Meet Ivy Street Design’s Landscape Architect Wendy Booth

Wendy Booth has channeled her love for both plants and design into Ivy Street Design, creating nurturing spaces for clients and rewarding careers for the designers she’s mentored along the way.

Wendy Booth
Photo by Matt Nager.

Since landscape architect Wendy Booth founded Ivy Street Design in her basement in 1992, the firm has grown to include five designers and received substantial accolades over the years. After building and nurturing the Ivy Street team and overseeing many high-profile projects, Booth sold the firm to Josh Wagner last year but continues to work with the company as a design-focused consulting principal. The first female president of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, Booth taught landscape design at Front Range Community College from 2007 to 2012.

What do you love most about your job?
Wendy: I love executing and building an awesome design. That is, I think, the high that all designers seek in their lives. It’s why you become a designer. But I think also, as I grew Ivy Street Design into a multi-person practice, it continues to be very meaningful to me to help young designers achieve their goals, to function in a creative consultant or management role. I don’t impose my ideas on them but try to help the team really develop their own designs within the parameters. Unlike art, where kind of anything goes, design has rules. It doesn’t necessarily have stylistic rules, but it has balance and scale and safety, and all those things need to be correct.

Olive Street project
Photo by D. Winger.

What are some of your favorite projects over the years?
Wendy: I believe the Olive Street project that was done back in 2008 really kind of put us on the map as outstanding designers. It’s a beautiful, beautiful project, sort of my personal breakout project, and it gave us a reputation of working in historic neighborhoods. A lot of our work has been on historic homes. Styles have changed, but I believe styles are like icing on top of a design. A good design has bones and structure, and then you can kind of dress it up colonial or French Provincial or modern.

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One of my personal favorites is a multifamily project that I worked on for an affordable housing agency, a transit-oriented development around Lamar Station. It included creek restoration, buildings and courtyards, vegetable gardens, and some custom benches. That project felt very meaningful to me.

How has landscape design changed since you founded Ivy Street in 1992?
Wendy: Back then, if you had a patio and some grass and some plants and maybe a seat wall, that was a big deal, but now a standard residential project would include a built-in grill, a fire feature, some kind of fountain feature, sometimes a kitchen that includes pizza ovens and refrigerators, covered porches, TVs, swimming pools, soak spas. The amount of amenities has really increased for households across the economic spectrum.

What should homeowners be doing to conserve water?
Wendy: The important thing is that you have to get the right plant in the right place, but you also have to irrigate correctly because if you have a blanket irrigation system, it doesn’t matter if you put in a low-water plant—you’re still watering to the highestwater plant.

I also think people need to recognize that in many of the older neighborhoods around the metro area, and I mean like 1950 and up, there are significant shade trees, so xeriscape prairie plants, the plants that thrive in hot, dry conditions, are not going to work. So, you need to move back to some more shade-loving plants.

And the government also has continued to make stricter rules to encourage, and sometimes force, people to be more water conscious. So, in most communities, we are seeing a greater regulatory environment, certainly in the development process.

Denver’s Lamar Station project
Photo by K. Weber.

How has your approach to landscape design changed over the years?
Wendy: To be honest, not much. I have, of course, tried to keep up with trends and new plants and new products. But at the end of the day, good design is good design. I went to Greece before the pandemic. Everybody studies the Acropolis in architecture school, and when I got to see it in person, I was like, yeah, that is perfectly proportioned. That is perfect design.

So, I think at the core of design, nothing really changes. The stuff we can use to implement it and the tools we have to visualize have changed, and materials and plants have evolved, but the core of what makes good design is the same as it was when the Acropolis was built.

What do you love most about landscape design?
Wendy: I just love design, all kinds of design. I love working with plants. I love to garden; I have multiple pairs of Carhartt overalls to work in my own yard. I also love the creation of space. I think landscape architecture is a unique kind of design because it’s spatially based. You create a space. Ivy Street had a tagline for a while— transforming outdoor spaces into meaningful places—and to me, that meaning is valuable about what I do.

What are the most important things landscape designers can and should be doing to fulfill their roles as stewards of the environment?
Wendy: Try to educate people to help them understand the impacts of their personal choices on the broader environment whenever you have the opportunity to do so.

Universities, botanical gardens, nurseries, and garden centers continue to introduce new plant varieties for high plains and Rocky Mountain markets that are increasingly climate friendly. These lower-maintenance, typically lower-water plants include both native-to-the-region species and plants from ecosystems across the globe with similar climates to us here in Colorado. While globally sourced plants provide interest and diversity, we need to remember to plant enough natives to support local pollinators and wildlife.