Aug 18, 2015 1:47:00 PM / by Claude Kershner IV

Landscaping as an Extension of Personal Style

This article is an interesting inside look into South Florida's Landscape Design, Installation and maintenance industry. Reef Tropical's head designer and landscape manager, Tim McKernan describes a unique view on landscapes from both designers and high end home owners perspectives.
It was published in Distinctive Properties Magazine by Russell Post Sotheby's and Ocean Sotheby's International Realty. It was written by Jill Zima Borski about a year and a half ago.


Creating landscapes that blur the line between the natural and manmade environments are Tim McKernan’s artistic signature. A landscape designer for Reef Tropical with more than 15 years experience in the field, McKernan is known for blending his interest in the visual arts and the outdoors with a strong design. Through his designs, he respects diverse interests, preserves the beauty and value of natural resources, and maintains vibrant, viable outdoor spaces.

The designer emphasizes the most important thing to remember is to plant the right plant in the right place… a seemingly simple idea which requires taking into account the plant’s soil, sun and water requirements -- unless emphasis on maintenance is in the owner’s playbook.


McKernan said there are several different styles noticeable at Ocean Reef. Since members come from all over the country, their visions of tropical gardens differ. Some prefer formal, well-maintained landscapes with clean lines that might include topiaries and a central axis that guides the design; others may prefer an informal look with looser edges and more flowing lines.

South Florida’s native landscape is a more loose and informal style. The trick is to incorporate botanical treasures with graceful branching and contrasting textures of foliage throughout the garden. Another option is an emphasis on tropical plants utilizing intriguing large-leaf plants such as elephant ear and perhaps rare gingers for vibrant color.

A combination of formal and informal styles is McKernan’s specialty. McKernan’s roots are in horticulture. He grew up in South Florida and earned his masters degree in landscape architecture at Florida International University. He serves on the board of directors of the South Florida Palm Society and loves it when he can suggest a special rare plant to a homeowner.

Working with homeowners, McKernan may suggest recovering “lost areas” for which he might design a visually appealing flowing design raised up with a cap boulder accented by rocks that flow out and red flowering plants or constantly blooming white flowers. Rather than a nondescript courtyard or entry way, the space can become an enchanting eye-catcher.


McKernan also tackles challenges such as Ocean Reef yards atop the Biscayne Acquifer. Aquatic and native plants become great options with a bridge or large stepping stones possible in the “hardscaping.” “Hardscape” consists of inanimate elements of landscaping, especially any masonry work or woodwork such as stone walls, concrete or brick patios, tile paths, wooden decks and wooden arbors, including home accents such as water fountains.

A recent challenge was landscaping for a homeowner with small pets whose property abutted a brackish lake containing a large crocodile. Creating a plant barrier rather than a nice sunning area for the native reptile was among the tasks!

Claude Kershner III, owner of Reef Tropical, said McKernan is helping organize the schedule for an estimated 500 people attending the late-July conference at Ocean Reef of the Florida Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects. McKernan is tasked with showing seven gardens representing “four corners” or styles of landscaping as well as three featured yards. Some prominent landscape architects are expected to attend, and many attendees will earn continuing education credits toward their contractors’ licenses.With an eye toward sustainability, many homeowners seek low maintenance and drought-tolerant plants. A combination of native and feature species could work well in such a design.

True trendsetters may be interested in the landscaping “color of the year.” Pantone selects a color based upon in-depth research surrounding global trends in fashion, design, entertainment, art and technology. Pantone announced Dec. 5 the color of 2014 is Radiant Orchid, described as “a captivating, magical, enigmatic purple.”

Regardless of whether homeowners choose to incorporate this vibrant and exotic color into their home, garden or landscape, McKernan and Reef Tropical are available to suggest and implement unique landscaping designs that are sure to delight owners and visitors whenever they are relaxing and enjoying the sunny tropical weather or every time they pull into their driveway on their golf cart!

To read about trends in the pool construction industry, check out this post about custom pools - swimming in luxuary 

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Topics: Landscaping

Claude Kershner IV

Written by Claude Kershner IV

President Reef Tropical • Pool & Landscape

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