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The Delight is in the Details

Osterville’s JuliaGarden Design is creating gardens that live, breathe + inspire

For Julia Esteves, founder and garden designer of JuliaGarden Design in Osterville, the path that has led to the seaside village (like those in the most interesting of gardens), was not one that was straight, rigid or without influence. Esteves grew up in Osterville, where, at the beginning of her adulthood, she had the life-changing opportunity to work with locally notable Phyllis Cole Landscapes, who have had a hand in creating some of the most legendary gardens that make-up the village’s estates that dot the coastline. Esteves describes the experience of Cole’s tutelage when she says, “She was a tremendous traditional gardener as well as a talented landscape designer and I learned a lot from her.” Esteves’ journey also brings along the talent of her husband, Arthur Milczanowski, whom she met in Poland while gardening, and upon returning to the states, they continued their love of gardening in her home town of Osterville. Together they are the founding partners of JuliaGarden Design.

The approach that Esteves and her team implement is a philosophy unique among the vast choices of landscapers and landscape designers that are found throughout the region. For example, employees who might be classified elsewhere as crew are instead defined as lead gardeners, thereby clarifying the function and responsibility of each employee in the organization. “Our collaboration as a company represents who we are,” Esteves explains. “When we work together, we bring a sense of community to the garden, because as part of our design philosophy, we want to tell the story of the garden.” 

The company’s ideology is communicated most passionately by head gardener, Clint Flagg who says, “Being head gardener, I am responsible for the other gardeners, but I am also responsible for the story of the garden. Every garden has a story, whether it is within the garden structures, the plant materials or the trees. We refer to the entire property as the garden; flowerbeds, vegetable gardens, they are all part of the bigger picture of the garden. That is our outermost philosophy; we look at the entire picture of the garden as well as the details that make-up that picture.”

“The next step is to feel the garden. What does it feel like? What emotions does it evoke when you walk through it? What was there—the echo of the garden? It is our job to also find that.” It is that zen-like appreciation of life cycles—not just the future, but the contribution made in the past—that informs Flagg, Esteves, their lead gardeners and their clients what the garden can eventually become.

Instilling this philosophy and subtle awareness into the gardeners is a process according to Flagg, and like any good garden design, rarely includes a straight line. But when the work has been accomplished and the possibilities begin to emerge, there will be a moment of clarity when the garden will reveal itself to its caretakers. Flagg reflects on the occasions when a new gardener experiences that revelation for the first time.

“Sometimes with new gardeners, there are moments they get to enjoy with us,” Flagg recalls. “Just the other day, we had been working all day at a home we are in the process of restoring (a process that can take a few years), and that future is what we plan for now. I told the gardeners—who had been working diligently all day, pruning, cleaning, moving things—to take a step back. And I could see the gardeners reflect that special moment in the garden. The garden just shone. We had listened to it, worked it, coaxed it and it responded and showed us what it will be. Everyone was so excited and asked if this was what I told them they would someday experience, and it was.”

The interplay between Esteves’ gardeners and the garden is something that occurs intuitively by listening to the subtleties that might otherwise be missed. “We are continually emphasizing mindfulness with our gardeners,” Flagg explains. “Being mindful is how we share among ourselves, but also with the garden.”

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