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Dan Pearson, rock star of landscaping, coming to Beverly Hills for book talk

January 21, 2010 |  7:44 am

When landscape designer Dan Pearson gave a talk in Seattle few years ago, he wasn’t interested in touring local gardens while in town. Instead, he asked his hosts to arrange a visit to Mt. St. Helens, the Northwest’s famous volcano and national monument.

Prinzing_Spiritcover “The whole power of nature was never more clearly seen,” he recalls. Speaking by telephone from Dan Pearson Studio in London, he explains that he wants to understand the natural context of places -- especially those where he has been hired to create a residential, commercial or public landscape.

He will discuss this approach, outlined in his new book, "Spirit: Garden Inspiration," at a lecture Jan. 26 at Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, a benefit for the Garden Conservancy.

Pearson is a horticultural rock star in the U.K., with boyish locks, engaging personality and dreamy landscapes. He designed five award-winning gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show, writes a regular column for the Observer, a London newspaper, and appears regularly on BBC television and radio gardening programs.

According to Pearson, "Spirit" is a memoir-scrapbook of his ideas: to fully regard the environment and let that guide the domestic landscape. The pages contain personal essays and photographs of the plants, places and people that have influenced his designs.

“I want to encourage the reader to look at the world with perhaps a slower pace, and in a more observant way; to see differences and nuances,” he says. For more on Pearson and his talk, click to the jump.

Pearson believes the man-made garden should express the landscape’s natural qualities, whether that's urban or wild. "In an urban situation, for example, that influence may not always be about plants," he says." A place can be simply beautiful because of the way the light falls. If you know that, you can create a special experience.”

Outside the U.K., Pearson has created gardens in Japan and Italy. But his design studio has yet to take on a U.S. commission.

It’s not that Pearson hasn’t considered how he would approach garden design here, however.

“If I were to take on a project in Los Angeles, the first thing I would do is go out and look at the local, natural areas, because that would give me all the reference I would need to interpret that aesthetic and that balance that’s already been achieved through millennia,” the designer says. “I was shocked when I first went to Los Angeles and saw all of the green lawns and water. In no distance at all, I was in Joshua Tree, which has its own absolutely beautiful identity and range of plants.”

An Evening with Dan Pearson, Jan. 26 at 6 p.m. at Greystone Mansion, 905 Loma Vista, Beverly Hills. $100, includes a cocktail reception. (845)  265-2029 or www.gardenconservancy.org. Preregistration required.

-- Debra Prinzing

Photos: Dan Pearson, courtesy of Dan Pearson Studio; book cover courtesy of Fuel Design