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Ingrid Swan takes up a new role as horticulturist

Early this month, Ingrid Swan joined Clúid as our first ever horticulturist. We caught up with Ingrid to discuss her role, her background in landscape and garden design and the many accolades she has picked up for her designs across the world!

Welcome to Clúid Ingrid! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

Hi, thanks for having me! I am a fully qualified landscape & garden designer and I have taken the new position of Horticulturalist with Clúid. Most of my horticultural knowledge has developed through planting design and my own person passion for gardening and improving public planting schemes.

What will your role as Horticulturist in Clúid involve?

My primary focus will be on creating or guiding planting design that promotes biodiversity while still meeting the expectations of residents. Good quality planting design can elevate an environment while reducing the requirement for maintenance and artificial inputs.

My role will involve liaising with interested residents to help them establish a design proposal for their shared space while offering advice for everyone on how they can establish a garden with biodiversity in mind.

I will also be assessing new and proposed developments to see if there are any amendments or improvements that can be made.

Could you tell us a bit about your background?

I am a landscape & garden designer. I have worked for practice for 12 years and have worked for myself for 10 years. I have worked on a huge range of projects including new village design, stud farms, residential developments and private gardens of various sizes.

We heard you have won a few awards! Can you tell us a little about that?

Yes, I have won a few prizes for my show gardens. I won a gold medal at Bloom in 2014, 2 silver gilt medals in 2015 and a silver gilt medal again in 2016. In 2015 I came 8th in the Japanese Gardening World Cup and in 2021 I won a gold medal in the Greater Bay & Shenzhen Flower Show (China)!

What got you first interested in gardening and gardening design?

My grandmother encouraged us to garden from a very young age. She was probably looking for a cheap workforce! My father and grandfather were also very interested in nature and taught us a lot about our surroundings. In 5th & 6th Class our National School ran a competition with a trophy for the best wildflower scrapbook. I would head off on my bicycle with one of the wildflower books from the bookshelf and see what I could find. They were then pressed and placed in the scrapbook with all the relevant information. Totally frowned upon now to pick wildflowers but back then it was like a treasure hunt.

What interested you about this role in Clúid?

The role interested me for a number of reasons. My father was a socialist and I believe in the concept of social housing. I feel that public landscaping in Ireland is falling so far behind the continent and the US. We have great people working in the industry, but we face huge constraints.

I believe that one area that we can evolve and improve is our public planting design. It should engage people, foster an appreciation for the landscape and promote biodiversity. I see this role as a huge opportunity to demonstrate and document how the New Perennial Movement could be embraced in public spaces of all sizes.

What do you see as your top 3 tasks for your first 6 months/year in Clúid?

I will be working with Susan Vickers, Energy and Environmental Manager, on a design strategy to help residents who wish to start taking a more active role in their public open space. This will provide a framework that residents can work within without compromising the maintenance regime.

Developing Masterplans for projects with Residents

Learning how I can assist and contribute to the Green Strategy

Will you be engaging with residents/NRAG/CRAG etc and what will that interaction involve?

Yes! I see this as possibly one the most enjoyable aspects of the job. It is great to meet people who are interested in developing their space to offer additional benefits to the residents and environment.

I will have to communicate the intention behind the approach to the planting schemes that I am proposing to ensure that everyone understands the benefits and the maintenance requirements.

What is your favourite aspect of your job?

Well my favourite aspect of my profession is seeing people who were reluctant gardeners become enthralled with their outdoor space.

What is your favourite plant / type of planting?

My favourite type of planting is the New Perennial Movement. I adore the work of Roy Diblik and I was like a giggly teen when I got to meet him. Nigel Dunnet and James Hitchmough’s approach to creating plant communities is incredible. I try to read anything that they publish. Their work with Tom Stuart Smith is stunning. They all have an appreciation for the environment and the importance of thinking of how plants relate to one another.

A huge thank you to Ingrid for taking the time to tell us a little more about her and her role in Clúid. We are very excited to see all the results of this hard work and the impact it has on our schemes and residents over the coming months and years.

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