PGG Chairman Tony Arnold presented Stephen Butler (centre) with a PGG loyal service award .
PGG Chairman Tony Arnold (left) presents Stephen Butler (centre) with a PGG loyal service award .

PGG Chairman Tony Arnold presents Stephen Butler with a PGG loyal service award at Bloom 2019.

Stephen has worked at Dublin Zoo for over 30 years and was instrumental in developing the way in which plants are used for habitat management for the animals at the zoo. By ensuring a better environment for the animals, and at the same time creating a very different visitor experience, his nomination for this award was fully justified.

With over 900 members across Britain and Ireland, the Professional Gardeners Guild (PGG) has been the meeting touchstone for professional gardeners employed in private gardens and estates for over 40 years. Promoting professional contact, sharing information and skills, and training the next generation of professional gardeners.

The Loyal Service Awards are presented normally at each AGM, but this year the award traveled to Bloom and was presented to Stephen Butler to mark his 37 years at Dublin Zoo, as first Head Gardener and then Curator of Horticulture. Stephen’s work is well known in the contribution he made to the incredible transformation of an old Victorian Zoo into a modern-themed landscape, creating naturalistic habitats that visitors can become immersed in while also providing the animals with different plant communities to reflect their natural habitat, and without risking any creature to poisonous plants. His training in England, first with the Royal Parks at Hampton Court Palace, then at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, gave him an excellent foundation to draw on. He also worked in Bangladesh, first as a volunteer as a horticulturalist at a newly formed government development academy, then as a horticultural administrator with a large aid organisation. This gave Stephen a very different perspective on plants, people pressure, and the need to conserve and protect the wonderful life of this planet.

Stephen talks about his experience as a PGG member, “I joined the PGG in 1996, seeing other past students from RBG Kew being involved was a great motivator. The next year the Irish Garden Plant Society held its AGM at Glenveagh Castle Gardens in Donegal, and while chatting to Sean O’Gaoithin Head Gardener, and mulling over a few past PGG Journals, we convinced each other to try for a PGG meeting in Dublin. That first meeting did indeed attract about 12 hardy gardeners to Dublin Zoo, and for the next few years Sean, the late Peter Hynes (Birr Castle), and myself (apologies if I’ve forgotten anyone!) pulled and pushed to keep a few meetings around the country, always well organised by the relevant host garden, and always interesting, always something learned, and great camaraderie. It is great to see the PGG still going strong, especially in Ireland. Social media may be useful, but there is nothing like a meeting, walking, chatting, looking, and comparing with professional colleagues. Between the Journals, the meetings all over Ireland and Britain, the trainee scheme, and the collective knowledge, the Guild is, without doubt, one of the premier organisations for horticulture.”

For more information on the Professional Gardeners Guild (PGG) log onto or you can contact the Irish rep Brian O Donnell at 086-828 5915.

Thanks to Joseph Blair for the photograph.

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