02February2023

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Impact of the Decision To Leave the EU

Impact of the Decision To Leave the EU

It is now clear that the British people have made the choice to leave the European Union. The countr...


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GLDA Seminar Report

Tales of passion in the garden

The Garden and Landscape Designers' annual seminar took place on April 6th and had two speakers from Ireland, the multi gold medal winner from Bloom, Jane McCorkell and the horticulturist and educator Ciaran Burke. Returning to the GLDA, from Sweden, was Chelsea gold medal winner, Ulf Nordfjell, and making a debut from the UK was garden designer James Alexander-Sinclair. Sheena Vernon describes a thought-provoking day. 

One thing I learnt at this year's seminar it's that you must make a photographic record of each project you do. Without a particularly grotty 'before' photo you don't have that proof, once the new garden is up and running, that what garden design is really about is transformation. Showing photos of her own house and its surroundings, Jane McCorkell's design projects were testimony to the power of garden design to transform, to create places where none existed before, and to summon up views and vistas, routes and frames. But all four speakers emphasised the point, that the design stage is just that, a stage, a beginning. 'I feel sometimes that I'm still at the start of my career,' Jane McCorkell explained, 'because each design is just a small part of the development of a garden.' 

Ciaran Burke, reminded us of how very far we have moved from the gardening shibboleths that prevailed twenty years ago when rockeries and conifer beds under planted with heather were all the rage, a 'patio' was highly exotic, the language of gardening was littered with such terms as 'extermination' and 'eradication' (of pesky weeds and wildlife and colourless seedheads, that is). To really experience a garden, Ciaran told his audience, involves getting wet, getting dirty, noticing the dew form on a stem tip of Dierama, the texture of a cabbage leaf, the track of footprints through wet grass, the shadow cast by bare branches against a wall. A natural educator, one project that he and his wife have initiated recently is to offer six days of free training in their garden to unemployed locals. Such is their conviction that appreciating nature is intrinsic to self-growth, another project grew out of this - the construction of scoodoos. If the name is unfamiliar that is because it is entirely made up in order to describe Hannah's evocative art pieces made from wire and birch branches which when grouped among trees evoke a primordial dignity. By placing them next to trees, says Ciaran, people actually begin to notice the trees properly for the first time. By the end of the talk I could not help thinking that if you placed Ciaran next to a tree they would notice it for the first time and that, in his own way, this passionate man of Mayo was his own work of art.

Ulf Nordfjell is one of those garden designers of jaw-dropping perfection. His parks and public gardens in Sweden look completely immaculate, I am sure that anyone daring to drop litter in them would be humanely retrained in some Nordic clinic for civic reprobates. He admitted after his talk that he is a bit of an obsessive. You see it in his beautiful Chelsea gardens (remember that first one, a tribute to Linaeus? This year his sponsor is Laurent Perrier), his clever details and in the carefully thought-out planting. As an example of his attention to perfection, in his own garden he chooses late flowering tulips and daffodils so that by the time they reach their unsightly death throes, the surrounding herbaceous growth will be tall enough to hide it.

James Alexander-Sinclair proved to be the ultimate showman, garden design he said has four components: hard stuff, soft stuff, wet stuff and other people's stuff (the surrounding landscape. There were so many interesting observations made during his talk that it's hard to know where to begin. Here are a few snippets. Seats in the garden are not really for sitting on, true gardeners are far to busy, so make sure they are attractive and act as a focal point for their main purpose is visual. Out of every five plants around three will be stronger than the other two so rigorous elimination will always be necessary and don't be afraid to discard plants you are tired of, that's what a dump is for. Plants should be allowed to teeter on the brink of anarchy. Remember when you design a front garden in England that English people don't like gardening to the front of their houses. They fear that passers by will talk to them. In his own garden James had no borrowed landscape; it was an enclosed space, so to bring the eye downwards he dotted topiary cubes of yew on his lawn. They acted as a strong foil to his luxuriant and animated borders and were evidence that behind the showmanship was a very talented garden designer.

James spoke for every speaker, I feel, when he said that the purpose of a garden is to make the heart beat stronger. By the end of the day we had heard four very contrasting ways in which dedicated designers do this. If you are an enthusiastic gardener, a landscape contractor or a trainee or experienced designer, the only forum in which garden design is given serious consideration, with workshops, visits and a magazine, is the GLDA.

See Photos of the Day here

Source: HortiTrends News Room