Born and raised in Los Angeles, where he would reside all his life, Carter earned a degree in architecture from the University of Southern California, and was among the state’s earliest licensed landscape architects. In 1948 he established Van Herrick’s Environmental Planting and would also found the design firm Robert Herrick Carter & Associates. He became an innovator in designing indoor landscapes, often selectung plants that would bloom in succession, creating cyclical changes in color.
Carter’s design at the five-acre Union Oil Center (now the Los Angeles Center Studios) in downtown Los Angeles was among the earliest uses of flowering trees on a commercial project in the city. For the atrium of the library at Loyola Marymount University, he installed ficus trees that he had personally propagated specially for indoor use. Other projects included work on the initial landscape design for the University of California, Irvine; the grounds of the Inglewood Civic Center; and a thirteen-acre park for the Florence-Firestone Community in Los Angeles. Carter undertook several international projects in his latter career, including the master plan for the Kuwait Zoo. In 1973 he opened an office of Van Herrick’s Environmental Planting in Phoenix, and in 1987 Van Herrick’s Environmental Planting and Robert Herrick Carter & Associates merged with another leading firm to become Carter Romanek Landscape Architects. Carter received numerous awards for his work from the Los Angeles Beautiful Committee, and in 1975 the American Association of Nurserymen honored his design of a stepped rooftop garden at Lindner Plaza in Los Angeles. He died of cancer at the age of 69.