Večernji list on Dionaea Gardens and their project in Rwanda

Večernji list published the story of Dionaea Gardens on Women's Day 2020. Journalist Srđan Hebar was interested in many topics, most notably the recently completed One&Only resort project in Rwanda.

About landscape architecture

What is the difference between architects who design buildings and you who take care of the landscape, parks, plants, trees, swings, streams, ponds...

- We work with living material. A brick is always a brick. And when it comes to plants, there is a lot to take into account. It is necessary to adapt to the climate, to choose species suitable for a particular climatic type. Even within Croatia itself, there are big differences. An important factor is what the soil is like, whether the location is exposed to wind, should more resistant plants be planted. At the seaside, by the coast, sea salt spray is also a problem. So, we need to consider plants that can withstand it. I say, we work with living material, which is also sensitive to transport. And when we acquire it, we first need to temporarily store it somewhere, water it, care for it, and then – transport it and plant it to its permanent location. The factor of time is also important. Plants grow. It should be predicted that plants will grow, that they will develop, what will happen to them in 10, 15 or 50 years.

How much does an oak, for example, cost?

- 300 kuna. And it can be 100,000 kuna. It is not the same whether it is two years old or 50 years old, if it has a circumference of five centimeters or a meter or more, does it come in a 10-litre container or 3000-litre container, whether you can load one tree per truck or 500 trees per truck for transport.

Where do you get the plants?

- In Italy. That's where we go shopping. We go on a trip for at least a week. We get shrubs and Mediterranean plants from Bari. There are beautiful pines, olives and other trees in Rome. We also buy from Veneto and Tuscany. We usually go shopping with a list. We know what we want because the plants are for a specific project. We drive through nurseries and I mark the trees I like. I watch out to see if the trunks are straight, and if the canopies are properly developed. Because some trees will be the same size, have the same price, but their canopies will not be the same. I'm always looking for the perfect tree, be it oak, magnolia, lemon, palm... Transportation can present a problem. Some of the oaks we have planted in the past were taller than ten meters, we needed a whole truck to transport just that one tree.
How much material does it take to do the landscape of a hotel?
- Well, to be precise, we needed 563 trucks of material to do the landscape of the Bellevue Hotel in Lošinj's Čikat Bay. Of these, 475 trucks were planting soil, 65 trucks were roof garden soil and 23 trucks were plants and lawn rolls. When we were doing the Lafodia Hotel on Lopud Island, we had to bring in palm trees, oleanders, cypresses from Dubrovnik by tugboat... We also spent the night on the pier after the plants were unloaded to watch out for them. There are no vehicles on Lopud, so we transported the palm trees with a forklift.

What do you plant on hotel roofs?

- At the Bellevue Hotel, on the part of the roof above the kitchen, we made - a herb garden. The hotel has its own chives, rosemary, mint, basil, thyme, fennel. The chef really gets to the roof, gathers what he needs and goes back to the stove. And the hotel’s bartender, when making mojitos, for example, can go to the roof and pick fresh mint.

The largest office in Croatia is run by women

20 years ago, you also participated in the project for the EXPO in Hanover, namely the Croatian Pavilion, an exhibition of Croatian land under the glass floor. How many square meters have you done in your career?

- Hundreds of thousands of square meters, who would know ... Landscape architecture is, colloquially, landscape design of gardens and parks. And in reality, it means turning a construction site into a place for enjoyment. Made of earth and concrete, a place where people can have - a little paradise. Whether it is private investors or large tourist chains. There are six landscape architects in the company, I don’t know if any other bureau has more. Maybe only Zagreb's Zrinjevac. The team consists of Irena Kolega, as the main associate for two decades now, and the young forces Ivana, Martina, Ana and Lovro. He is the only man in our office. We also have about fifteen field workers. And two are from - Nepal! One is called Rohit and the other Nanda. They are Buddhists. Four more workers from Nepal are coming soon. Recruitment is a big problem, and they want to work. We have an extremely good team. It is important to say that our part most often comes last at a construction site. We are the last to leave the site after construction, sometimes we literally pass the first guests as they arrive. Sometimes we also work at night, so as not to get in the way of other workers. For example, 15 lemon trees need to be planted, and the floors have already been laid, so they need to be carefully carried in without any damage to the marble floor, and they weigh, mind you, more than a ton.

What is the situation, from the professional point of view, with the parks in the metropolis?

- Better parks were those that were done in Zagreb in the sixties and seventies. They were carefully thought out back then, each neighbourhood was built with a park. A good example is Novi Zagreb, which, as far as parks are concerned, is brilliantly designed. There is a good ratio of green areas and residential ones there. On the other hand, Kajzerica is an old neighbourhood, where multi-storey apartment buildings are replacing family houses. It's either a parking lot or it's a building. There are almost no green areas.

Do you agree to the wishes of investors such as - placing garden dwarfs?

- No. There are no garden dwarfs in our projects, no lions, no planting of bonsai trees in the garden. If a project requires the devastation of nature, let's say that mobile homes are being planned at a campsite so that a quality tree has to be removed, we do not want to participate in that. Money doesn't help there. Someone can make their own garden, plant something any way they like, but for public parks, hotels, tourist resorts, a professional approach - is necessary... Just like in interior design, it is important that the designer is the one who chooses the best suited plants, who pays attention to the distance between them, who properly designs a park with benches, ponds, paths, pergolas. Plants are only a part of landscape architecture, there is also nature protection, anticipation of human movement in an area, rehabilitation of devastated terrains, design of building elements in the environment...

Read the full text at: https://www.vecernji.hr/vijesti/vikend-medu-gorilama-za-dvoje-50-000-kuna-1384813