15 under 40: Carson McElheney


After graduating from the University of Georgia, landscape architect Carson McElheney spent seven years with Alex Smith Garden Design before starting his own firm in 2011. In 2012, his classic approach to landscape architecture earned him an award for his work on an Ernest Flagg home. Recently, he combined his horticultural expertise and bird-hunting passion to cultivate a top-level hunting environment, Sweetwater Wingshooting, in Thomson, Georgia; other projects include a South Carolina horse farm and south Georgia quail plantation.

Was landscape architecture something you’ve always wanted to do? Yes, from a very early age I spent many summers helping my grandfather in his perennial and rose garden. While my grandfather was not a landscape architect, he was heavily involved as a founding member of Atlanta Botanical Garden. Working with him is where my affection for details and nature began. Growing up in Atlanta, I have always been fascinated by the homes designed by Clem Ford, Luis Crook and Phillip Shutze. Landscape architecture combined my passions.

Whose work do you admire? I admire landscape architect Ben Page’s classic, elegant and timeless approach to design.

You previously worked for Alex Smith Garden Design before striking out on your own. What advice would you give others wanting to own their own business? Be passionate about the field you are in.  Get ready to work hard and put forth many long hours. Be committed to rise before dawn and stay until the task is completed. I consider myself fortunate because my passion and business are one in the same. I love what I do.

What is one of your favorite projects that you’ve worked on? I had the privilege of renovating the arrival court for a beautiful Shutze-designed home in Atlanta. Determining appropriate scale to complement the classical façade was important. Materials consisted of tumbled granite cobblestone and grey blend aggregate that were softened by boxwoods and hydrangeas for a timeless appeal. Regardless of the scale of a project, whether it’s a small intimate courtyard or master planning a private residence, every detail is important.

How do you enjoy your spare time? Farming and bird hunting. Cultivating the land has taken on the form of gardening, but on a much larger scale. I enjoy growing sunflowers, corn, milo and winter wheat. Seeing the development of agricultural expanses is immensely rewarding, not to mention the droves of mourning doves that they attract.

To view more of McElheney’s work, visit carsonmcelheney.com.

{This year’s 15 under 40 class is presented by Mathews’ Furniture Galleries