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“Seeds of Change: Planting Design for the 21st Century” - GLDA Annual Seminar 2020

“Seeds of Change: Planting Design for the 21st Century” - GLDA Annual Seminar 2020

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In a world where climate change is increasingly a reality in our lives, our gardens should be a haven for biodiversity and a refuge from the world, not only for ourselves but for the rest of the wildlife with whom we share the earth. It is something we all aspire to, but the reality can be somewhat different. Every plant we plant produces plastic waste in the form of pots and labels, our composts may contain peat, and the plants we choose may have travelled long distances bringing with them the risk of introducing alien pests and diseases. The issue of maintenance may influence us towards increased use of hard landscaping rather than wildlife friendly alternatives. 
Trying to be greener isn’t easy and it leaves us with many questions:

  • Has the prevalence of pot grown plants influenced our entire approach to planting design?
  • Are there other ways to plant or perhaps sow a garden which would produce a more self-sustaining plant community attractive to wildlife?  
  • When planted, how do we maintain that garden without the use of pesticides and herbicides?  
  • Is the maintenance of a wilder more biodiverse garden more difficult?
  • Does nature herself have the answers?  

Our speakers this year will help us to explore these questions and will address some of the challenges. They will share with us the knowledge gleaned through years of research, experimenting and working with plants, seed mixes and plant combinations. Cassian Schmidt (Germany), Sandro Cafolla (Ireland), Nigel Dunnett (UK) and Sarah Price (UK), all work at the cutting edge of planting design and they will share with us their insights into new approaches to resilient and biodiverse planting for the 21stCentury. 


As Director of Hermannshof Gardens in Germany, Professor Cassian Schmidt is a leading expert in planting design, using natural plant communities as inspiration for sustainable, low maintenance, cost effective plant combinations. With a landscape architecture degree, a Master’s in horticulture, and more than 25 years’ experience as a professional plantsman, Cassian Schmidt is at the forefront of the New German and Dutch Wave movement. 

Hermannshof has been a public garden for 30 years now and all of the planting in the garden is an experiment, and thus always changing, exploring and pushing boundaries. It showcases everything from annual beds to perennials and grasses and other structural plants that offer a naturalistic look, changing seasons of interest and beautiful colour combinations. The planting style changes rapidly as you move through the garden to demonstrate various styles or habitats. 
Cassian has developed eight different garden habitats at Hermannshof, varying from sunny and dry to shady and dry, to damp and so on. In creating combinations, he uses plants from the same geographical zones in order to achieve cohesion and uses natural communities and how they grow together as his inspiration. His goal is that the planting will self-manage for up to a decade. Ultimately his research aims to produce plant combinations that are sustainable, low maintenance and beautiful. 


Nigel Dunnett is Professor of Planting Design and Urban Horticulture in the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Sheffield, and is one of the world’s leading voices on innovative approaches to planting design. He is a plantsman, designer and pioneer of the new ecological approach to planting gardens and public spaces. His work revolves around the integration of ecology and horticulture to achieve low-input, high-impact landscapes that are dynamic, diverse, and tuned to nature. 
Nigel’s work is based on decades of detailed experimental research, and widespread application in practice: he works as a designer and consultant and regularly collaborates with a wide range of other professions. His work has been widely applied in the UK and abroad. 
A primary objective of Nigel’s work has been to move the consideration of planting design and landscape horticulture from a largely cosmetic, decorative and functional role, to one that is also central to the discussion of how to address the major problems of climate change and a sustainable future. And, while ecological ideas in landscape design have often been applied at the larger scale, his focus is at both the large scale and at the smaller scale: gardens, urban parks, on and around buildings (podium landscapes), and in high-density built development, applying ecological concepts within horticulture, landscape architecture and garden design. 
The emphasis is on simple maintenance, and a careful consideration of the various layers within a planting, and successional flowering of a planting over a long period. The key element is an understanding of the ‘horticultural ecology’ of designed plantings, and working with ‘plant communities’ that are suited to site conditions, and which mimic the processes in ‘natural’ vegetation. 
Nigel has authored and co-authored many key books on planting design, water-sensitive design, and urban rainwater management. The most recent, published last year, is Naturalistic Planting Design: The Essential Guide (Filbert Press). He is a Chelsea Flower Show Gold medal designer and Greening Grey Britain Ambassador. He is a regular lecturer to audiences throughout the world. 
Nigel’s projects include: The Queen Elizabeth London Olympic Park, where he and James Hitchmough were the principal planting design and horticultural consultants and The Barbican Centre, London that featured innovative planting schemes for podium landscapes, and netted Nigel the 2018 Landscape Institute Fellows Prize for Most Outstanding Project, and Landscape Institute Award 2018 for Planting Design, Public Horticulture and Strategic Ecology. He worked on the Sheffield Grey to Green Project with planting designs for the UK’s largest retrofit inner-city greenway with sustainable drainage and rain gardens. 

Sandro Cafolla is the founder and energy behind Design by Nature based in Carlow, Ireland. With more than 30 years’ experience, Sandro is considered Ireland’s foremost expert on wildflower seeds and the creation of wildflower meadows, and his website,, is a virtual cornucopia of information on the subject. He is passionate about using native wildflower seeds and plugs to support and protect local wildlife and to create more climate resilient landscapes. 
Sandro is a self-taught environmental designer with a life-long interest in horticulture. Starting at the age of 19 he has built up a business increasingly directed at biodiversity and organic wildlife gardening. Finding it difficult to source native seeds and plants for his projects, he started gathering and supplying them himself and Design by Nature was born. 

His expertise in how to sow and maintain wildflower meadows makes him the go-to person in Ireland for local authorities, landscape designers, landscape contractors and the private sector. 
He has advised on and supplied native species for myriad projects from motorways to green roofs, from award winning Chelsea gardens to 'Bloom' gardens, from Golf courses to landfill, and from eco-parks to sites of scientific importance. 

Sarah Price has rapidly established herself as one of the most prominent and sought-after garden designers in Britain. Drawing on a prior training in fine art and a life-long love of wild and natural environments, her gardens have an immersive quality and are often described as ‘painterly’. 
Her practice is unusual for its breadth and scope of work. Sarah co-designed the 2012 Great British Garden at London’s Olympic Park and was a planting consultant for LDA Design on the post-Games legacy design. Price continues to work on a number of large public planting schemes as well as private projects. These include new community gardens and an exciting ‘play’ landscape designed in collaboration with MUMA for Cambridge University; an “Art Garden” at Manchester’s Whitworth Art Gallery sponsored by Jo Malone London; and a garden inspired by the New Forest for a new Maggie’s Centre in Southampton, designed by architects AL_A. 
Price’s designs have collected numerous awards, most notably Gold Medals at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2018 for her M&G Investments Garden and in 2012 for The Telegraph Garden. Sarah is a contributing editor for Gardens Illustrated and also writes for House and Garden and The Telegraph. In 2016 Sarah was awarded Garden Columnist of year by the Garden Media Guild for her monthly series on landscape design. 
Sarah is a visiting lecturer in planting design at the Department of Landscape at Sheffield University and has lectured at the New York Botanical Gardens, Kew Gardens, the Royal Academy, and The Royal Geographical Society in London. 
She graduated with a First class BA (Hons) degree in Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University in 2002 and from 2002-2003 worked for a year as a full time gardener at Hampton Court Palace, London. 
“Seeds of Change – Planting Design for the 21st Century” takes place on Saturday 29th February 2020 at Crowne Plaza Hotel Dublin, Northwood Park, Santry, Dublin 9. Tickets available to purchase on 

  • GLDA Full Members, Pre-Reg & Friends €95
  • Non-member & Friend membership for the year €145
  • Non-member €120 (Early Bird available to 14 Jan €110)
  • Students €55 (includes membership for the year)
  • Group of non-members (min 10) €110 pp


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