I went on a busmans’ holiday recently and found myself at the Garden and Landscape Designers Association annual seminar in Dublin.
I know, I know I should broaden my horizons and spend some time looking at cars or golf or some other such activity but you see none of that interests me, so garden design is what I travelled for.
It’s always good to get a fresh perspective on something. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut and blinkered and I came away from my day, refreshed, invigorated and full of, if not new ideas then at least new ways of looking at the same things.
Everybody has their passion, for me its plants, their use in garden design and how to achieve the best out of a garden with correct planting 1 but for others it can be as specialist a task as anchoring mature trees in the ground so that they don’t rock — or providing different systems to cover buildings with plants, (green-walling).
Sue and Bleddyn Wynn-Jones of Crug Nursery in Wales spoke of their recent plant-hunting exploits in the mountains of north Vietnam and the couple were followed by Thomas Doxiadis who spoke about the natural landscape in Greece and how an important aspect of garden design is working with what you have in terms of climate and suitable plants.
We don’t have the same challenges as a Greek designer in terms of too much sun and drought, but everything he said still made sense in an Irish context.
Emma Mazzullo a UK-based designer spoke passionately about the whole process of design and landscaping and in particular, zoned-in on some roof gardens she created in London.
Not something which we are so up on in this part of the world, but after seeing her work, I want to be let loose on the rooftops of Ireland.
It is on projects like these, where the collaboration between landscape designer, engineer and builder is vital, and this is something which Emma underlined in her talk: the importance of a collaborative approach to designing and landscaping new gardens.
All too often the garden design is looked at as an afterthought, and a scheme is very often only considered well after the design and building work is complete.
Emma spoke about the benefits of working in a more integrated way and illustrated how time and money can be saved by garden designers working with the architects from the beginning of the project.
For example, if builders are dumping on an area which is later to become garden then this results in the added expense to the client of clearing the dumped area, not to mention damage to the soil through compaction and contamination — or worse, removal of all topsoil — all jobs which are not easily rectified.
Opportunities that may exist to reduce the visual impact of a building or some of its more unsightly features can often be missed if the garden plan is only implemented after the building is completed.
Later,a quick walk around the foyer left me feeling good for the future of the industry, as many Irish companies were there and the standard was as good as anywhere in the world.
Enrich, a compost manufacturing company which produce various different grades of compost, soils and mulches, were there and I’m glad to see going from strength to strength.
Cork too, was well represented with Ronan Nangle of wholesale nursery, Nangle and Neisen, an he was speaking about the importance of using Irish-grown trees in design projects as not only will they be much better than imports at tolerating Irish conditions, (as well as being cheaper), losses are also reduced compared to imports.
Ronan used Ballincollig as a great example of how a village was developed into a suburb with good collaboration between designers, planners and growers.
The planting of over 3,000 trees in the last 20 years has meant that the visual impact of this development has been minimised, along with all the other environmental benefits that this level of tree-planting provides.
Days like this also provide a great opportunity to meet like-minded people who you might not otherwise encounter.
I bumped into fellow garden writer, Alison Rochford and I chatted with designer Leonie Cornelius about her ongoing design work and what she is getting up to in Sligo. Met up too with my old friend, Kitty Scully who is doing great things up at Airfield in Dublin.
I haven’t been to Airfield in over seven years and it is now another one firmly on my ‘to do’ list. See, the list is filled once more with gardens and gardening, it will be a while before I get to that Motor and Boat Show or heaven forbid, the golf course.