Landscaper Fernando Wong made his television debut last month alongside Martha Stewart on Clipped, a new HGTV gardening show on Discovery+. He is one of the judges who will determine which of the seven topiary contestants will win the $50,000 prize in the season finale.
While the show will introduce him to a wider audience, Wong has received accolades for his landscape designs since he founded his award-winning company (with his partner, Tim Johnson) in 2005, which has offices in Miami, Palm Beach , Hamptons, New Orleans and London. He has designed commercial outdoor spaces for the Four Seasons Surf Club, Four Seasons Palm Beach, Four Seasons Fort Lauderdale, Perry Lane Hotel in Savannah GA and The Retreat in Nassau, Bahamas. Wong has also crafted breathtaking designs for residential customers.
We asked her to share some tips for creating the ultimate outdoor oasis, whether it’s for a balcony or a backyard. We also wanted to know the biggest mistakes most people make when designing outdoor spaces. Read on to find out what he had to say…
Tips for Creating an Outdoor Oasis on a Balcony
The key to success in creating the perfect outdoor living space is to be deliberate and determined. “Be intentional about how you want to use the space – whether it’s outdoor spaces for yoga and meditation, or dedicated dining and conversation areas – and design accordingly” , advises Wong. Even in small spaces, he recommends creating vignettes. “They actually make the space appear and feel bigger when they include designated design moments.”
Wong also recommends incorporating natural elements at every opportunity. “Surround yourself with greenery, like vines on a trellis, potted plants of different sizes that can move indoors with the seasons, wall pots, etc.” Plus, he says adding flowers is an opportunity to add seasonal color to your outdoor space.
Even if the space is small, you can add furniture. Wong says you don’t have to shy away from them — just adapt accordingly. “Rooms that are too big for a space are visually overpowering and can make the space feel even smaller than it is,” he warns. “But that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice comfort and settle for small-scale pieces like folding chairs.” Instead, Wong recommends finding the right size piece that’s also comfortable, so you can enjoy the space more often. “Bring in textiles like rugs, curtains, pillows and table linens to add flexible style and finishes to make spaces feel complete and an extension of your interior.”
Tips for creating an outdoor oasis in a garden
Fortunately, many of Wong’s tips also apply to backyards and can be adapted to fit a variety of yard sizes. But he did provide some additional tips for creating an outdoor oasis in a garden.
“Where space permits, incorporate outdoor sculptures, fountains or artwork – this creates an elevated state of design and helps divide spaces to create moments of zen.”
Wong also suggests that you design your backyard to include different “rooms” or “experiences” and then focus on how you’ll regularly use the space. “We see many clients designing spaces around ‘what-ifs’, and the here and now leads to intentional design.”
Another tip is to plan your outdoor living spaces to be multifunctional. For example, he says you can set up spaces that work well for remote work. “Shaded areas are great for working outdoors and it’s easy to add greenery, hedges and topiary to establish natural privacy.”
And there’s no reason you can’t design your garden space to be used all year round. Wong recommends a design that can flex with the season. “This includes fire tables or heat lamps to create cozy spaces,” he explains. And during the summer months, you can add fans to your covered spaces, which will create natural airflow. “Also consider adding light fixtures to create ambiance and to respond to available daylight hours – it’s important to make spaces usable in the evening.”
The most common mistakes people make when trying to design an outdoor space
Wong sees three common mistakes people tend to make when designing outdoor spaces. “They don’t hire a landscaper for a master plan – transforming your garden isn’t the same as creating a flower arrangement; it takes time and intention to create unique spaces that are timeless and meet everyday needs,” he says.
Another mistake is not recognizing the potential of space. “A lot of people can’t let go of the idea of an open floor plan for their yards and continue to landscaping on the outskirts of the property – it’s a missed opportunity to create stunning visuals or experiences in the space.”
And what is the third most common mistake people make? “They limit themselves to the back yard and neglect to consider the potential that exists elsewhere on the property, such as the green spaces on the sides of the house and the front yard.”