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Continued Success for the Garden and Landscape Designers Association

The speakers at the GLDA 2018 Seminar. Pictured from left: Peter Korn, Douglas Hoerr, James Basson, and June Blake. Photo: Vincent McMonagle.

From the 2018 GLDA Seminar to Bloom, Gary Foran of the GLDA takes us through the Association’s last 12 months of activity.



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18 July 2018

In pursuit of its avowed aims; setting standards for garden and landscape design, and raising public awareness of good design and what association designers have to offer, the GLDA had another productive year.

It was made possible through the unflagging work of the association’s dynamic administrator Annette McCoy, and the council whose work often goes unsung.

As always, the highlight of the year-to-date has been the annual seminar. This was the GLDA’s 22nd international garden design seminar no less and was held in the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Santry, Dublin, on Saturday, February 17, 2018.

The chosen subject this year was an unusual one: The Designed Garden – an unfinished canvas. Who controls the evolution of the living garden? Working with nature rather than against it was very much a theme of the four speakers, each an authority in their own right.

Peter Korn, a Swedish gardener, author and lecturer at the Swedish University ofAgricultural Science in Alnarp, has spent many years studying the adaptability of plants and finding means of growing plants outside their native habitats, creating in his own garden the specific conditions for a wide variety of species. The summation of his fascinating work is recorded in Peter Korn’s Garden – Giving plants what they want.

James Basson, a graduate of the University of Greenwich, is a designer, broadcaster, and an accredited member of the Society of Garden Designers (SGD) in the UK and of the Fédération Française du Paysage. He runs a design studio with his wife, Helen, and has a particular interest in dry gardens and strongly advocates the use of locally sourced plants.

Remarkably, the object of his designs is machine-free maintenance. For those of us who almost daily listen to commercial leaf blowers in neighbouring gardens while lawns and borders are swept of any surface covering (rotten ecological practice by the way), Basson’s words of wisdom and techniques were welcome indeed.

Douglas Hoerr, head of Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects, operates on a scale few of us ever experience, with a design studio in Chicago consisting of no less than 40 members.

From his early experiences in Indiana, Hoerr spent time in England, where he was mentored by the late John Brookes, Beth Chatto, and Adrian and Alan Bloom.

Clients have included the Chicago Botanic Garden, Northwestern University, and Apple, as well private clients all over the States. He has a particular interest and skills in meeting the challenges of roof gardens. This was an aspect of his experience that was particularly worth noting as city planners look to increasing the density of housing and apartment blocks and towns gardens are reduced or obliterated.

It has become welcome tradition in recent years to include an Irish lecturer. The choice this year was June Blake who is well-nigh a household name in horticulture in Ireland.

Patricia Tyrrell, GLDA Chairperson (Left) and June Blake (Right). Photo: Vincent McMonagle.

Patricia Tyrrell, GLDA Chairperson (Left) and June Blake (Right). Photo: Vincent McMonagle.

Her versatility and diverse background underline her innovative approach to design and planting schemes. Originally, both a jewellery designer and sheep farmer, June Blake opened a perennial plant nursery in 2002 — from which she won two gold medals at Bloom — and which became a magnet for gardeners looking for the unusual.

Not content with these achievements, she took up the challenge of turning her three acres in Co Wicklow into a garden of international acclaim while at the same time offering design and consultation services to private clients.

What she has aimed for in her own garden is, if you like, “tamed wildness”— not a garden manicured to an inch of its life and aping suburban designs which look so out of place in the country. June Blake has achieved a compelling wild harmony with the rural landscape of Wicklow.

An annual summer outing to a notable garden is a popular event with GLDA members and friends. This year, on July 21, there will be a guided tour by June Blake of her garden followed by a BBQ.

Our second “Meet the Designers” night last December, organised by Michael O’Reilly MGLDA, was held at Kilsaran HQ in Dunboyne, Co. Meath, who are a valued Corporate Member and long standing supporter of the Association. This social evening was well attended both by newly qualified and established garden and landscape designers who had the opportunity to meet with members, and to learn more about the GLDA.

GLDA’s 2nd “Meet the Designers” social evening, hosted by Kilsaran. Photo: Kilsaran.

GLDA’s 2nd “Meet the Designers” social evening, hosted by Kilsaran. Photo: Kilsaran.

On July 6, the GLDA showed a documentary film on the famous work of Piet Oudolf, along with Le Spectre de Rose – an elegant ten minute long ballet with music by Berlioz, and  associated with both Nijinksky and Ninette de Valois (who was born in Blessington, Co Wicklow). The ballet was shot in Russborough House. The role of “the girl” is performed the Irish dancer Zoey Ashe-Browne.

The GLDA has provided ongoing CPD courses over the last 12 months, in drawing and drafting, especially catering for those intending to submit a portfolio — the major part of the examination procedure required for full membership.

The Association has its own rigorous criteria as to how submissions should be prepared and these courses are an excellent way for tyros to familiarise themselves with those requirements.

Another string to the GLDA’s bow is photography workshops, a useful adjunct to any practising designer, with lecturer Vincent McMonagle. The September 2017 workshop was held in the Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, but different venues are chosen in the city for the convenience of members.

Finally, the quality of the GLDA is well exemplified by the achievements of its members at this year’s Bloom, the annual garden festival held over five days in the Phoenix Park in May/June.

Gold medals were awarded to Kevin Dennis and Cornelia Raftery; Peter O’Brien was best in his section and received a silver gilt. In the so-called pop-up postcard garden section, Patricia Tyrrell and Deidre Prince won a distinction and highly commended respectively. The Garden and Landscape Design Association goes from strength to strength and welcomes new members. We are delighted to participate at GLAS 2018, and wish all those exhibiting, and in attendance every success over the next 12 months!

For more information on the GLDA and membership options, please visit, email to, or phone (01) 294 0092. Gordon Ledbetter MGLDA.

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