Judith Irven

Vermont Lanscape and Garden Designer

As a landscape designer I work with space and form, both in response to our human needs and to create a harmonious whole. And as a real gardener I have a passion for beautiful outdoor spaces, as I manipulate color and texture to create an ever-changing tapestry of leaves and flowers.

I bring a unique blend of quantitative (left-brain) and artistic (right-brain) skills to all my endeavors. My initial education and prior work experience was in physics, mathematics, and systems engineering. However, upon coming to Vermont, I changed my life direction to study landscape design at Vermont Technical College and become a professional landscape designer. Today, I draw on this  dual background to design landscapes and gardens that are both sensitive and beautiful, while always cognizant of the practicalities for implementation and usability.

Since starting Outdoor Spaces two decades ago I have created numerous designs for properties of all sizes. The scope of my work ranges from short on-site consultations to the development of large multi-year master plans. Some projects involve the creation of completely new gardens whereas others require the redesign of existing spaces. For some of my larger projects I will oversee plant selection and installation.

My projects cover the gamut, from designing intimate entrance areas and steep hillside gardens, to developing comprehensive landscape plans for multi-acre properties and gardens for public access. In addition, working from architectural and engineering drawings, I have created landscape designs for several yet-to-be-built structures.

I belong to The Perennial Plant Association and to Greenworks: The Vermont Nursery and Landscape Association.  I am also a UVM Extension Master Gardener and a Vermont Certified Horticulturist.  As such I have an excellent knowledge of trees, shrubs and perennials that thrive in the colder climates of North America.

Garden Writer and Speaker

For me, writing and speaking has become the natural outgrowth of helping people create beautiful gardens.  My companion website, North Country Reflections, is devoted to my landscape and garden design articles.  I also write a regular column for the Vermont Country Sampler and for the Addison County Independent, and have had articles published in Horticulture magazine, and I am a member of the Garden Writers Association.

For the past ten years I have been a guest lecturer in the UVM Extension Master Gardener course, where I teach  Sustainable Home Landscaping.

I also give talks to many organizations around Vermont and beyond; you can see a list of my currently available talks on my North Country Reflections website.  I am a regular presenter at the Vermont Flower Show, and have given talks at the Floribunda Flower Show in Norwich, the Shelburne Museum’s Springfest, Stowe’s Garden Days and at various libraries around the state. I have spoken at Garden Clubs in Burlington, Woodstock, Middlebury, Rutland, Warren, St Johnsbury, Arlington, Manchester, Ludlow, Waterbury, Springfield and Newport, Vermont, Chateauguay Valley (Quebec), and for Master Gardener chapters in Rutland, Burlington, Montpelier, and Westport (New York).

In my hands-on workshops students work on an actual garden design during the class. I have given workshops for Master Gardener chapters in Burlington, Rutland and Brattleboro (Vermont) and in Glens Falls (New York), as well as for Adult Education programs in Middlebury and Rutland.

A New England Gardener with Old English Roots

I bring a lifetime of gardening experience to all my work. Growing up in England, my most evocative memories are my parents’ country garden in Kent and outings with my mother to visit some remarkable public gardens. Our many visits to Sissinghurst, the masterpiece created by Harold Nicholson and Vita Sackville-West, were especially powerful.

For the past two decades my husband, Dick Conrad, and I have made our home in Goshen, Vermont in a nineteenth-century mountain farmhouse surrounded by our extensive garden.  Dick, a skilled garden and landscape photographer, took all the pictures you see on this website. You can see more of his photographs, both of our garden and also of the wider Vermont landscape, at his North Country Impressions website.

Our garden comprises about 15 beds containing perennials, shrubs and small trees all selected to thrive in Vermont's northern climate.  It is designed as a series of separate garden spaces linked together by walkways, steps, and lawn.

Garden spaces include an inviting entrance area and a small front garden close to the road.  From here you can take the steps over the huge rock to a small upper patio and on down into the back garden. A uniquely designed gazebo is set in its own garden space where, at the height of summer, we watch the sun setting behind the long perennial bed, a grove of birch trees and the mountains beyond. The garden also features several shady spaces, a large circular fieldstone patio, and a small pond edged with a meadow-inspired garden.

And finally, for the cook, there is a colorful 'garnishing garden' outside the backdoor as well as a European style kitchen garden by the barn up the hill.

Like most gardeners, I am apt to describe our garden as a 'work in progress', while always delighting in sharing it with family, friends and clients.

"What a delightful afternoon spent listening to your talk on landscape design! On behalf of our garden club, thank you for showing us how to create and surround ourselves with both a useful and beautiful environment."

– J. B., Rutland

"Thank you for your design presentation at our Landscaping with Perennials program last month. Your wealth of experience and information on such a popular topic was valuable to everyone, including me!"

– A. I., Westport, NY

"Once again your presentation was fabulous. The slides are incredible, your expertise incredible and everything else so inspiring."

– M. B., Norwich

"I personally want to say how much my friends and I enjoyed your talk on the Winter Garden. You have opened my eyes to a new way of making the long Vermont winter months much more enjoyable!"

– K. C., Rutland