Bernard Trainor

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Bernard Trainor

Bernard Trainor

In 1995 Australian-born garden designer Bernard Trainor arrived in California and made it his life’s work to capture the ‘wild soul of California’ with gardens that celebrate their setting.

Growing up on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, Bernard had been fascinated with landscape while roaming dunes and beaches and observing plants that thrived despite harsh conditions. These deep-rooted experiences created the foundations for his studio’s design projects.

Along the rugged Pacific coast of California, he found echoes of Australia and his seamless gardens now capture much of the living spirit and rugged beauty of California.

As principal and design director of Bernard Trainor + Associates, he is involved with his studio team on every landscape project, from conception to completion, ranging from town-scale gardens to extensive rural properties.

A cornerstone of his approach is resource conservation. ‘I try to be responsive to today,’ he says, ‘to what’s important now’. Beginning with an impulse towards economy, he explains, ‘I aim to be frugal with design and materials, stripping away ornament, focusing on what’s essential and logical for each location and seeing how little I can do for the greatest impact.

Because I came in through horticulture rather than landscape architecture, I hadn’t been exposed to concepts like ‘sustainability’, or ‘the genius of the place’. I figured them out for myself the hard way—made mistakes—and taught myself along the way’.

Rather than trying to recreate the past, Trainor mines the details of each place—its native plants, rocks and soil, climate, topography, regional architecture, culture and history. Recently, he finds inspiration from painting landscapes. ‘In this way, I gain new insights into old landscapes’.

Distilling all this, he conceives contemporary landscapes that belong where they are and offer comfortable places from which to experience the living world.

Bernard proved a great speaker at our 2007 Conference and since then, many people have asked us to invite him once more. Clearly, his work has evolved significantly and we will be in for quite a feast!



Presentation OneDesigning Spaces: with the borrowed landscape or for ‘place, privacy, and solitude’.

We shall consider the process of designing larger gardens with the broader landscape in mind, particularly gardens with a direct physical and visual relationship with more extensive surroundings.

Such designs are about not messing up what is already there – and finding a connection to the existing, rather than manufacturing place.

We then consider designing smaller mostly urban gardens with a totally different context to the larger rural gardens. These are gardens that have almost no direct physical and visual relationship with natural surroundings and usually require designs to create ‘place, privacy, and solitude’ – an escape from chaos.


Presentation TwoPlanting Design: thoughtful planting strategies and methods.

Surprisingly, planting design is not always a key component for many design and architecture firms, but Bernard has always treated it as an ‘equal’ in overall design considerations.

Bernard will demonstrate how he develops thoughtful planting schemes as a vital component of the identity of each garden. Using documentation, maps and images throughout the process, Bernard will reveal how he formulates ideas and arrives at the finished project.