Catherine MacDonald: 10 Years working at Landform

This month our senior garden designer Catherine MacDonald had her 10 year anniversary of working at Landform. We asked her to look back over this time and share some of her reflections.

Left, Catherine in the 2017 Seedlip Garden, photo by Derek St Romaine. | Right, Catherine watering in the 2018 Seedlip Garden, photo by Brian Whar.

How well did you know Mark and the Landform team before you started?

I first met Mark Gregory in 2005, before I started training as a Garden Designer, when I was taking a short design course at Landform’s office run by Andrew Wilson. It was via Mark that I would meet Luciano Giubbilei, who I went on to work with for three & a half years. During my time at Luciano Giubbilei Design I frequently worked alongside Landform, when I was project managing the installation of some of the gardens they were building – including the Wentworth Garden shown on our website.

What was the first project you worked on for Landform, from page to completion?

This would probably be James Wong & David Cubero’s Tourism Malaysia Garden at RHS Chelsea in 2010. I’d started work on this as a consultant before starting at Landform, and was involved in some of the detail design, and then of course I saw it being built and go on to win gold!

Gold medal winning RHS Chelsea Flower Show Garden 2010 Tourism Malaysia, designed by James Wong and David Cubero, built by Landform. Photos by Steve Wooster.

Which are your favourite designs for Landform to date?

As a designer:

– On the residential side I very much enjoyed working on the Wimbledon Garden: my client was very interested in the garden and keen to use a more colourful planting palette than I usually get to work with. I am now working with the same client on a new project which I think is going to be an even more exciting design since the garden is being planned alongside and in harmony with the architecture of the new house.

Wimbledon Garden designed by Catherine MacDonald, built by Landform. Photos by Steve Wooster.

– If I was talking show gardens, I’ve really enjoyed designing all of the gardens I’ve worked on as a solo designer but I suppose the thrill of designing my first ever show garden at RHS Hampton Court in 2012 is hard to top: it was not only a smooth build with a small, skilful team but it also went on to win gold & best in category.

Gold medal winning and Best in Category RHS Hampton Court Flower Show 2012 The Landform Garden, designed by Catherine MacDonald, built by Landform. Photos by Steve Wooster.

As a project manager:

The Australia Garden at RHS Chelsea 2011 is a one hard to beat. Designer Jim Fogarty was brilliant to work with: he produced great details, was decisive and fun! Also, the sponsors were all inclusive and in our role as contractors/project managers we always felt valued and respected. It therefore meant there was a great team atmosphere.

Gold winning RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2011 Australia Show Garden designed by Jim Fogarty, built by Landform. Photos by Steve Wooster.

Which has been the most challenging Show Garden design/build you have worked on for Landform?

That’s a difficult question as you will frequently face challenges when you build show gardens: such intricate designs which we need to help detail & work out how to produce or difficult weather conditions during the build! However, it’s your experience, how you react to any issues and how you overcome them as a team that make designing/building show gardens so exciting and addictive!

I’ll also give you a direct an answer!

In my role as a designer, I think perhaps my Seedlip Garden in 2018 was the most challenging for several reasons:

– I made the choice to use only plants & trees from the Fabacae family which was quite restrictive….

– Some of the details were very tricky to design since there were lots of circles involved! I think Outdoor Design Ltd, who produced the metalwork, including the Peavilion, would probably agree with me here!

And yet, in the end, we pulled it off and won gold so I’m not complaining too much!

Gold winning RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018 Seedlip Garden designed by Catherine MacDonald. Photos by Derek St Romaine.

As project manager for Landform’s RHS Chelsea builds I would say both 2016 & 2017 were tough years since, although there weren’t any major problems (or none that weren’t overcome!), not only was I designing a garden myself in both cases, we were also building at least three other gardens/exhibits as well!

What do you think makes Landform a good company to work with?

Mark has always allowed me creative freedom, offered me numerous opportunities to design at shows and trusted me to run the design team. On top of that, he also continues to provide me with the chance to work alongside many other talented designers as part of the project management team for RHS Chelsea.

I also like working as part of a team. and we have always had a great team at Landform. As a designer, I value and understand the importance of the role of a landscape contractor in helping to bring designers’ visions to life and therefore working as part of a design and build company is very enjoyable and satisfying.

How would you like to see Design at Landform develop in the next ten years?

It would be great to continue to expand the Design Team further, for us to design more show gardens at RHS Shows but also to hopefully enter some of our ongoing larger residential schemes for industry awards. We will also continue to review our approach to design, developing and adapting our ideas to be suitable for changing environment conditions: clients are already becoming more aware of the need to use landscape techniques to combat extreme weather conditions and to introduce plant species that encourage biodiversity. As designers, we are continually researching and experimenting so it will be interesting to see how schemes develop over the next 10 years and how we can incorporate new ideas to produce attractive, eye-catching designs.
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