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Feature article from "Capturing the Spirit of the Carolinas"

“I like to create adventurous gardens – gardens that draw you in and take you on a journey.” And what an adventure it is! Landscape Designer Tracy McCullen, the creative genius and Pied Piper of Landscapes Unique in Wilmington, North Carolina, leads me down a winding, tree-canopied tunnel, one of his signature designs. We come out onto a lush carpet of lawn inlaid with brilliant beds of perennials and a potted herb garden on the patio. The colors and fragrances are intoxicating.

What sets Tracy’s gardens apart from others? In his words, “Less is more. I like to keep things simple on the approach of the front garden, in order to allow greater appreciation for the home’s architecture. As you walk from the front garden to the rear garden I like to create winding paths, which evoke mystery and inspire curiosity. Once in the rear garden I like the journey to continue with sweeping bed lines filled with lush ground covers, ornamental grasses and lots of trees.” The effect is a living tapestry of texture, shadow and movement. Weeping willows are among his favorite trees. “Movement is an essential quality in my gardens. I love the way willows dance in the breeze,” says Tracy.

What inspires Tracy McCullen’s unique designs? His extensive world travels, particularly throughout Europe. His work in photography since the age of 15, with his own dark room, sharpened his eye for composition and harmony, which he brings to every garden he creates,
from the geometric formality of a French Renaissance garden to rambling, rustic nature trails. It is no wonder his designs are so highly sought after.
A native Carolinian, Tracy is a self-taught garden designer, having had no formal education in horticulture or landscape architecture. He has proven with his innovative work that the key to success in garden design, as in any occupation, is having integrity with a passion for what you do. And that he does!

Since beginning his company in 1988, Tracy has designed and installed hundreds of gardens throughout the region with the help of a highly Professional Staff dedicated to exceding our Clients highest expectations.

At the heart of Tracy’s artistic vision lies this precept: “Landscape architecture, when applied to gardens, is about design rather than decoration.” He explains, “There is a rhythm to well-designed gardens. Each element’s shape, size and color contribute to guiding your focus in a clear direction.”

And Tracy’s favorite garden? The extraordinary Biltmore Estate, home to the Vanderbilts, in Asheville, NC. This sweeping landscape was designed by none other than America’s preeminent landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead (1822 - 1903), who also created New York City’s Central Park. “Creating inviting spaces which encourage people to interact and communicate is a goal I pursue in all my work,” Tracy says. One day I, too, would like to design parks and public gardens of great distinction.”

There is a spirituality and playfulness to Tracy’s designs, often born out of a synergy between him and his clients. “Each garden’s uniqueness reflects my client’s imagination and style. It’s the collaboration which is so exciting to me,” says Tracy. His work is often featured in local garden tours.

Landscapes Unique is often choosen by many of Wilmington’s top home-builders and architects who appreciate Tracy’s many years of design experience and the high quality professionalism of his staff. Together they have created many of the regions greatest and most distinguished gardens. Helen Brumbaugh, a distinguished builder and interior decorator says, “For many years we have worked together like a fine-tuned machine. Our new homes radiate personality after Tracy works his magic with the landscaping.”

Tracy plans to continue his innovative work with Landscapes Unique while expanding his design work beyond the Carolinas. He loves to experiment with new ideas, such as a labyrinth garden featuring a mossy, orange-tinted bowl-shaped meditation boulder in the center.

In Wilmington, he and his wife make their home on the Intracoastal Waterway, where their back yard is wild marshland and tidal creeks, nature’s own perfect landscape. Their interior garden is ever evolving, brimming with multiple arbors, planters that wrap around the house and a wide variety of garden accessories that evoke magic.

Tracy says, “In my gardens, I want you to look out your window and see a painting – to step into it and become part of it.” After a day of visiting his magnificent gardens, the word that instantly comes to mind is enchanting. Even seeing gardens “under construction” offers a glimpse into his keen imagination. In several gardens Tracy has entirely reshaped the property’s terrain – equipment sculpts new vistas and one wonders with excitement what new vistas Tracy McCullen has on the horizon. In his words, “the ultimate goal is to create a beautiful balance with nature and architecture while developing relationships with clients that become meaningful and rewarding.”

Tracy McCullen
6813 Mayfaire Club Drive (#304), Wilmington, NC 28405 • 910-279-1902

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