Bloom in the Phoenix Park has developed over its 11-year history into a show of which Ireland can be proud. All food comes from the garden and so it is apt that the other main feature of the show, apart from the show gardens and nursery displays, is food.
The standard of all the show gardens was high. Congratulations to Kevin Dennis on his Santa Rita garden which, for me, was the best large show garden on display.
A seating area created from Donegal Sandstone complete with fire pit floated above a still pond which was at once sleek and relaxing.
In the smaller gardens, I was really taken with a gorgeous space created by John Durston for Ria Organics, a new company which uses organic and natural ingredients in its range of skincare products, and the association with the Nature’s Resurgence garden was fitting.
“The natural granite patio and salvaged steel screen will both play integral roles in representing Nature’s resurgence,” says John.
“The rust on the screen will signify the slow, yet inevitable breaking down of manmade materials back into their natural components.
“The patio is relevant as the spaces between each granite paving stone is filled with low-growing plants. The intention here is to compare the gaps in the patio to the pores present on the human body, and to illustrate how nature can serve to fill these voids and mend such cracks.
“Also, the circular shape of the patio is a dedication to the planet we all share. The steel trough water feature was intentionally constructed from the same material as the screens that surround the patio. Both steel structures form a protective layer around the earth-shaped patio — much like how our atmosphere protects planet earth.”
The Enable Ireland No Limits garden sponsored by Solus was designed by Joan Mallon and was inspired by children using the charity’s disability services. The garden represents the challenges that people with disabilities face but also the reality that with some creativity and imagination, you really can live life with no limits.
What struck me first about this garden was the standard of planting — the palette of orange and yellow using Achillea, Geums and Lupins was perfect. In the centre was an extremely colourful six metre-high Helter Skelter slide filled with beautiful purple Campanula muralis, aesthetically jarring perhaps but then when you think about what it was symbolising, and the story behind the garden and the charity, it was perfect.
The Marie Keating Foundation were there encouraging men to get talking and to be aware of cancer. Near them there was a stem cell garden designed by Hugh Ryan.
Both gardens brought a smile to my face, they were quite different in design, the Marie Keating garden very colourful and purple and the stem cell display was based on solid black panels, presumably symbolising the fact that these cells are the basic building blocks.
The reason I enjoyed them so much, however, was not for reasons horticultural, but because I am a male who has had cancer twice and who now owes my life to a stem cell transplant and here I was now, many years later, wandering around the Phoenix Park. It reminded me — and sometimes we all need to be reminded — to put everything in perspective.
Bloom is a showpiece for top-end design and it’s great to see such imagination in one area. It also acts as a stage for good causes and the gardens above weren’t the only ones promoting awareness of issues — Goal, Crumlin hospital for sick children, Pieta House, Trócaire, and others used the event to artistically showcase their services.
Gardening has huge well-documented benefits to mental health, and it was great to see one of the most colourful displays at the Dementia Friendly Garden designed by Tom Grey for the TLC Nursing Home Group.
Plants from our youth such as Lupins, Dianthus and Lavender were used to trigger memories in a cleverly-designed small garden which created an attractive, safe, and therapeutic outdoor space.
Bord na Mona were present encouraging people to use their Growise range of compost products, which all have reduced levels of peat and the aim to further reduce and hopefully replace the peat content completely, ties in with the huge awareness of, and interest in, more environmentally sound gardening and gardens.
With the expected huge numbers pouring through the gates it was good to see that the future of gardening and garden design in Ireland is looking good.