Landscape Legend: Fernando Wong Is One of This Year’s Design Stars at Antiques at The Gardens
Fernando Wong. Photo courtesy Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

By Donna Cornelius

If a TV show is ever made about landscape designer Fernando Wong, it might be called “Miami Nice.”

Since Wong transplanted himself from Panama in Central America to the south Florida city more than 20 years ago, he has cultivated an impressive reputation for his garden design. In 2005, he and partner Tim Johnson started Fernando Wong Outdoor Living Design in Miami Beach. Today, the company – now with additional offices in Palm Beach, Florida, and Southampton, New York – is an award-winning, internationally prominent boutique firm that takes a limited number of select residential and commercial projects each year.

Wong’s many projects have included luxury hotels, a sculpture garden at Miami’s Institute of Contemporary Art and a national park in Nassau for the Bahamian National Trust. He’s recently been awarded work on celebrated chef Thomas Keller’s new Miami restaurant.

The firm has completed or is working on residential projects, too, in New York, Connecticut, Texas, Virginia, Florida, Louisiana, Lyford Cay in the Bahamas and London, England. It has completed gardens for some of the most notable American historic and landmarked houses, including ones designed by architects John Volk, Addison Mizner and Marion Sims Wyeth.

Wong has been called a “design genius with the soul of a poet” by Elle Décor, “one of the most important landscape designers in America” by Architectural Digest and a “landscape legend” by Forbes.

And he really does have a TV show: You can see him on “Clipped!” with Martha Stewart on the HGTV and Discovery+ channels. 

All that is very nice, indeed – as is Wong, with his friendly, warm personality. He will speak at this year’s Antiques at the Gardens, at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. He’ll share his experiences and his know-how at 2 p.m. Oct. 2 in a talk presented by Flower magazine.

While in art school, Wong gravitated to sculpture, oil paintings and, especially, watercolor, all areas of study that have served him well as a landscape designer. He said that once he decided to relocate to Miami with little money to launch his career, he never looked back.

“I was an athlete – a swimmer – for many years, and I could only travel if I did sports,” Wong said. “I got the travel bug. I was in a bliss of joy when I came to Miami, even though I didn’t have a car. I had to take three buses to get to work, but I never cared.”

Layers for the Senses

Wong said his designs translate well to a variety of gardens in different parts of the world because he tends to lean on very classical architectural principles. He tries not just to create beautiful outdoor spaces but also to engage all the senses of those who visit his creative settings.

“I want layers,” he said. “I want to feel the sun through a canopy of leaves, to see silhouettes. From a very early age, I was experiencing the visual and the interaction with the senses – the rustling of palm fronds, the smell of rosemary, gardenias and orange trees.”

Wong and Johnson’s company is known for designing elaborate garden follies, pools and pool pavilions, outdoor kitchens, fountains, sculpture gardens and hardscapes. It also has gained a reputation for moving large trees. The biggest tree it has relocated so far is a 90-foot-tall kapok, part of Wong’s prestigious Palladio Award-winning design for a 3-acre, John Volk-designed Palm Beach estate.

Wong will show images of and talk about that project and others at Antiques at The Gardens. He’ll share ideas that showgoers can take home, too, such as tips for creating his favorite green-on-green gardens.

“Drive around your neighborhood and take pictures of what you like,” Wong said. “Take the photos to a nursery or garden center. Start with deep, dark green for backgrounds, and then you can add olive greens and silver greens. You also can include whites, blues, yellows and even reds.”

Wong said working on “Clipped!” was a wonderful experience.

“I really admire Martha Stewart,” he said. “She is so ready to share what she knows. Working on the show was really, really fun.”

He also is looking forward to his time in the Magic City.

“I’ve never been to Birmingham, I can’t wait to meet everyone – and to try Alabama cuisine,” he said.


Speakers at the Show

Other speakers at the 2021 edition of Antiques at The Gardens will bring an array of knowledge to the show:


Friday, Oct. 1

Red Diamond Lecture Series sponsored by Red Diamond, Inc.

Charlotte Moss, 11 a.m.; Christopher Spitzmiller, 2 p.m.

Cocktails and Conversation with Mark D. Sikes, 4 p.m.

Photo by Tommy Agriodimas.

Charlotte Moss is known for her timeless aesthetic, layered interiors, Southern warmth and keen eye. Her many honors include the New York School of Interior Design’s Centennial Medal and the Royal Oak Foundation’s Timeless Design award.

She is on Elle Décor’s Grand Master List of Top Designers and is on the advisory board of the New York School of Interior Design, where she holds an honorary doctorate degree.

Moss has used her experience culled from 35 years of decorating homes to design licensed collections with Century Furniture, Fabricut, Stark Carpet, Pickard, P.E. Guerin, Soicher Marin, IBU Clothing Artemis Design Company and other companies. 

She lectures widely and is a prolific author, having published 11 books. Her latest, “Charlotte Moss Flowers,” will be followed by “Home: A Celebration: Notable Voices Reflect on the Meaning of Home” to benefit No Kid Hungry. 

Philanthropy plays an important role in Moss’ life. She’s emerita trustee of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello; on the boards of the Bone Marrow Foundation and the Madoo Conservancy; a member of the International Council of Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens; and on the board of American Corporate Partners, where she mentors veterans.

Christopher Spitzmiller. Photo courtesy BBG.

Christopher Spitzmiller’s lamps, tableware and other ceramics are found in nearly every chic A-list interior, including the White House. His iconic designs draw inspiration from classical forms and traditional gem-like glazes.

Spitzmiller began his career in Georgetown, in Washington, D.C., where he worked out of an old schoolhouse near Dumbarton Oaks. Shortly thereafter, his work received critical acclaim and his reputation as a noteworthy ceramicist began to emerge. In the summers, he worked from Mecox Gardens in Southampton as an artist in residence, and designers such as Albert Hadley, Richard Keith Langham and Suzanne Rheinstein began to commission his work.

Since 1996, Spitzmiller has been concentrating his efforts on his unique lamp designs. He’s now expanded his designs to tableware and other ceramic accessories.

Spitzmiller’s work often is featured in publications including Architectural Digest, House Beautiful, Elle Décor, Departures, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. His latest book, “A Year at Clove Brook Farm,” was released in March 2021.


Mark D. Siles. Photo courtesy BBG.

Mark D. Sikes is an esteemed interior designer and tastemaker working on projects throughout the United States and is known for all-American sensibilities and a fresh take on classical aesthetics. His talent for creating beautiful and timeless interiors that embody an indoor/outdoor lifestyle has been featured in Architectural Digest, Veranda, Elle Décor, House Beautiful, the Wall Street Journal, C Magazine, Milieu and Domino, and he is a member of Elle Décor’s A-List.

Sikes has partnered with top furniture and fabric manufacturers to develop his signature product lines, including Chaddock, Soane, Hudson Valley Lighting, Troy Lighting, Schumacher, Annie Selke, Merida and Blue Pheasant.

His first book, “Beautiful,” was a New York Times bestseller, and his newest book, “More Beautiful,” debuted in September 2020. 


Cathy Kincaid. Photo by Haynsworth Photography.

Saturday, Oct. 2

Tastemaker panel presented by Veranda magazine, 11 a.m.

Cathy Kincaid, Corey Damen Jenkins, Ken Pursley, Matthew Carter

Cathy Kincaid’s sense of color and intricate design detail has established her as one of the country’s top designers and an editorial favorite whose work is published internationally. For more than 30 years, she’s designed houses that are as individual as her clients.

A recipient of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art’s John Staub Award, Kincaid is highly respected for her commitment to restoring old houses and filling them with traditionally stylish antiques and furnishings. From a historic Beaux Arts estate in Dallas and a 1750s Ship Captain’s Cottage in Old Lyme, Connecticut, to a Mas de Baraquet in the south of France, her interiors evoke a sense of comfortable elegance.

Kincaid’s work has been featured in several books, including “Farrow & Ball: The Art of Color” and “D. Porthault Linens.” Her own book, “The Well-Adorned Home,” was published in 2019.

Corey Damen Jenkins. Photo by Brad Ziegler Photography.

Corey Damen Jenkins is a nationally acclaimed designer whose work mixes vivid colors with layered patterns to create architecturally inspired spaces that are polished, inventive and unexpected. Taking cues from the haute couture runway, his projects feature luxurious and refined materials.

His bold interiors have been on the covers of House Beautiful, Traditional Home and other publications. He also has been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Detroit News and Vanity Fair.

Jenkins is an inducted member of Architectural Digest’s AD100. In 2020, he was named to Elle Décor’s prestigious A-List.

His first coffee-table book, “Design Remix: A New Spin on Traditional Rooms,” was released worldwide in March 2021.

Ken Pursley is a graduate of Auburn University’s school of architecture and a principal and partner at Charlotte, North Carolina-based Pursley Dixon Architecture.

Having cultivated his interest in residential design under the tutelage of his mentor and friend Bobby McAlpine, Pursley went on to develop his unique aesthetic, which resonates with clients throughout the country. His firm views both modernism and classicism as part of a broader architectural language, drawing from multiple traditions when crafting design solutions.

The 14-person firm has received numerous accolades, including Veranda/ADAC Architecture firm of the year and Southern Living home of the year, and its work is regularly featured in publications including Veranda, Traditional Home, House Beautiful, and Milieu.

Ken Pursley and Craig Dixon’s first book, “Finding Home: The Houses of Pursley Dixon,” will be published this fall.

Matthew Carter. Photo courtesy BBG.

Matthew Carter creates dynamic, timeless interiors for clients around the world. Established in 2002, his firm is known for breathing new life into antiques and heirlooms, designing houses and spaces that respect history but feel fresh and relevant for today.

Based in Lexington, Kentucky, the firm has current and recent projects from Napa Valley, California; Vail, Colorado; Charleston, South Carolina; New York; Palm Beach, Florida; and Lynford Cay and Harbour Island, Bahamas.

Throughout Carter’s career, editors and photographers have celebrated his signature layered look and keen ability to relax even the grandest of houses. In January 2021, he was named one of Veranda’s “Next Legends.”

Carter’s work has been published in House Beautiful, Veranda, Traditional Home, C Magazine, Southern Living and the New York Times and in books such as “Fortuny Interiors” by Brian Coleman, “Linens: For Every Room and Occasion” by Jane Scott Hodges, “Kentucky: Historic Houses and Horse Farms of Bluegrass Country” by Peter Estersohn, and “Beige Is Not a Color” by Carlos Mata.


Sunday, Oct. 3

Sunday with Suzanne: Suzanne Tucker, 11:30 a.m.

James Farmer, 1:30 p.m.

Suzanne Tucker. Photo courtesy BBG.

Suzanne Tucker is recognized as one of the country’s leading interior designers and is known for her personal approach, enduring style, attention to detail and passion for architecture and the decorative arts.

Her award-winning projects are frequently published in magazines worldwide. Architectural Digest has honored her repeatedly on the AD100 list of top designers, and she is included in the Elle Décor A-list.

Having worked under the legendary Michael Taylor and often referenced as his protégée, she and her husband/partner, Timothy F. Marks, founded Tucker & Marks in 1986. Suzanne Tucker Home was launched in 2010 with her textile, tabletop and home furnishings line.

Her first monograph, “Rooms to Remember, The Classic Interiors of Suzanne Tucker,” was followed by the publication of “Suzanne Tucker Interiors – The Romance of Design.” A third book is planned for publication in 2022.

James Farmer. Photo courtesy BBG.

James Farmer is a Southern author, interior designer and speaker known for his ability to create beautifully familiar and welcoming homes.

He is the author of the Wall Street Journal best-selling books “A Time to Plant,” “Sip & Savor,” “Porch Living,” “Wreaths For All Seasons,” “A Time to Cook,” “Dinner on the Grounds,” “A Time to Celebrate” and “A Place to Call Home.”  His most recent publication, “Arriving Home,” features design projects from the farmlands of Georgia to the rolling countryside of Connecticut.

His work also has been published in Southern Living, House Beautiful, Traditional Home, Southern Home, Flower and other magazines.

Born and raised in Georgia, Farmer has built his business in his hometown of Perry.


Major Roles

Other people with major roles at Antiques at The Gardens are co-chairs Stephanie Lynton and Shannon Lisenby and show ambassador Richard Keith Langham.

Alabama born and now based in Manhattan, Langham has been a force in the decorating world for more than 30 years.

After graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and studying at the Study Center for the History of Fine and Decorative Arts in London, he apprenticed with design legend Mark Hampton. Langham spent 10 years with Irvine & Fleming before founding his own firm in 1990.

Perhaps no one summed up his aesthetic better than Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who once proclaimed him to have “a sorcerer’s eye.”

Landscape Legend: Fernando Wong Is One of This Year’s Design Stars at Antiques at The Gardens