOP 5 LANDSCAPE DESIGN TIPS
1. Use native plants whenever possible. They use less water, do not need as much fertilizer or pesticides and best of all attract native birds, bees and butterflies.
2. Create an edible garden with basil, rosemary and tomatoes in beautiful terra-cotta pots from Authentic Provence (authenticprovence.com).
3. Citrus is back and is a fantastic addition to your garden. Lime and lemon trees can be grown in large pots or in the ground. Drinks are so much better with homegrown fruit.
4. Consider using already built outdoor pavilions by Kettal (kettal.com). They cost much less than traditional structures you have to build and permit, and you can also custom-design them.
5. Cutting gardens have made a huge comeback as people rediscover the joy of flowers from your garden in beautiful vases all over the house.