Garden designer makes history as first Irish person to win gold at prestigious Australian flower show
Life & Style

Garden designer makes history as first Irish person to win gold at prestigious Australian flower show

AN award-winning garden designer has made history by becoming the first Irish person to win a medal at a prestigious Australian flower show.

Peter Donegan won a Gold Medal with The Bam Stone Garden at Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show 2023 – making him the first ever Irish designer to win a medal at the internationally renowned show.

He is also the first Irish person to design and exhibit a show garden for the annual competition.

His winning entry was one of only five to receive the Gold Show Garden Award at the 2023 event which ran from March 29 to April 2.

Peter Donegan (centre) and team pictured at their medal-winning garden

The installation, a 200 square meter show garden, was constructed by Semken Landscaping, who have been building gardens since 1987 and are the most medalled contractor in the flower show's history.

The Bam Stone boasted the Dublin-born designer’s contemporary vision of a love story, depicting two hearts separated by a small island off the coast of Galway to the mainland, and it quickly became popular among the 120,000 visitors to the Melbourne show, which took place at world heritage site The Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens.

Describing the work, the Peter Donegan Garden Design team explained: “Featuring a series of natural bluestone steps that symmetrically weave their way through a rocky landscape, recognisant of the journey made across the Atlantic from the Connemara coast, the destination became a limestone (moleanus) island featuring planting, shelter, and a single autumnal 8 metre tall Liriodendron tulipifera reflecting across the black water, a beacon to those who wish to return to their love.”

They add: “From a garden construction perspective the design and build was a daring one on a site where one cannot penetrate or dig in any way below ground of the Unesco protected world heritage site and became the largest ever garden featuring water in the show’s history and the most difficult build Donegan and Semken have ever undertaken.

Peter Donegan's Irish garden depicts a love story

“The story, albeit interpretive, is of a man hoping, in reality in vain that on the island his beau and he will meet and be together.

“That however is of a daydream and completely plausible by sole virtue of imagination and daydreams where their impossible becomes possible and separation by water no longer exists.

“The garden is also representative of love’s many forms – unrequited love, true love kept apart by distance, or unconditional lovers no longer physically together but never forgotten in the heart.”

In 2001, aged 24, Ms Donegan founded Peter Donegan Garden Design in Dublin.

It swiftly won a host of awards for 17th and 18th century gardens designed and show gardens at national competition.

From 2019 to 2022 The RHS silver medallist became the series garden designer for Ireland’s most watched tv show and RTE television’s DIY SOS The Big Build Ireland.

During his time in Australia, Mr Donegan found time to guest lecture at The Royal Botanic Gardens in Victoria and at Melbourne University.