Bloom medal winners yesterday basked in glory before the rain came down.

A show garden inspired by the rugged Connemara Coast won the main award, and a sky dark and heavy with rain provided a dramatic backdrop yesterday.

Designed by Oliver and Liat Schurmann of Mount Venus Nursery, it was announced as the overall large garden winner at the start of the 11th annual five-day flower and food festival in the Phoenix Park, Dublin.

The green-fingered couple have entered the garden design competition every year and have previously secured seven Bloom awards.

“It is a great playground to do something exceptional, to expose an idea, something that you would not have a chance to do for a client, and to show it to so many people,” said Oliver.

Orla Matthews, 3, and Alice Matthews, 6, from Buckingham, at Strawberry Beds by Maeve O’Neill at the opening of Bord Bia’s 11th Bloom festival in the Phoenix Park, Dublin. Picture: Gareth Chaney Collins
Orla Matthews, 3, and Alice Matthews, 6, from Buckingham, at Strawberry Beds by Maeve O’Neill at the opening of Bord Bia’s 11th Bloom festival in the Phoenix Park, Dublin. Picture: Gareth Chaney Collins

“It is about showing off what you can do, creating something that remains memorable. This garden is going to be ripped apart. It is only rock, water, earth, and plants. It is of no value, but people can be inspired by it.”

Oliver said he got the idea a year ago for his prizewinning ‘Transition’ garden, then started playing around with it. He already has a few ideas for next year’s show.

All of the competitors were given less than three weeks to set up their gardens. Asked whether it was enough time, Oliver said: “Well, if you work 14 hours a day it is enough time.”

The FBD Insurance sponsored-garden is a water landscape with a dramatic tidal effect, transformed by lowering the water level. Landmasses and islands appear and form a new landscape and then disappear again.

RTÉ presenter Marty Whelan and Bloom guests as RTÉ broadcast live from the event. Picture: Maxwellphotography.ie
RTÉ presenter Marty Whelan and Bloom guests as RTÉ broadcast live from the event. Picture: Maxwellphotography.ie

A nearly transparent, modernist steel and glass structure emphasises how important it is that buildings and structures have a minimum impact on what is a vulnerable landscape.

“The garden is really about how a structure — a house, should impose as little as possible in a fragile landscape,” said Oliver. “And once you have achieved that, then your house melts in with the landscape, and you melt in with it and it gives you a very calming feeling.”

The Oxfam Ireland and Goal garden, ‘A World Beyond Walls’, designed by previous Bloom medal winner Niall Maxwell received the Best Concept Garden award for creating a vibrant social garden to highlight the need for tolerance and acceptance in an increasingly divided world.

“The judges were looking for good execution and good ideas,” said Niall. “They liked our garden because it was quite bold and brave.”

‘Despicable Me 3’ garden by Brid Conroy at the 11th Bloom festival in the Phoenix Park, Dublin. Picture: Gareth Chaney Collins
‘Despicable Me 3’ garden by Brid Conroy at the 11th Bloom festival in the Phoenix Park, Dublin. Picture: Gareth Chaney Collins

It was Niall’s first time to create a garden with a sponsor and he felt there was a greater onus on him to make it the best it could be.

New to Bloom, Kerry furniture designer Tricia Harris was delighted to have won a silver medal in the small garden category for an urban garden.

The garden, a creative sanctuary called ‘A Space to Collaborate’, was one of the 22 show gardens demonstrating excellence and innovation in Irish design.

Senan Hosford, 3, and Ruth Johnston at the Flúirse Fingal garden at Bloom 2017. Picture: Andres Poveda
Senan Hosford, 3, and Ruth Johnston at the Flúirse Fingal garden at Bloom 2017. Picture: Andres Poveda

Tricia worked with architect Seamus Furlong and landscape gardener Eoin Gibbons to create a comfortable and vibrant space.

President Michael D Higgins said the challenge of Brexit should be a reminder that supporting what was sustainable and local was important.

Other award winners included Kells Bay Nursery from Cahersiveen in Kerry for best nursery; Co Wexford Garden and Flower Club for best postcard garden; floral artist Maeve Duke from Rathfarnham, Dublin, for best in show in the AOIFA Floral Art Competition, and Shevaun Doherty, from Sandyford, Dublin for best in show in the Botanical and Floral Art Competition.

Smart planting

Gardaí are urging homeowners to use ‘defensive planting’ to deter thieves.

As well as securing doors and windows, gardaí want people to plant prickly plants to protect their property.

Gardaí, who launched their summer anti-burglary campaign at Bloom, believe a thorny hedge along the boundary of a home or underneath a window can provide an extra layer of home security.

Mahonia, purple berberis, ulex europeans, golden bamboo, firethorn, and shrub rose are among the 16 plants they recommend as natural barriers.

The garda campaign is also highlighting how gardening equipment, tools, and bikes are more likely to be stolen by thieves during the summer.

The theft of gardening equipment rose by 23% in the summer last year, compared to winter, with €191,522 worth of equipment taken.

Sgt Kevin Courtney of the Garda Crime Prevention National Centre of Excellence, said trees and shrubs should be pruned to remove hiding places for burglars.

“A tidy garden creates the illusion of an occupied home, and it improves visibility for the homeowner, or indeed the neighbour who might be looking after your home if you are away on holiday,” he said.

However, Sgt Courtney added that hedges and shrubs in the front garden should be kept to a height of no more than three feet to avoid giving potential burglars a screen behind which to hide.


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