Society of Garden Designers Autumn Conference – What are gardens for?

For those that could not attend you missed a goodie! Annoying as that is to hear sometimes it’s just the impulse one needs to get to it next time. I missed Christopher Bradley Hole in March and kicked myself for being slow off the mark. Not this time. With Dan Pearson and Bernard Trainor on the list of speakers this was sure to be a goodie.

Bernard Trainor has not been well known to me but I did a bit of homework prior and found his designs and work to be fascinating as his background is varied. An Australian (gotta be a good bloke then!) trained horticulturalist who then made his way to California via Beth Chatto and a number of other British Garden Design luminaries (Rosemary Alexander and John Brookes). His work is inspiring in a way that reminds me I have a long way to go and much to learn about genius loci (from the Latin genius = spirit, loci =place) and how to integrate and interact with it. He is working on ‘big’ projects, ones that would daunt many of us but it is like an enormous carrot for me and I realise during this talk I want to be of that calibre. How I am going to get there is another matter but it’s good to find a clear line of sight to the potential future of my own work!

Wendy Titman followed and at first I wasn’t entirely sure whether we were to be subjected to apolitical rant or a discussion on how the government ‘could do better’ however it blossomed, for me, as she talked passionately about the children and educational clients she had worked with and for, and how the drive was to support their early development (children from 2-8ish I think) in the most empathetic manner possible.  It was eye opening to hear of her experiences with certain teachers and at time hilarious. Design aficionados may found the results a little challenging for the resulting gardens looked somewhat chaotic and there wasn’t a symmetrical line (curved or straight) in sight but that they worked for the user was not in doubt. Undoubtedly a fascinating topic and one to be researched in depth with future clients.

Jane Owen valiantly held the after lunch slot, unfortunately the MC had rather stolen her thunder in her own opening speech however Jane wove the last 30 years of garden design for us  expertly and included some Sex Pistols too which is never  a bad thing!

The highlight, unsurprisingly was hearing Dan Pearson for the second time this year, talk on his own gardens. Much of the imagery I had seen in his wonderful book Spirit but he is an eloquent raconteur and rattled through the history of his own gardens and himself with ease. He passes such a sense of wonder for growing spaces and gardens he creates, it is easy to see how clients can grasp concepts and trust his vision or their landscape. I particularly liked the idea of Japanese parents ‘learning’ to explore their parks and landscape as they searched for ‘lost’ excited children who were completely absorbed in scaling new 10m high landforms.

An excellent day, can the SGD’s Spring 2012 possibly beat it?

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