Tuesday 20 March 2018

Gardens to behold

Local garden designer Leonie Cornelius talks to Sinead Healy about her new book dream gardens, experimenting with outdoor space and inviting people to dream big...

Sligo native Leonie Cornelius is a Garden Designer, Interior Architect and can now add author to the list of her many talents with the release of her first book Dream Gardens.

One of Ireland's leading garden designers, Leonie has worked on the RTE Today show as the regular garden design expert and is a Judge on the popular RTE Super Garden show.

As a garden writer, she has written for many magazines and newspapers, including the Irish Independent and the Irish Mail on Sunday so is no stranger to the writing world of gardening.

"I love sharing my knowledge with others and it comes back to me as I learn from it as well," said Leonie.

Writing a gardening book was something Leonie had always hoped to do and the idea for the book came from giving talks and running courses based on Dream Gardens at garden festivals and educational garden centres.

The courses and talks evolved to create a book that was accessible for every budget, space and level of gardening ability.

"When I tell people I am a garden designer they say 'Oh I would love to have my garden designed but I would never have the money' and I don't think it should be like that. It should be accessible for everyone not just those that have the money. I wanted to make it for every type of garden or budget so I broke it into steps through this book," said Leonie.

Much more than a straightforward how-to guide, Dream Gardens will inspire readers to dream big and create a stunning and truly personalised outdoor space from scratch.

"I go into people's gardens and I ask them to zoom out and forget about the functionality for a minute. I find people limit themselves, they want a compost heap or a clothes line all necessary things yet they don't inspire them, so I ask them to dream big for a while," she said.

This will be achieved by answering questions including: Who are you? What do you like? How do you live now and how would you like to live? What will be the garden's function - fun family space, entertainment space? Space to clear your head? Or to grow fruit & veg?

"I try and use a very personal approach. There is an exercise section in the book where I ask people to imagine their perfect space, it could be the Taj Mahal or somewhere crazy and then I ask them why do they love that? The tranquillity might be one area and you can feed that into your garden and make it different, it is very do-able."

Once these questions have been answered, the book outlines how to find your style and includes examples of contemporary styles, gardens of the world, western-style gardens, and gardens by climate.

There are also sections dedicated to creating moods with colour, using materials to enhance your concept, bring light to your space along with inspiration for themes and concepts.

Alongside her own designs and imagery, the book is packed full of stunning imagery of some very beautiful gardens here in Ireland and abroad by talented photographers and fellow designers.

There are various inspirational concepts taken from Sligo and one case study takes inspiration from Knocknarea and creates a meadow within a meadow.

"The clients, who run Shells Surf Café in Strandhill had just done up an old cottage at the base of Knocknarea in Strandhill. With the cottage I had to see what would fit within the landscape so we came up with a meadow within a meadow. It was really nice to pick up on local stories for the book," she added.

Being a garden designer means Leonie finds herself repeating the same gardening advice over and over and believes her book answers many questions people may have.

"Where do I start? gets asked a lot, people are over-whelmed with their garden or not being able to find certain flowers so with this book it helps them with the concept from start to finish," said Leonie.

Her work allows her to travel around the country but she loves coming home and working locally: designing the outside of Shell's Cafe, taking care of gardening outside The Draft House gastro-pub as well as working with her company Blume house which specialises in customised Garden and Interior designs for companies, brands and private clients.

As well as her design work she is busy being a judge on RTE's Super Garden Show as well as a design ambassador for Woodies Ireland and preparing for 'Everyone has a dream' spring shows. Leonie will officially release her book in Eason's in Sligo this Thursday April 13th at 5.30 pm and the event is open to the public.

Local business The Shed Distillery will be serving special edition cocktails on the night. Published by Mercier Press, Dream Gardens is now available online and nationwide.

Sligo Champion