The Garden and Landscape Designers’ Association conference can help with your structure

Peter Dowdall discusses structure and suggests a visit to an important landscape event in Dublin next month. 

While not particularly known for my fashion sense, I did find myself, a number of years ago, watching a programme on television which was all about choosing the right clothes and the correct style for your body shape.

The show was aimed at women and it was based on the fact that, while all are different, apparently female shapes can be broken down to resemble several different fruits, if I remember correctly.

Gardens and fashion bear many similarities: both go through trends and are at the mercy of fads. As each individual body is different, each garden space too, is unique. 

In the same way as the clothes that you wear represent your personal style, the type of garden you create reflects who you are as a person, formal or informal, a serious garden with a manicured lawn or a bit frivolous with more dandelions and daisies than perfect putting green.

The body needs to be naked for the shape to be entirely obvious and so too the garden — and now during January when the garden is at its barest is the ideal time to design and redesign the space. The eye isn’t distracted by foliage and flowers and accessories and if you want to overhaul or breathe life into an existing garden then take action now.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Garden & Landscape Designers’ Association (GLDA) they have looked beyond the confines of these islands, towards the East for their international design seminar, Ebb & Flow — Redrawing the design boundaries between East & West.

The Seminar takes place on Saturday February 20 at the Crowne Plaza in Santry. The speakers, leading designers and plantspeople from East and West, will explore how the East’s traditions and cutting edge contemporary design and planting philosophy, complements and interconnects with that of the West and vice versa.

While designers from the East have often come to the West to learn some of their trade, many European designers have also been drawn eastward, tempted by the opportunity of working on large-scale projects. How have these designers made the transition and how has it influenced their design philosophy? Andrew Wilson, a leading British garden designer, will speak of his experiences of working on projects in Singapore and China.

Xiaowei Ma, who has studied in the west, along with his colleague Xiao Ying Xie belong to this progressive school of landscape design, and they will speak about some of the ambitious projects currently happening in China, and how western and eastern philosophies synergise to create these iconic landscapes.

Looking to India, where the classical, disciplined Mughal garden style lives happily alongside ambitious post-independence and post-modern restorations and ecologically sensitive projects, the seminar will hear from Aniket Bhagwat, landscape architect, whose inspirational designs are transforming India’s landscapes.

He says: “Every plant must matter. Every flower must find its place in the scheme of things. Every light on the street or pathway must be carefully crafted.

Every bench must be detailed like a diamond. And every act of design must celebrate the gift of life.”

The Netherlands too will be represented, with its rich, centuries-old tradition of horticulture, plant collecting and trading in plant material between East and West.

Cor van Gelderen will tell the story of three generations of intrepid Dutch plantsmen, plant collecting in the East and about the extraordinary town of Boskoop, once home to 1,000 nurseries, beautifully laid out in long sloping plots down to the river, which to this day produces many of the plants that will end up in our gardens here in Ireland.

The GLDA’s annual seminar is widely regarded as Ireland’s foremost platform for the dissemination of ideas and information on contemporary garden-making and landscape shaping. It also has a reputation for being entertaining and thought provoking and it certainly looks like it will be as good as ever this year.

Last year’s event was entirely sold out, so early booking is strongly advised. The day will be provocative and challenging, but above all, totally fascinating and definitely an experience not to be missed. or email Tel: 01 294 0092.


Like many aspects of gardening much confusion has been created around when is the correct time to prune Clematis. Also like many aspects of gardening it is very simple and straightforward.

Quite simply, Clematis can be broken down into two groups, spring flowering or Montana types and the later, summer and autumn flowering varieties. Clematis montana flowers on stems produced last year. Therefore, if you prune them now you will be pruning off the flowers that should appear during March and April. 

Prune them back as hard as you want directly after they have flowered as this will ensure masses of new growth later this year and thus plenty of flower buds for next spring.

The summer and autumn varieties will flower on growth produced this year. Prune them any time from now on as this will encourage good healthy new growth during the spring and hopefully masses of flower buds to open during the lovely sunny summer which we must surely enjoy this year.

Feed the summer flowering Clematis with a high potash and high phosphorous feed during the growing season. This will ensure plenty of good quality flowers throughout their flowering season.


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