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About Us

“All my life, the garden has been a great teacher in everything I cherish.”
                                                                                                       - Stanley Kunitz
Early Inspiration

I'm John Clese, Founder and Chief Landscape Designer of Lake Effect Garden and Design. Designing gardens and landscapes has been my passion for as long as I can remember. In my early teens, I landscaped my parent's suburban Maryland property and, by 17, had installed free-form bluestone patios and walkways throughout our quarter-acre plot. I thank my parents for letting a teenager have free reign over their property.


By 20, I enthusiastically fell under Wolfgang Oehme and James Van Sweden's planting influences. Their introduction of naturalistic plantings using ornamental grasses and perennials captured my imagination. More recently, Piet Oudolf and Roy Diblik have influenced my concept of plant compositions. 

"Native" Michigander 

Today, I live in West Michigan, and I would be nowhere in my knowledge of native plants if I hadn't met Esther Durnwald, owner of the Michigan Wildflower Farm. The availability of native plants, seeds, nativars, and cultivars provides designers with the plant material to create more sustainable gardens benefiting both people and nature. Thankfully, like me, many homeowners are also rethinking their approach to landscaping. Their interest in reducing lawn areas, having lower maintenance landscapes, using less water and fertilizer, and growing plants adapted to their local climate and site is exploding.


Other exciting changes to landscape design include the vast selections of hardscape material in what seems like limitless colors and textures for building patios, walls, garden screens, fire pits, decks, and contemporary outdoor kitchens. When homeowners look at their property and see problems, I see solutions. I enjoy using my imagination and knowledge of landscape architecture to help my clients create fabulous properties! 

Lake Effect Garden and Design is a full-service landscape and garden design company. Our focus is on incorporating native plants, meadow plantings, ornamental screens, and hardscapes to create a seamless, beautiful, and sustainable environment. While our focus is on native plants, we understand there can be a need to incorporate other non-native, non-invasive plants in the landscape. Our plans always include low-maintenance and drought-tolerant plants.

Please go to the contact page, and let us know how we can help you add more native plants, build a beautiful deck or add a sculptural wall to transform your landscape!

John landscaping.webp

John Clese

Chief Landscape Designer

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