An Irish story of success in water gardens
TEN miles south of Portland in the town of Wilsonville you will find many pointers to Hughes Water Gardens, where the proprietor Eamonn Hughes runs one of the largest water garden nurseries and landscape companies for the construction of naturalistic water gardens.
In 1987 I was asked by the ALCI (the professional association of landscape contractors in Ireland) to judge their annual awards. I had, at the time, looked at some of the excellent water features constructed by Eamonn Hughes. He subsequently disappeared from the landscape business in Ireland. Fourteen years later he re-emerged when I met a most affable and relaxed Eamonn at his base in Wilsonville, Oregon.
Eamonn's horticultural career is unique in many ways. He was a science student in UCD, qualifying in 1977 with a degree in chemistry. He reminisced about his student days and, like most students, travelled to America on a J1 visa during the summer holidays to work mainly in restaurants.
He always disliked working with catering or building companies during the summer months. After applying to landscape companies in the New York area, he was eventually taken on for three months by a large landscape business, after convincing the company of his expertise in many horticultural areas. He told me his only knowledge of landscaping at the time was planting four plants in his home garden that he had purchased in Woolworth's of Henry Street.
After graduating from UCD, Eamonn did not pursue his academic training. Instead, he worked with a north Co Dublin nurseryman for a number of years before eventually setting up his own landscape business, specialising in water features.
Eamonn believes his success is due in no small way to the artistic traits he inherited from his dress-designer mother and his business acumen from his father who was an electrical engineer.
There are many landscape and water features, particularly in the Dublin area, that were designed and constructed by Eamonn, notably the water features in Jury's Hotel in Ballsbridge.
During his college years, a romance blossomed with Kathleen O'Sullivan, an American student from Long Island. They married soon after both had graduated from college and subsequently lived in the Dublin suburbs.