Homesandgardens's Blog

Homes and Gardens Profile: J. Mark White of GardenWise, Inc.

Great home design often ends with great landscape architecture.  Each  month Homes and Gardens chooses one landscape architect to receive   our Professional Profile, which recognizes professional excellence and outstanding examples of landscape architecture for works that embody high levels of creativity and imagination.  

When Southern Living last year described the work of J. Mark White, ASLA, president of GardenWise,  Inc. as “stellar”, we knew we had to learn more about this omnipresent  landscape architect and his design  work that shows the essential role  architecture can play in organizing the garden landscape.   White’s  gardens are rich in color and texture, and flow into the surrounding landscape, which makes him a  gifted landscape designer, and our March 2010 profile.      

You’re often quoted in landscape trend stories.  How often do you follow trends yourself?

I  hope to be ahead of garden design trends, but the key is how to apply a trend into designs that will work best for my clients.  A goal that I will continue to strive for whenever possible is creating sustainable green eco-friendly designs that utilize existing site materials, including the use of local materials and native plants.

Where do you turn for inspiration?

I read many periodicals for design ideas that I can apply to current or future projects.  I also always pay attention to design elements, whether in my own home, a friend’s home. or when traveling.  A long walk through a previously unseen area or undiscovered neighborhood can bring an unexpected dose of inspiration.  A great example is when I was traveling through Savannah, GA and stayed at ‘The Mansion’ on Forsyth Park in the Savannah historic district.  In the hotel’s rear court yard there is a pool that functions as a water feature with a 10-12’ glass mosaic water wall.  The water flows down the tile and spills into the swimming pool. I recently used a scaled down version of this mosaic tiled water feature for a Washington, D.C.- Roof deck garden.  The wall is lighted underwater from the pool basin below as  it picks-up the splashing of the water, which gives a magical twinkling light effect.

You include “green” elements in your design work, what is a first eco-friendly step you recommend to a client?  

A good first step is to maintain all viable trees, in particular the mature large shade trees.  Another step I recommend to my clients is to include recycled and local materials in a garden installation. By using recycled items such as concrete and old brick or stone, and using local supplies, we help support local artists and quarries, which can bring down costs while helping the local economy.

What are the advantages to working with an architect/builder from the beginning of a project?

Working with an architect from the beginning of a home project gives me the opportunity to better integrate the landscape with the home.  I can emphasize the home’s architectural elements, and highlight key views by locating a garden focal point, such as a simple bench, a garden structure, or a grove of trees.  We are also able to improve the physical connection to the garden by suggesting the addition of a door or a change in deck steps direction to promote easier access from the home to the outdoor garden spaces. One of my favorite architect/builders to work with in the D.C.-area, which has many hidden historic neighborhoods, is Morris-Day.  They build homes that are respectful of their historic context, while meeting the demands of a modern family.  Rob Morris and his team also understand the importance of blending a beautiful home and landscape.

What types of projects do you most enjoy, why?

I enjoy the challenges of site constraints – whether it’s a smaller site, a site with very steep topography, or a very shaded site that forces me to be more creative with the design solutions.  Some of my favorite design work has been created for unique spaces that others may consider “difficult”.  

Photo credit: Lydia Cutter 




Jayne Saunders is a frequent contributor to the homesandgardens blog and can be reached at

GardenWise, Inc. –  202-543-3422 or 703-243-5982


6 Comments so far
Leave a comment

This work is just beautiful! I dream of having my little side space look something like the beautiful small patio which is one of the coziest and most delightful little areas I’ve ever seen. Thanks for sharing it, Homes & Gardens.

Comment by Jennifer Salways

I love the water fountain with the brick wall and iron design. So special.

Comment by Beth P.

The middle picture shows a path to a sweet dreamy spot that would be the ideal place to relax and read the Sunday New York Times. Good work.

Comment by Stan

beautiful work!

Pingback by Henry

I agree with Beth, the water founatin is lovely. It reminds me of a yard I once had the privilege to see in Newport, Rhode Island. Just lovely.

Comment by Eugena

gorgeous work, so beautiful

Comment by Gail Platz

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