Mo Helmi of Tricoastal Scapes wearing the Jolie Recycled Cashmere Scarf.
The London-based landscape artist is bringing his biophilic design philosophy to California.
AMOUR VERT: Tell us about you.
MO HELMI: I am a landscape artist specializing in creating public and private green spaces that benefit people physically and mentally while supporting wildlife biodiversity. And without sacrificing the design aesthetic.
AV: You worked in editorial and design. What was your journey to founding Tricoastal Scapes?
MH: After my time at Condé Nast Traveler, I was living in London and going back and forth to Florence, Italy, to produce my namesake shoe and handbag collection. After 15 years, I decided to change things up and embrace another passion. I went back to school and got a degree in garden design.
AV: What makes your aesthetic unique?
MH: I learned valuable skills from my time working in fashion, from understanding design to the psychology of desire. I put all of that knowledge into what I do now with sustainability.
A London garden in bloom.
AV: What are some ways to add biodiveristy in an urban environment?
MH: Let’s say the client has an apartment building. Their first instinct is just to put some greenery downstairs. My job begins with education. I would suggest adding greenery on the ground, plus up the side of the building and on the roof. Then I would explain not only is that approach going to benefit the environment and support the native biodiversity of the area – which is good for you in your reputation as a developer – but it also attracts tenants. Research shows people are willing to pay more to live in a space that makes them feel good.
AV: You just finished a reforestation project at Soho Farmhouse in the English countryside. What did that involve?
MH: When I first saw the area, it was literally just compacted soil. Grass could barely survive there. Step one was to bring it back to life. Then I suggested we create a Miyawaki Method pocket forest. Developed in the early ’70s by the late Japanese forest ecologist Akira Miyawaki, it’s the concept of bringing land back to how it was before the Industrial Revolution and human intervention.
Mo Helmi at the Soho Farmhouse Pocket Forest planting. The land one year later.
Once the soil was in better shape, we began planting the land very densely, as it would have grown naturally in a forest. I researched the native plants of the Cotswolds, what species will thrive, and what native wildlife each type of tree and plant will support.
We’ll water them for a couple of years until the trees are established enough to grow on their own, and soon, we’ll have a native dense woodland that’s not dissimilar to how it was 200 years ago.
AV: What were some of the plants you used?
MH: I put in 12 native species of trees, including Beech, Maple, and English Oaks, which support over 2,000 wildlife species. Underneath, we planted 41 different types of plants, six ground cover species, and 21 different wildflowers. So, it’s quite a variety.Holiday options from Rent a Living Christmas Tree.
AV: With the holidays upon us, what are some suggestions for zero-waste decor?
MH: I’m a big fan of the California-based Rent a Living Christmas Tree. They will professionally pot and deliver your holiday tree, then pick it up at the end of the season so it can become a part of the wildlife ecosystem.
I discovered Succulent Artworks recently. They’re a family business that makes beautiful living wreaths. I’ll provide small gift boxes to my holiday guests so they can take a few of the plants on their way out.
A Succulent Artworks wreath and Flamingo Estate's smoky citrus ornaments.
Making edible wreaths is a fun project for the whole family. Kiddos will enjoy putting together a dog biscuit wreath for their favorite pups. The cooks in your life will use a rosemary, bay leaf, and dried chilies combination all season long. As a host gift, I love creating a mulled wine wreath of oranges, cinnamon sticks, star anise, whole cloves, cardamom pods, and raw sugar cubes, with bottles of red wine and brandy on the side.
This year, I can’t get enough of the smoky citrus ornaments from Flamingo Estate. You can make your own at home by slicing navel and blood oranges, lemons, and limes, baking at 200 degrees for 3-4 hours, flipping occasionally, and threading a hook through to hang. Store in a mason jar until next year.
And for the ultimate gift, try a native oak tree sapling. With 90 species across the US, there’s an oak suitable for every climate and region.
Follow Mo @mohelmi.
Photo credits: Mo Helmi, garden, and Soho Farm House courtesy of Mo Helmi; potted trees courtesy of Rent a Living Christmas Tree; succulent wreath courtesy of Succulent Artworks.