April 9, 2016 6:00AM
Robert Jimenez-McWilliams is a landscaper, but you won’t find his work outdoors.
The Palm Springs designer specializes in interior plantscaping. He works with interior decorators and general landscapers to bring leafy greenery to interior spaces, paying artful consideration not just to what plant should go where but to the lighting around it, the style of the home and how the plants might resonate with the landscape and gardens outside.
In other words, you won’t find him sticking a ficus in a basic pot in a forgotten corner of the living room. Instead, he might envision spiral juniper, statuesque in a modern concrete urn. Or maybe lanky exotic orchids perched in a planter custom-made from repurposed antique mirrors.
“You want things to meld together,” said Jimenez-McWilliams, a design consultant at Plantscapers, an Irvine company that installs and maintains interior landscapes. “It’s nice when you have a special container and a plant that together act like an art piece.”
The designer was trained in biochemistry, minored in horticulture and design and has worked previously as a museum consultant; he’s found that all of those disciplines come together in his vocation.
His forte is discovering uncommon plants, or sourcing from the handful of replica-plant makers with whom he works, and hitting up his contacts in the antiques business in New England and Europe for unconventional vessels in which to house the plants. Predominantly, though, he says it’s about realizing the vision of his clients, who include Jennifer Aniston, Cher and Steven Spielberg.
“I might have a client who has come back from a trip to Versailles and was struck by the beautiful citrus trees there and wants to know how they can bring a sense of that into their home,” Jimenez-McWilliams said.
“Of course, sometimes we might have to improvise.”
He does, however, always strive for the unexpected. He favors using French handkerchief planters — they are often found in a rustic fiber cement — where the fluid lines of the piece, structured like a partially opened fold of cloth, provide an attractive counterpoint for all manner of plants; he once even filled the inside of one with gravel and turned it into a fountain.
“Some clients can be more eclectic,” he said. For them, he’s converted galvanized metal feeding troughs, originally used on farms in France and dating back to the 1930s, into flower-filled vessels.
He says he’s found new plant-holding uses for tables, fire pits and mirrors.
Jimenez-McWilliams is currently making entire walls filled with plants and flowers — a specially constructed plastic structure is bolted onto an existing interior wall, creating a series of small nooks, each one holding a plant.
“If one dies, you simply remove it and replace it,” he said.
“We’ve done entire walls of succulents as well. It’s a new avenue for me, and a new way of being artistic.”
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