leonie cornelius

wild authentic earth

RTE Supergarden 2015

It’s that time of the year again. The days are getting longer, gardens are starting to explode with colour, and RTE Supergarden is back on the television. The popular garden show which is in it’s seventh series and follows the journey of five amateur garden designers who have five weeks to create a garden for a real client with a budget of €5000. Competing for the winning garden, their aim is to re-create their space for the Bloom in the Park festival in the Pheonix Park on the June bank holiday weekend and show their garden to 110,000 people.

This is my second year to mentor the designers on the show and it is a challenging and yet incredibly rewarding experience.  Being on this side of the process is very different to being a contestant and my first brush with the show was in 2012. I had just finished studying garden design in London and was a little unsure of how to best make people aware of my new design business. After seeing the show mentioned on twitter I made a spur of the moment decision to apply and four days and three interviews later I was accepted and introduced to my clients in Sligo.

The journey of creating a Supergarden is a truly personal one. Not only are you trying to create a functional and beautiful garden for a real client, you are also trying to create a garden that will stand up to the Showgarden test. On top of that you have the added strain of having every move filmed which can be incredibly daunting, especially when you make mistakes…and everyone does.  It’s your business being showcased to a massive audience on primetime TV! I created a garden for the Flynn family in Tonaphubble and I’ll never forget being told I was the winner. For me it was a start into the world of TV and showgardens, both of which I absolutely love doing.

Now as a mentor my aim in the show is really to empower the designers to make the right decisions themselves. There is a fine line between trying to help a designer achieve their design goals and making decisions for them. I try and point them in the right directions for their designs and as a mentor I like to think I am in a supportive role. One thing I have learned over the years is that it is easy to lose yourself in the design process and thus make uninformed decisions. It is invaluable for me now more than ever to run things by people I respect and trust. The best way to make a good decision is: do your research, listen to advice from others and then go with your instinct!

From sophisticated permaculture design to strong formal shapes and bold colours, this year sees a fascinating mix of characters and design styles in the show.  Many different approaches shine through in the gardens, highlighting the different tastes and personalities of the designers. I love working with them all and feel privileged to be allowed to be a part of their process to something great.  The aim is of course to create a well functioning, customised garden that feels beautiful to walk into. It must work for the client and their every day lives and ideally the client becomes a part of the design.

The designer will always have challenges and things always go wrong-that’s all part of design-and good television of course! What is really at the core of it all is trying to find that indescribable alchemy of good spatial awareness, strong planting, sympathetic design and unique character. That little bit of magic that makes a garden more than just a garden.

Meet the contestants:

Grace McCullen

Grace works in marketing and her approach to her clients garden is to treat it like a brand. She certainly runs a tight ship and her progress in the first few weeks was astounding! Her garden features a very sweet living Twig-wam which aims to give the homeowner’s kids a little play area out the back of the garden. Grace’s love for nature showed through in our talks and she told me she spends a lot of time out in her own garden and she grows her own food. Grace’s concept is called ‘Serendipity’ and her aim is to create a garden that has many hidden surprises and elements.

Floris Wagemaker

This man’s passion is food. Whether making for his own business it or growing it in his own garden, he approaches both with the same attention to detail and dedication. When I first met Floris and heard his ideas for the garden I was fascinated by the idea that this garden would bring the feeling of holidaying to the homeowners. His aim is to create a garden that has flowing terracotta walls, a bounty of edible fruit and herbs and a unique tensile structure. I love the idea of olive trees in this walled garden. A very strong design with a lot of spirit Floris aims to bring little bit of the Mediterranean to Tuam!

Zaneta Olzowy

Zaneta grew up in Poland and now studies Landscape design in Dublin. When I first saw her drawings and ideas I was immediately excited by her concept. Her strong connection to the client and the homeowners interior style is a great starting point for a design. The concept of ‘In Love’ was a very pretty one. I am really looking forward to how she makes this concept come to life through hard landscaping and especially planting!

Brian Burke

Brian’s garden has an added challenge in it. The homeowners youngest son suffers from spina bifida and the garden has been virtually inaccessible for him in the past. Brian aims to change this and create a garden based around his and the whole family’s needs. One of the exciting things about this garden is the colour choices Brian is making. He is certainly being bold in combining colours and this is a strong representation of the fun family garden that he wants to create.

Suzie Cahn

Suzie has a wealth of knowledge in permaculture. In fact, she teaches permaculture to adults. For me it was fascinating to delve into the theories behind this approach to living. Suzie says that her concept is about understanding nature and applying it to anything designed by humans and the last time I saw this garden Suzie was creating fascinating, and beautiful areas (or zones) of interest in the garden, each with it’s own unique characteristics. It sounds like it will be fun filled garden with a very strong concept and beautiful planting.

Don’t miss Supergarden every Tuesday on RTE1 at 8.30pm


Wardrobe on RTE Supergarden for Leonie is the new collection of The North Face kindly supplied by The North Face at Call of the Wild, Sligo

Luxury cashmere knitwear by sphere one by Lucy Downes

Photo By: @David Cantwell photography
4 Discussions on
“RTE Supergarden 2015”
  • I just love Supergarden! Such an interesting show and it just gets better every year. I think this season has some very strong competitors. So far, my favourite garden is Suzie Cahn’ s :)

    I also really like your observations; you tend to spot these little details that most ppl miss. And your criticisms are always very polite and constructive. I don’ t know if I’d be that patient if I was in your shoes (hehehe)! Btw I also love your jackets!

    Congrats on the show! Can’ t wait for the next episode…

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