Interested in getting onboard the next generation of garden design? Max Apton of Sweet Clover Design represents where garden design is going. Although he can certainly craft traditional formal gardens for clients, he loves to blur the lines and create a scene with a little wildness in its DNA. Naturalistic plantings that are not actually meadows, per se, but have more than a smidge of footloose-and-fancy-free in their lifeblood are his ideal. Apton strives to install a design that ticks off all the boxes for his clients, but he also considers what’s happening beneath it all. Based in Mount Kisco, Sweet Clover Design (sweetcloverdesign.com) works with a site and its existing soil to deliver a garden that fits the land.
For Apton, it all started with journalism; that’s what he studied in college. But he was happier outdoors. When a friend moved to Hawaii, Apton booked a visit — with stints working on farms to pay his way. “I was spending nights in a sleeping bag and loving it,” says Apton of his love for the outdoors. Upon returning home, he followed that thread to a CSA in Manchester, VT, before taking a job as vegetable field manager in the intensive growing program at Westchester’s Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture. “It was like a three-year crash course,” he recalls of the stint, which began in 2012. “I did everything from hiring to crop rotation and driving tractors.” Soil science has everything to do with farming, and Apton learned to look deeper than merely what was happening on the surface. When visitors asked if he made house calls, he began helping clients with their home veg gardens. By 2016, his focus began shifting to ornamental design, still utilizing his underground knowledge. He joined the team at Westover Landscape Design while taking classes at The New York Botanical Garden. “And that’s how I came to my current iteration,” says Apton about the genesis of Sweet Clover Design.
Apton is all about adaptability. “My naturalistic plantings are most popular, but I’m not dogmatic about it. Some of my clients prefer formality.” He does lawn conversions, but he is also realistic about feasibility and maintenance. “Gardens that look wild actually require the most intervention,” he explains to clients. On one hand, he works with the soil to find plants that will thrive with minimal amendment. But simultaneously, he harnesses space for the betterment of the entire ecosystem. And with Westchester County as his home base throughout his career, Max Apton definitely knows the territory.
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