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CROSSING CULTURES – Globally Inspired, Locally Focused

Saturday 18th November 2023

Royal Geographical Society, 1 Kensington Gore, London, SW7 2AR

Forget about flying!
A walk around a typical English style garden with herbaceous borders and specimen shrubs and trees offers a tour of the world.

To paraphrase Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’:

“All the garden's a stage,
And all the plants and rocks merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances …

Speakers included Tony Kirkham MBE, VMH, FICFor (Hon), Tomoko Kawauchi MSGD, Jim Fogarty, Wambui Ippolito, Sophie Walker, Tommaso del Buono FSGD and Paul Gazerwitz MSGD.
The conference was chaired by Juliet Sargeant FSGD FLI MRCP.

Click here to view the e-brochure, including the agenda

Reflecting on their own design and horticultural practices, the speakers at Crossing Cultures considered questions such as:

What are the ethics of borrowing from other cultures?
Are restrictions on importing plant material limiting the designer’s palette and potential for biodiversity?
What lessons can be learned from travelling through foreign landscapes?
How do diverse cultures think about and nurture Nature?
At what point does the designer’s cultural heritage meet with the client’s interests and style
to make a signature garden with award winning potential?




Image of Tommaso del Buono FSGD & Paul Gazerwitz MSGD ©Marianne Majerus

This event was sponsored by



NATURAL NETWORKS – Connectivity in Garden and Landscape Design

04 February 2023

Royal Geographical Society, 1 Kensington Gore, London SW7 2AR

Garden by Speaker Tom Hoblyn MSGD

Garden design practice happens at the multiple intersections of plants, places, people and the planet and holds dynamic potential for ensuring a sustainable future in a world of diminishing resources and climate change. A cast of distinguished speakers, including biologists and landscape architects, explored these natural networks through a range of public and private projects of different scales. 

The conference host Annie Guilfoyle took us through the day and introduced our speakers.

Click here to view the Conference E-brochure

At the conference there was an inspiring and informative range of exhibitors and a pop-up bookstall: see a list of exhibitors here.

Including talks from:

Tom Hoblyn MSGD
People, Place and the Planet
Professor Helen Woolley FLI
Learning through landscape and children’s play spaces
Helen Elks-Smith FSGD
Connections through Time and Space
Dusty Gedge
Wilding Roofs for Nature and People
Lulu Urquhart & Adam Hunt
Flourishing Biodiversities: Designing for Nature

It's not too late to see these fantastic speakers:
Click below to buy access to an On-Demand recording of the day which can be accessed for the next 12 months.
Buy an On-Demand Ticket

The SGD Conference 4th February 2023 was sponsored by Landscapeplus and Shoot


SENSE OF PLACE: Listening to the Land

Saturday 27th November 2021

"Consult the genius of the place in all." Alexander Pope (1688 – 1744)  

Image: The Kitchen Garden designed by Harris Bugg Studio - RHS Garden Bridgewater (profile) by Neil Hepworth © RHS

The SGD Autumn conference explored genius loci, spirit, or sense of place. How to design with genuine sensitivity to the existing landscape; in other words, how to listen to the land.

The qualities and benefits of sense of place in landscape have been known for centuries, yet its essence often remains an esoteric and often misunderstood part of landscape design, something that is easily overlooked as an unnecessary complication or an impediment to budget. In an increasingly homogenised world, how do we create or maintain a space that speaks of and to its unique surroundings?

As garden & landscape designers, we have to think carefully about the layers that we add to a garden whilst acknowledging those that came before. Designs need to respect the past, and yet not be so ephemeral that they contribute nothing of lasting value.

Our conference speakers and chair discussed contemporary and contextual landscape design, post ‘wild' landscapes, and working with the natural process, as well as how to respond sensitively to the atmosphere and mood of a site, how to distil or impart its unique character, and the challenges of working within the framework of one of the world’s best loved historical gardens.

They examined why the landscapes they design are worlds of their own, are wholly right for their locations, offer the chance for escape, delight, reflection and illumination, and respond sensitively to the atmosphere and mood of a site. They explained how we can truly 'listen to the land'.

Speakers were Isabella Tree, Teresa Moller, Troy Scott Smith, Charlotte Harris & Hugo Bugg, and Aniket Bhagwat. The event was chaired by Humaira Ikram.

Purchase the on-demand Autumn Conference videos here! 

The SGD Autumn Conference 2021 was kindly sponsored by Landscapeplus and MFL



OUR FUTURE HEALTH: How to Unlock the Restorative Power of Nature

Saturday 17th April 2021

Image: Horatio's Garden, Salisbury. Photo credit Horatio's Garden

As modern life spawns ever increasing mental and physical health problems, a seismic shift in attitudes is occurring as growing evidence shows how important gardens and plants are for our wellbeing.  

As garden designers, we will have all pondered why the garden is so alluring and have our own answers to this question. Most of us appreciate the sensory qualities of plants, the calming nature of a garden pool, the soothing power of green; what can be harder to pin down is the science behind this sense of wellbeing.

For our Digital Spring 2021 Conference, speakers Sue Stuart-Smith, Tijana Blanusa, Olivia Kirk, Topher Delaney, Johanna Gibbons, Tom Stuart-Smith, and Faith Ramsay as our Chair, presented findings from contemporary research into the health benefits of green spaces and explore how garden design and plants can influence our sensory experiences, psychology and wellbeing. 

Examining the health problems we face in the modern world, they explained how we can mitigate these through the gardens and landscapes that we design, from sowing seeds at rehabilitation centres and community garden projects to the principles of user-led design, plant selection and spatial layout. 

Buy the Spring Conference 2021 on-demand videos here!

Image: Rikers Island. Photo credit Lindsay Morris

“Put human history into one week, starting Monday and this modern world emerges 3 seconds before midnight on Sunday…

The human brain evolved in the context of the natural world, yet we expect it to function optimally in the unnatural urban surrounds that people inhabit today

Jules Pretty – extract from The Well Gardened Mind by Sue Stuart-Smith.

Image: The Barn Vegetable Garden. Photo credit Sue Stuart-Smith

The SGD Spring Digital Conference 2021 was kindly sponsored by Vectorworks and David Harber




Garden Design in an Era of Climate Crisis

Saturday 21st November 2020

How do we make garden design relevant in this time of rapid and unpredictable climate change?  Do we ignore the problems, hope that someone else will deal with all this and simply carry on?  Or do we want to help our clients - and ourselves - to adopt a more responsive approach?

If so, what do we need to know? What can we do? And how do we do it? And then what difference can we really make through our designs, and how do we assess this?

Image: B. Haringsma

With the expertise and specialist knowledge of our celebrated speakers, the SGD Autumn Digital Conference focused on some of the most basic and precious resources we deal with: water, earth and plants. Presentations on these topics from Robert Bray, Tim O’Hare and James Hitchmough looked at how we can use resources differently and better and do more with less. Sarah Eberle FSGD explored the meaning of sustainability, how we assess the impact of our actions and decisions, and how we identify areas of design or practice which we may need to reconsider.  Dave Goulson looked at what gardens offer insects, and how habitats can be increased and enhanced through design.  Are natives or non-natives better plants for insects and our changing climate?

Conference Chair Mark Laurence MSGD held the threads of these interrelated and complex topics and help to signal ways in which ideas and designs can be regenerative and create beautiful, ecologically diverse havens that build soils and sequester carbon, and be feasible with a low footprint. Surely this has to be the new role for all garden and landscape designs?

We know filming the conference provides inspiration & education to those that couldn't travel or attend. Don't miss out, our on-demand coverage is the next best thing to being there.

The Conference Speakers (from left to right): Robert Bray, Tim O'Hare, James Hitchmough, Sarah Eberle FSGD, Dave Goulson, & Mark Laurence MSGD

Buy the Autumn Conference 2020 on-demand videos here!

The SGD Autumn Digital Conference 2020 was kindly sponsored by MFL Affinity Insurance Brokers


COLOUR: The Art, Science and Experience 

Saturday 18th July 2020

Good use of colour can play a major role in the successful outcome of a garden or landscape project.  Colour can change our perception of a space, alter our mood when we are surrounded by it and influence the way we use a garden.  But at what point should colour be considered when in a design? 

The SGD Digital Spring 2020 Conference lifted the lid on the use of colour in the garden, looking beyond fashions and trends and exploring the subject from all points, from artistic to scientific. 

An impressive line-up of speakers included American landscape architect Steve Martino, whose work blends colourful, man-made elements with native plants to reflect the sun-drenched beauty of the American desert; garden designer Emily Erlam, known for her exuberant, colourful planting, sensitivity to the existing landscape and designs explored the seduction of colour and creation of drama.

Head Gardener and plantsman Benjamin Pope continued the story looking at colour through eyes on the ground as he maintains and develops a country garden in West Sussex. His talk explored how colour can be used to create and enhance atmosphere using fruit, vegetables and flowers. Edward Hutchison has used colour as an essential tool throughout his career working as a landscape architect and showed how his use of colour stretches his creative vision and thoughts as both designer and artist

In addition, Irish gardening consultant and planting designer Jimi Blake explored the use of colour in his garden at Hunting Brook in County Wicklow, focusing on the colour combinations of flowers and foliage and discussing how he creates tapestries of colour throughout his exotic areas, perennial beds and woodland gardens; and Mike Allaby, author of more than 100 books on plant science, introduced the often curious reasons as to how and why colour is perceived in the gardens and landscapes that surround us, from a scientific perspective.

The conference was chaired by Stephanie Mahon, editor of the Garden Design Journal, who examined how colour is expressed and how it changes its nature depending on how it is consumed - either through paint on a canvas, ink on a page, pixels on a screen or light in your garden.

Join us to discover how the right use of colour in garden design – from plants to hard landscaping - can enhance us as individuals, reinforce our connections with the gardens and landscapes we create, and influence the way we use space. 

You can now catch-up on all the speaker presentations with the SGD Spring Conference Video On Demand Archive. 

Buy Spring Conference 2020  (This link goes to an external website)

SGD Conference Trailer

SGD Autumn Conference 2019

The Source 2: Inspiration, Creativity, and the Big Idea

16th November 2019

Did you miss the SGD Autumn Conference 2019? Chaired by multi-award winning designer Cleve West MSGD, a line-up of internationally renowned speakers shared their individual approaches to creativity; the conference offered a rare insight into how they nurture and cultivate imagination, and how they recognise a potentially successful idea and convert it into reality. Speakers included Matt Keightley MSGD and Cameron Wilson from Rosebank Landscaping, landscape architect Jenny Coe, Haruko Seki from Studio Lasso, Luciano Giubbilei, and Greek architect and landscape architect Thomas Doxiadis

You can now catch-up on all the speaker presentations with the SGD Autumn Conference Video On Demand Archive.

Buy Autumn Conference 2019 (This link goes to an external website)

SGD Spring Conference 2019

SEX IN THE GARDEN: Flowers, fruit & foraging

27th April 2019

Did you miss the SGD Spring Conference 2019? 

You can now catch-up on all the speaker presentations with the SGD Spring Conference Video On Demand Archive. 

All sessions containing 7 hours of CPD content - instantly available to order now. 

Buy Spring Conference 2019 (This link goes to an external website)