It is always humbling to read the thoughts of another on my work in this case of the gardens I designed at Historial de la Grande Guerre Château de Péronne in The Australian Institute of Horticulture Hort Insights magazine.
I think, that view matters just a bit much more when it’s from a fellow professional. Have a read below…..
My thanks as always for your excellent work Alan Burnell, Andrew Prowse & Jason Summers. And notable are the reads of the work by Clare Isles on biodiversity, Damon Abdi, Ph.D. at Louisiana State University Agriculture Centre and of ecological restoration work by TLCC.
Looking very much forward to speaking at your conference and, awards next month.
A symbolic journey from war to peace.
At Historial de la Grande Guerre.
Landscape designer, Peter Donegan, has notched up a list of achievements that read like a who’s who of international garden designs. From the design of a 27 acre 17th Century estate and a 55 acre 18th century estate, to rooftop domestic gardens, to show gardens at international competitions, and a series garden designer for Ireland’s most watched television show to name but a few. However he is probably best known in Australia for his gold medal winning 200 m2 show garden, an Irish love story, at Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show 2023, which he attests is his most difficult show garden build to date.
But of real live gardens where one can visit 365 days a year, it seems Donegan has a habit of hiding the burdensome and baffling and instead creating the wondrous that woos and warms, where the equations are hidden and the visiting public put simply stay longer.
In 2018, he was one of 14 designers selected globally to design a series of Peace Gardens to commemorate the centenary of the ending of WW1. All were to be realised at historic locations in Northern France and this Irish horticulturist was handed the dried up moat of 13th Century Château de Péronne, which sits 30 feet below street level.
The backdrop it is worth noting: it had fallen in the Franco Prussian War, the first and again in the second World War. His remit, loosely stated, was to bring people into a place where only bad things had happened and for them to smile. He recalls with a smile, “the main difficulty of the build was the one access point in – from the street down.”
Fast-track to 2022 and he is invited to return there to work directly with the castle (also known as Historial de la Grande Guerre) to design his second garden. In this case it is in the internal courtyard of the defence castle and the emblem of the town that is also home to Europe’s largest war museum.
The trouble he notes is that “the building was designed to prevent people – and machinery – from getting in.”
Placed over two and a half levels, the backdrops are a combination of a mass of Henri Cyriani brutalist concrete, a medieval facade standing four stories high meeting a continuous arched red brick walls and finally, an internal floor completely of concrete.
His brief here was to include a full size panzer tank and, to inspire and attract a newer younger minded audience to the museum.
Donegan attributes being allowed to change the face of a town with such memories as testament to his back catalogue and vision and that both were inaugurated with the presence of the Irish
Ambassador and the Irish Embassy Paris.
Three vears on and the first garden feels like it has always been there, the second designed to assimilate but feel new. and tours of both gardens are part of the resident historians tours to the 100,000 plus annual visitors. Historial de la Grande Guerre has made the symbolic journey from war to peace.
Donegan will present on his experience with the Peace Garden project at the AIH Annual Awards in Cairns, October 2023.