Anne-Marie Powell and Alan Gray – Opening Event

Talks by leading UK garden designers Alan Gray and Ann-Marie Powell

A special evening to mark the start of the 2024 Carlow Garden Festival. Embark on a journey through East Ruston Old Vicarage with renowned garden designer Alan Gray, and discover the magic behind its transformation from a blank canvas into what is regarded as one of England’s finest private gardens. Following this, the stage belongs to the acclaimed UK garden designer, Ann-Marie Powell, fresh from her win of the People’s Choice Award at RHS Chelsea. Her infectious enthusiasm for all things gardening is bound to captivate the audience. Delve into her world as she shares her profound insights in “A Passion for Plants – Ann-Marie Powell Opens her Garden Notebook,” promising an evening brimming with inspiration and botanical insights.

Expect lively discussions, anecdotes, and just a hint of humour!

  • Unveiling Creativity: East Ruston Old Vicarage

    East Ruston Old Vicarage in Norfolk stands as a testament to the power of imagination and ingenuity. Through his presentation, Alan shares the meticulous process of crafting mixed hedgerows, sculpting banks, cultivating wildflower havens and nurturing tranquil ponds. The garden showcases a variety of themes, from formal to exotic, and features different styles such as Mediterranean, Japanese and contemporary.

  • A Passion for Plants – Ann-Marie Powell Opens her Garden Notebook

    Ann-Marie Powell’s passion for plants bursts forth like a garden in full bloom. For Ann-Marie, every plant has its own personality, its own place, and its own purpose – leading to her studio’s mantra of Plants, People, Place.

    Her design philosophy is grounded in the belief that gardens should be immersive experiences, inviting people to connect with the environment on a sensory level. Anne-Marie cherishes the way plants awaken the senses, from the gentle rustle of leaves in the wind to the heady perfume of blossoms on a warm summer’s day. Ann-Marie seeks to celebrate the diversity of plant life, creating harmonious compositions that showcase a wide array of species. She believes that every garden, regardless of size or location, has the potential to be a sanctuary for biodiversity, supporting local ecosystems and providing havens for wildlife.

    This special presentation sees Ann-Marie open her cherished garden notebook, brimming with lots of ideas and tips from her horticultural adventures. This is a rare opportunity for attendees to delve into the depths of Ann-Marie’s botanical passions, to glean insights into her favourite finds and most cherished gems.

Date: 27 July 2024

Start Date: 27 July 2024

Start Time: 7:30 pm

End Date: 27 July 2024

End Time: 7:30 pm

Time: 7:30 pm

Admission: €25. Groups 10+: 10% discount. Warm clothing recommended for this evening event. Enjoy late shopping in Arboretum Home and Garden Heaven until 10 p.m. Two course buffet meal with tea/coffee in Rachel’s Garden Café €22.95 5 – 7 p.m. Choice of three main courses and choice from the dessert counter.

Directions: R93 P9F4. From Dublin/Waterford take Exit 6 on M9 motorway and follow signs for Leighlinbridge. Arboretum Home and Garden Heaven is 3km from Exit 6 located immediately off the R448 at Leighlinbridge. Visitors travelling from Carlow Town should follow the R448.

Type of event: Indoors under roofed plant area. Opportunity to view Arboretum Inspirational Gardens outdoors, either before or after the talk.

  • About Alan Gray

    Alan Gray began his working life employed by Anglia Television in Norfolk, England as a mail boy delivering the internal mail in this busy award-winning television company. It was a lowly position but to a starry eyed youngster it was show business and all the glamour that that entailed. After a few years he had worked his way up the ladder, eventually becoming a film editor until the day he realised, that to further his career he would need to spread his wings. Eventually he felt confident to break away from the safety of Anglia Television and become a free lance film editor in London. His move to the metropolis was further prompted when he met Graham his partner, now husband, who have now been together for over 50 years, something of an achievement in this day and age.

    Little did he realise that great changes were around the corner, for suddenly he was presented with the chance to run a prestigious store selling English antiques, many of which found their way to the United States. An American antique dealer called Alistair Steel from New York City was a frequent buyer. Alistair liked the idea that Alan could search the length and breadth of Great Britain finding fine quality furniture that had not been seen in the trade. Alan’s shop in London was situated in Crawford Street in the heart of the West End and was laid out like a country home. Here flowers played an important part adding luxurious and homely touches to his displays and allowing potential customers to see how his furniture might look in their homes.

    By this time Alan and Graham had bought a country house for themselves in Norfolk around 120 miles from London. The Old Vicarage at East Ruston was their bolt hole that they retired to every weekend where they enjoyed creating a garden. This garden provided much of the flowers and foliage that Alan used in his shop. With the passage of time and with the advent of modern technology they were able to move to the Old Vicarage full-time, Alan to garden and Graham building an office in the garden from which he runs his business. Their garden is now regarded as one of the foremost modern gardens in Great Britain. It occupies a 32-acre site and is a labour of love that is open to visitors for eight months of the year, it is also a partnership garden to the Royal Horticultural Society for which it raises money.

    Alan Gray is a regular contributor to BBC Radio’s ‘Garden Party’ each weekend helping listeners with their horticultural queries large or small. The programme where no question is too silly to ask, the aim is to promote gardening and the fun, fitness, excitement and sheer delight that it brings to old and young alike.

    Together with friend and gardening colleague, Thordis Fridriksson, Alan has a podcast aptly named, ‘Talking Dirty’. They invite interesting people from the world of gardening to share tips, tricks and knowledge. Packed with information on all aspects of gardening and horticulture the aim is to share the love that we have for this rather special occupation with humour and fun.

  • About Ann-Marie Powell

    Ann-Marie Powell founded her practice in 1998 after gaining a distinction in NCH Garden Design and Hard Landscape Studies. Since then, she has become one of the UK’s most innovative garden designers, creating ground-breaking and uplifting gardens backed by experience.

    Alongside heading her successful studio, she has authored three books on garden design and writes regularly for national magazines and newspapers including The Telegraph, Gardens Illustrated and The English Garden. She revels in social media with regular blog posts via her website and lively X, Facebook and Instagram feeds.

    Ann-Marie has also presented over 20 different garden design, garden history and pure garden programmes, including 2016’s coverage of RHS Chelsea for the BBC and prime time BBC2 series ‘The Great Garden Challenge’ which aired in 2015.

    An experienced Chelsea exhibitor, described by the Editor of The Garden Design Journal, as “a TV and flower show veteran in experience, not years”, her work was awarded a Silver Flora medal in 2011 and Gold in 2010. She is also an RHS Hampton Court Gold Medallist (2015) and was selected by the Royal Horticultural Society to design their own garden at RHS Chelsea in 2016, and BBC Countryfile to design their 600 sq. metre landmark garden at RHS Hampton Court in 2018. Her most recent Octavia Hill Garden by Blue Diamond with the National Trust scooped the People’s Choice Award and the inaugural RHS Children’s Choice Award at RHS Chelsea in 2024!

    Ann-Marie is also extremely proud to have been asked in 2016 to become a patron of Greenfingers, a charity dedicated to supporting children with short lives and their families who use hospices around the UK by creating beautiful, well-designed outdoor spaces.

    She is also honoured to be a Society of Garden Designer’s Award judge and a Designate Judge and Garden Selection Panel member for RHS Shows.

    When she’s not working, you’ll find her in her own garden…. or at a festival, theatre, gallery or concert. After all, life is for living.




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