Creating a Super Garden

Our Garden Design graduate, Catriona Hassett, is participating in RTE’s Super Garden where five would-be gardeners are challenged with transforming ordinary gardens into show gardens. We caught up with Caitriona to find out more about her interest in garden design and her experience of participating in Super Garden.

You can vote online for Catriona's garden.

Congratulations on being chosen to participate in RTE’s Super Garden. We’re delighted to be able to catch-up with you today as we know you’ve been really busy since the show aired. So what was it like participating in Super Garden?
It was a very intense four-week period of working and filming but the experience was amazing. It was my first real project with a client but I always had confidence in my design and that really helped me succeed.

How did you get shortlisted for a place on Super Garden?
Soon after graduating with my Postgraduate Diploma from the Garden Design Academy of Ireland, I applied for the Super Garden series. I was initially interviewed over the phone and then I submitted a design which they really liked.

What was it like working with the client’s brief as well as being under the judges’ eyes?
I actually didn't mind that at all, I felt that my design first and foremost met the client’s needs. The judges are experts in their fields with many years’ experience, so I was happy to take on board their feedback.

Were there any challenging moments on Super Garden?
The budget for Super Garden was challenging, as was the availability of good resources. It also rained nearly every day of the build but these were all real-life challenging scenarios. There was a lot of budget juggling and plenty of late nights and phone calls to friends to help out.

How did your Postgraduate Diploma prepare you for participating on Super Garden?
The course itself was vital in teaching me the practical design skills needed to execute an interesting and unique design. I also chatted with former Garden Design Academy students and tutors who had participated in Super Garden over the years and their advice was very helpful.

RTE Super Garden contestant and Garden Design Academy of Ireland graduate, Catriona Hassett, in her Outback Oasis garden. Image courtesy RTE/Vision Independent Productions (VIP)

Were there any techniques that you learnt on your course that you used on your Super Garden design?
There were plenty. Using the principles of good design is really the most fundamental starting point. Creating a space with balance and proportion and incorporating points of interest is so important to give different experiences while wandering through the garden. Also critical is using the site aspect to position seating areas correctly. And in this garden, making the most of the existing landscape, where possible, allowed me to capture stolen views of beautiful neighbourhood trees.

As a recent graduate of the Garden Design Academy of Ireland, what initially prompted you to pursue your interest in garden design?
I always had an interest in gardening and design. I recently returned to live in Ireland and I decided I wanted to do something more creative. So I gave up my day job and enrolled on the Postgraduate Diploma in Garden Design and also on the Postgraduate Diploma in Interior Design.

What attracted you to the Garden Design Academy of Ireland?
For me it was the content of the garden design course and being able to complete a number of hands-on practical garden designs. In addition, the opportunity to do a one-month work placement after the course convinced me that this was a really worthwhile course. It offered me the possibility of pursuing a real career in garden design.

Did the course meet your expectations?
The course content was fantastic and really gave me the confidence and tools to understand design. Importantly, it enabled me to execute real life projects. While the assignments were intense and demanding, completing the course and graduating with my Postgraduate Diploma in Garden Design gave me a great sense of achievement and has given me the confidence to believe in myself as a capable designer.

How has completing the course helped you launch your career?
There are lots of garden designers out there but having an educational qualification in garden design really helps to set you apart from the competition.

Would you recommend the course?
Absolutely, I would highly recommend the course. I found the course a great way to get a solid foundation in garden design and to give me direction in terms of getting my own business off the ground.

What would winning Super Garden mean to you?
Entering Super Garden was just a phenomenal experience from start to finish, it really gave me the belief in myself as a designer. Winning the series would just be the icing on top. It would help me get recognition in the garden design field and it would hopefully kick-start my garden design business .

What does the future hold for you now?
Right now I am focussed on setting-up my garden design business, Urban Outback Gardens. And I’m looking forward to working on some new and interesting design jobs.

RTE Super Garden contestants including Garden Design Academy of Ireland graduate, Catriona Hassett (centre). Image courtesy RTE/Vision Independent Productions (VIP)

The winning Super Garden will be announced at Bloom on Friday 31st May. You can also vote online for your favourite garden (voting has now closed).

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Written by: Ciarda Barrett

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