Born: February 1st, 1944
Died: May 4th, 2021
The well-known and widely appreciated garden designer and architect Angela Jupe has died. Renowned for the beautiful gardens that she designed around the various homes she owned throughout her life, Jupe lived for the last number of years in Bellefield House, Shinrone, Co Offaly, where she restored a walled garden, planted native trees and created a bog area managed for biodiversity. In her will, she bequeathed this property – her last personal project – to the Royal Horticultural Society of Ireland (RHSI).
Jupe was a long-standing member of the board of the RHSI and a founding member and first chairman of the Garden and Landscape Designers Association (GLDA). A visionary thinker who encouraged others to take risks and imagine the impossible, she was passionate about Irish gardens and gardening skills. Her wish was to see Irish gardens marketed as an independent tourist attraction outside of the Irish Country Houses, Castles and Gardens branding. She was also a founder member of Network for Women in Business.
A great supporter of young gardeners, Jupe offered practical training in her own garden. Horticulturist Paul Smyth, who did a work placement at Bellefield and went on to work alongside Jupe for 10 years, recalls her speaking about how neglected the walled garden was when she purchased the property in 2004. “She told me you had to crawl on your knees through the brambles and willow to get to the first clearing that she would later transform into a non-traditional walled garden with her distinctive flair,” says Smyth.
The stables and walled garden at Bellefield hadn’t been used for more than 30 years when Jupe moved there from her previous restoration project at Fancroft Millhouse in Co Tipperary. The latter property had been empty for 12 years before Jupe purchased and restored it in 1997, when she first moved out of Dublin in the late 1990s.
No gardening challenge was too great for her and her sheds and barns were full of all sorts of salvaged materials. She was a recycling enthusiast before sustainability and biodiversity became fashionable. Not only did she renovate the houses and restore gardens, she also developed the outbuildings at Fancroft and Bellefield as holiday accommodation for visitors.
Jupe was also an avid plant hunter and picked up specimens on her trips across Ireland, in the UK, France and beyond. Snowdrops were her favourite flowers and she opened her gardens at Bellefield to the public every spring so visitors could enjoy what was one of the biggest collections of snowdrops in Ireland. Her collections of old French roses, Nerines, Irises and Peonies were also spectacular.
Jupe’s first rare and special plant fair at Fancroft was one of the first of its kind in Ireland. “Her early plant fairs were legendary, attracting huge crowds before they became a commonplace fixture in the Irish horticultural calendar which they are today,” says Smyth.
Jupe oversaw the establishment of the annual GLDA seminar, bringing international design luminaries such as James van Sweden and Piet Oudolf to Ireland. Speaking at one of the first GLDA’s annual seminars, Jupe said that one of her concerns was that the complete sensual enjoyment of gardens was no longer part of the brief for many contemporary designers. “Some modern landscape architecture feeds only the eyes and forgets that we have noses for scent and hands for touch. The low maintenance garden has a lot to answer for. Not only is there too much hard landscaping but it leads to plants that grow into a little circle requiring no pruning, care or attention,” she said.
Jupe was an only child and from the age of five she had her own garden patch in the grounds of her parents’ home. Her aunt, Ruby, who had a walled garden in Co Tipperary, also nurtured her love of horticulture. Her father, who worked on the railways, died when she was young and she and her mother, Mary, had to leave the railway cottage that came with his job. They moved to Clontarf where she tended the large garden at their home.
Following school, Jupe gained a Dublin Corporation scholarship to study architecture at University College Dublin. She graduated in the late 1960s and worked for various Dublin-based architectural firms. She later worked as head of the design team at the Industrial Development Agency (IDA) and was the lead architect on the modernist style Braun factory in Carlow town. A sideways move saw her travel widely for the IDA marketing the Irish services industry and later providing training to developing countries.
In 1984 she set up her own architectural practice which specialised in period restoration. In the late 1980s she realised there was a career opportunity for her to combine her professional skills as an architect with her passion for gardening. She studied at the John Brookes School of Garden Design at Denmans in West Sussex. Back home she set up the Traditional Gardening Company, specialising in garden design and construction.
Jupe also ran one of the first specialist garden shops in Ireland. The Garden Furnishing Company stocked everything from historic statuary to antiques. Long-standing residents of Upper Leeson Street will remember the magnificent Wisteria mural painted on the façade. And residents of Leinster Road, Rathmines will also recall the beautiful garden she designed around the detached property she lived in before she moved to the midlands.
Jupe suffered from ill health throughout her life although she never let it get in the way of her plans and projects. She never went anywhere without having her dog by her side and was known to sneak her canine friend into hotel rooms on various occasions. The RHSI plan to reopen Bellefield in due course to honour Jupe’s wishes for the public to enjoy the gardens and for gardening students to learn the art and craft of gardening.
Angela Jupe is survived by a wide circle of friends in the gardening world and cousins.