The Sustainable Seafood Garden hooked the top prize at Bloom yesterday.

And what a catch it was for the garden designer, Andrew Christopher Dunne, from the coastal fishing village of Cloherhead, Co Louth.

“I am delighted, excited, and exhausted,” said Dunne, whose garden was sponsored by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).

The garden features two piers, one traditional and one modern, to highlight how the very old tradition of fishing has been developed.

It has a large water feature with shimmering fish sculptures and an “upcycled” fishing boat which doubles as a kitchen.

There will be cookery demonstrations held on the boat throughout the weekend using sustainably sourced seafood.

Packed crowds at opening of the five-day Bloom Festival in Dublin’s Phoenix Park yesterday. Pic: Michael Donnelly/Collins Photos

The overall showgarden was announced as Bord Bia, which has organised and run the event for 12 years, opened the gates to the five-day festival in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.

Dunne said the judges “absolutely loved” his garden: “They really thought the garden transported them to another place, which is always a good compliment.”

The judges were particularly impressed with the level of detail — the cracks and crevices planted with weeds and the posts and ropes.

“We had four weeks to create the showgarden. I have an amazing team and we all worked insanely hard,” said Dunne.

“When I got my brief I really had to rack my brain but I live in Clogherhead, a lovely fishing village, and that is where I got my inspiration. 

The ‘Marie Keating Foundation Sunsmart Garden’ in Phoenix Park yesterday. Pic: Michael Donnelly

"I went to my local fishmonger, got a bowl of chowder, and sat down by the side of the pier thinking, ‘How on earth am I going to turn the brief into a garden?’ 

"Then I realised the answer was right there in front of me.”

It is Dunne’s third time creating a showgarden at Bloom. All of his gardens have won gold medals and it is his second time to achieve the title of Best in Show.

GOAL’s garden to highlight gender inequality was awarded a gold medal, much to the surprise of Cork landscape architect and Bloom first-timer Cornelia Raftery.

The garden represents some of the female-led interventions that are progressing change in less developed countries.

President Michael D Higgins opened the Bloom festival yesterday and said GOAL’s garden was a most fitting tribute to the endurance and resilience of rural women, particularly in Africa where women constitute the backbone of the rural economy.

President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina at the FBD Insurance ‘Deep Play’ garden, designed by Niall Maxwell and Marina Andreeva, which won a gold medal. Pic: Julien Behal

Raftery said the judges were impressed by her use of tall posts holding large, produce-filled baskets and wrapped in colourful material acknowledging women’s strength and resilience.

“They also liked the overall message of the garden that by working together we can envision a time where there are no limits to what women can achieve in the developing world and the role they can play in society,” she said.

Fresh from his Chelsea Flower Show medal win, Billy Alexander, from Kells Bay Gardens in Kerry, received a gold medal and Best in Show award in Bloom’s Nursery and Floral Pavilion.

He picked up a Silver-gilt medal at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show after showcasing his tree-fern exhibition at the renowned event.

Alexander showed garden enthusiasts at Bloom a bigger example of his uniquely curated, densely matured, and extensive tree-fern forest that won him a cascade of compliments at Chelsea.

The ‘Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin Garden’ at Bloom. Pic: Michael Donnelly

Last year, Alexander won the Best in Show award at Bloom for his fern garden.

“I have been in the tree-fern business for 20 years and usually win gold at Bloom. I have eight gold medals and have been coming here for 11 years,” he said.

Alexander said he wanted to show the magnificence and beauty of ferns from around the world that are all growing happily in Kells Bay on the Ring of Kerry.

“The exhibit revolves around the exotic, natural environment of the fern and their role in the evolution of plants.,” he said.

Ten-year-olds Tyler Moloney, top, and Kyle Rooney joined their fellow students from St. Brendan’s Boys National School in Artane in Dublin.

Mr Higgins said Bloom provides a vital opportunity to reflect on the sustainability of our actions, and mode of living, as individuals and as a national community.

“I am speaking not only of ecological sustainability, but sustainability in our economic and social life, and whether we can and will meet the challenge of providing the necessary materials and environment to ensure human flourishing in its widest sense,” he said.


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