Thursday, June 30, 2011

10 things you didn't know about landscape architect Dan Sherman

Written by Bill Cary, Jun 26, 2011

Eight years ago, Dan Sherman moved his very successful landscape design business from Manhattan to a cozy office overlooking a brook in Valhalla. It just stopped making sense to make the commute into the city from his longtime home in Piermont and then back out again to meet with clients, most of whom live in Westchester or Connecticut.

"We are so central to everything in the Westchester and south Fairfield area," says Sherman, who has been working as a landscape architect since 1977. "As soon as we moved, I bought a boatload of Stickley furniture and did the office up in a cozy Mission style, like a home office studio."

His six-person team includes a senior landscape architect who is "great with contractors, building departments, tree and plant vendors and helps track work in construction" and two young landscape architects who keep him fresh. They "chomp through designs, drafting, details, permits and clients' endless emails."

Sherman's design projects have ranged from the small and local (and pro bono) — the Piermont Community Garden, Main Street planters, Piermont dog park and the war memorials in town — to the grandiose and international: giant and elegant office parks in France and U.S. Air Force bases in Germany. He has also renovated a half-dozen campuses for Atria Senior Living, including ones in Ossining and Albany.

People with large estates in Greenwich, Southampton and Westchester keep him busy, too. "Mostly my clients are captains of finance and industry — and loads of hard-working people who love their homes and aspire to a better landscape."

Here are 10 things you probably didn't know about Dan Sherman:

1.He was able to form his own company in 1992 because Larry Condon, the president of the Joyce Mertz Gilmore Foundation, took a liking to his work and offered to sponsor the launch of his own business. (Joyce Mertz and her parents, LuEsther and Harold Mertz, founded Publishers Clearing House.)

Moonlighting while working full time for another firm, Sherman had created a brownstone garden for the foundation on East 18th Street and was subsequently taken to LuEsther's grand home in Port Washington. "At a party, a Tarot reading was laid out for me and the past, present and future were told with astonishing and accurate clarity," he remembers. "I made the daring jump the next day."

2.His partner of 21 years is Richard Skipper, a performer best known these days for his full-length shows impersonating Carol Channing.

"They are very good friends, and he is her official tribute artist," Sherman says. Skipper is also co-producer of the New York Bistro Awards and is very involved with the New York cabaret community. He's performed at the Rockland Center for the Arts and is a frequent guest performer at various benefits and fund-raisers around Rockland.

3. Sherman got at this gardening thing very early. Growing up in Lewiston, N.Y. (near Niagara Falls), "we had two neighbors who had very interesting and complicated gardens that fascinated me," he remembers. "My birthday is at the end of April and my mother would buy me a bale of peat moss and flats of flowers to plant around the house. I was happy — who knew?"

4.His best-known client is probably Derek Jeter, who hired Sherman to create a landscape for a Scottishs-tyle castle on Greenwood Lake in Warwick.

"I worked closely with Derek's mom, Dot, on the project," he says. "She is very respectful and nurturing and a lot of fun to work with."

5. He's a founding member of the Piermont Community Garden and he's had a plot there every year since the garden got going in 1995.

6. Some of his favorite plants right now include variegated Solomon's seal, Indian pinkroot, ajuga, epimedium, cranesbill geranium 'Rozanne' and dark pink double Knock Out roses.

7.For a cool combo in his own garden, he sends morning glories climbing up his 'Annabelle' hydrangeas. "It looks amazing in the morning with the blue flowers all over the white flowers." And he's got fall-blooming clematis climbing up inside a lilac tree in his front yard.

8. He hasn't yet, but he would love to work on historic properties. "I haven't figured out how to steer my career in that direction, so it's exciting that the kind of work I would most like to do is still out there to learn and do."

9. When he's not in Valhalla, Piermont or Manhattan, you'll likely find him at his cottage on a lake in northern Ontario.

"This was our family's camp for 40 years," he says, which he bought two years ago when his parents decided they shouldn't be someplace so remote. Now Sherman coordinates the upkeep and vacation schedules of various family members.

10. Because of his partner's involvement with the cabaret scene, Sherman has a very busy social life — out attending shows and receptions at least three nights a week.

"I would probably not pull myself out of the garden and clients' landscapes if I weren't compelled, but New York has a very rich and underrated world of off-the-chart entertainers — it's pretty amazing."

He also likes to tag along when Skipper takes his show on the road. "We were out in Palm Springs in February to stay with Carol Channing," Sherman says. "Everyday something new pops up with Ruth Buzzi, Tommy Tune, Mitzi Gaynor or Julie Wilson."

Garden designer by day, bon vivant by night. Sounds pretty great, doesn't it?

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