Peter Dickens, founder and owner of Washington Landscapes, has devoted 35 years of his life to an ideal: compensating the urban growth in the Washington metropolitan area by adding green spaces to residential and commercial areas. He started in the landscaping business when he was 16, doing small jobs in local gardens. Over the decades, he has become a renowned landscape artist and major proponent of the health and environmental benefits of creating green ecosystems in urban and suburban areas.
Peter obtained his degree in Landscaping and Horticulture at the University of Maryland. Peter is a native of the District of Columbia and, as the son of a diplomat, grew up in South America. In countries like Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina and Ecuador, he developed an interest in native floras and how they could be restored to urban areas. Back in the United States, he has drawn inspiration from Rock Creek Park, the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay.
In the eighties, Peter decided to investigate landscaping around the world to learn the techniques and aesthetic principles other cultures have perfected. He traveled to Japan and studied in a gardening school in Kyoto, mastering the art of zen settings and rock gardens. “I try to apply the Japanese teaching of letting the trees grow in limited spaces in my daily urban work”, he says. “In Kyoto, I also learned the importance of the seasonal flowers, which is evident in the DC area thanks to the cherry blossoms”.
Peter later studied at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom. He thoroughly researched the history of gardening in Europe and immersed himself in the landscapes of cities like Paris and Rome. Versailles, in particular, had a strong effect on him. “Those gardens taught me what effect you can have on history with a proper use of landscaping”, recalls Peter. “What you do now, in terms of horticulture, will have a major impact on the future”.
In 1987, Peter read about one of the world’s most renowned landscape artists, Robert Burle Marx, whose mark on Brazil’s landscape ranged from the undulating mosaic sidewalks of Copacabana Beach to the hanging gardens in the new capital of Brasilia. “I wrote him a letter asking him to take me as an understudy. When he said yes, I literally boarded the next flight to Brazil”, says Peter. “I spent one year in Rio de Janeiro, learning from his creations, observing his techniques. For me, it was a defining experience”.
Peter applies his rich expertise in the DC area through Washington Landscapes. He pairs a meticulous research of the flora of the area with a passion for new environment friendly techniques. He has been among the first horticulturists to use cutting edge techniques such as electric cars and tools and water recycling systems. His work already has a profound effect on Washington and will have a far-reaching impact for generations to come