Unlimited Earth Care’s creative visionary and sustainability expert Frederico Azevedo gives us a lesson in love—of the birds, bees, plants, and our home. THE DAILY sat down with the award-winning landscape designer at his Bridgehampton HQ to discuss the importance of living in the moment, taking chances, and reconnecting with nature.
Let’s talk about happy things because this is the Good News issue. What are you looking forward to most this summer in the Hamptons?
Well, I’m looking forward to keep doing what I love to do—keep creating beautiful gardens and environments, as I always have. It brings me such joy to see clients rediscovering their properties and reimagining them. Many of my clients are spending more time in the Hamptons than ever before; they’re seeing trees bloom that they’ve never noticed. They didn’t know that they had dogwood trees or cherry trees on their properties—and we’re celebrating these moments by integrating these newly discovered elements into their landscaping. So that was a good thing that happened during the pandemic—people are connecting more to nature and appreciating the year-round beauty of the East End.
When was the first moment you fell in love with gardening?
When I was a child in Brazil, about 5 years old, I always wanted to be in the garden. My mother gave me a plot of land, and I grew a vegetable garden. I was fascinated by all plants—but especially carrots. The green up top and the orange below—what you saw on the surface was not the whole picture! I loved that. Also, my mother was the master of carrot soufflés, so this was a great way to encourage her to make more of them!
You are originally from Brazil and you moved to England to study at Oxford. Tell us how you discovered the Hamptons.
I had a job opportunity in New York doing Japanese gardens, but there was a little bit of a clash because the company was more into the traditional Japanese design, and I am more into modern Japanese, which uses more plant material than rocks and gravel. I felt like there was not really room for me there, but I became close with the owner of the company and she said, “I have a friend in the Hamptons who needs somebody with your talent. Would you like to go work for her?” Two weeks later, I moved to the East End, and six months after that, I opened my own company. That was 27 years ago.
So you’ve really seen the evolution of the Hamptons.
Yes, and the evolution of sophistication. We all became more sophisticated. Today, we control the sprinkler systems by our phone. Everything is much easier to do now than it was before. There’s all this evolution and sophistication integrated into the way we design gardens, too. The way that I studied is completely different from the way that I do stuff now.
Your brand ethos is about sustainability, not only in landscaping, but in the way we live. You provide the opportunity for clients to really love their homes, which is more important now than ever. And you go a few steps further by educating your clients about the natural beauty around them and the opportunity to nourish their bodies and souls from the ground up. Tell us more about that.
The process of designing a garden is about integration—into the land and the life of my clients. I create outdoor spaces that are more than just gardens—they are a legacy—something the whole family can enjoy, learn about, care for, and create memories in together. My clients are discovering that they can have vegetable gardens in their own backyard, which means they go to the grocery store less and nourish themselves with the food they grow at home. I mean, I have so many requests for vegetable gardens. Now, I am not just doing my job—I am coaching my clients on how it’s done!
It seems we’re all looking to “give back” these days. In what ways does cultivating a garden do this, and what organizations are you passionate about supporting?
Designing and building a garden is really the creation of an ecosystem. We always try to increase the number of botanical varieties a client already has. We want to attract more beneficial insects that give to the land. That is the whole idea. It’s not just like, you have something that looks good, but it’s gone in a flash. This is about making the earth more healthy—something that will get better and better over time. The deeper your understanding of the earth, the deeper your love for it becomes—that’s important. I also support the Madoo Conservancy as much as I possibly can, as well as LongHouse Reserve and the Horticultural Alliance of the Hamptons.
Is there a project that you’re most excited about?
I love all the projects. There’s nothing I don’t love and if so, I wouldn’t do it…and my clients know that very well. [Laughs]
It’s good to establish that at the beginning. What was one of your most challenging projects?
Everything is a challenge when you have a vision for things but also want to work with the land in its natural form. There was one project in 1995 that really put my brand on the map in the U.S. When I came to America in 1990, everything was white. Philippe Starck was everything. Martha Stewart was on top and all she would do is white on white. I was like, “What is this?” I am Brazilian, so color is a big factor in my life. I had one client on Middle Lane in East Hampton and they had just about finished the house. When I presented the project, they asked me, “What is the color scheme?” I said, “It’s going to be yellow, orange, and red.” They gasped! [Laughs]
Startling! What happened next?
I designed an immense garden for them in front of their taupe house that had 2,000 yellow, orange, and red flowers. When we finished the project, it became a major tourism attraction in East Hampton. On any given day, there would be a line of cars passing by just to see it. It was incredible, but it took a lot of courage. I remember my client asking, “What are the neighbors going to say about it?” I said, “You have to ask, what is your land going say about it?” You’re going to create an ecosystem. You’re going to get beneficial birds, beneficial insects. You’re going to get all this legacy inside of your land, and that is the most important. And we got it. We did it!
Do you have any other passions outside of flowers, plants, and sustainability?
My kids. I raised them in the Hamptons—this is our home. I love to participate in their lives…probably more than they’d like me to!