Autumn is blooming with gardening events

Peter Dowdall casts an eye over blooms and events that come into their own from September onwards.

Autumn is blooming with gardening events

Peter Dowdall casts an eye over blooms and events that come into their own from September onwards.

At this time of the year, it’s not only the garden but, I think, also the gardener that slows down as the days get shorter and the temperatures begin to drop, though you’d be forgiven for confusing these last few weeks with an Irish high summer, so good has the weather been.

Some of the late-flowering summer perennials are still giving of their best, or close to it anyway. Plants such as echinacea, rudbeckia, verbena, sedum, some leucanthemum and heleniums are still in bloom and it seems nearly a must to cut some and bring them in to put them in a vase to be enjoyed indoors.

Dahlias, in particular, are great for this, they last for quite some time as a cut flower and like with the other plants mentioned, the more flowers that I cut, the more are produced to replace them on the plant.

I’ve been doing this ever since I was a small child and there’s something very therapeutic about it, and it’s a great way to learn about plants and to get an idea of which plants work well together. Putting a few flowers — and, if I’m feeling adventurous, perhaps some foliage — stems into a vase is as far as my floral artistry skills have ever gone.

I’m not sure if I’d ever make it as a member of the Association of Irish Floral Artists (AOIFA), though I am lost in admiration at the ability of their members. You see, flower arranging and floral art is just that, art. There are hundreds of members of over 80 affiliated flower and garden clubs and floral art clubs nationally and these members meet regularly for demonstrations and classes.

I have often had the pleasure of speaking to some of these groups and more importantly in being a visitor at some of the meetings. The knowledge and skills which are being shared and passed on each week in nearly every parish in the country are what make AOIFA and the affiliated clubs great. These groups are always most welcoming and a cup of tea, a scone and a chat are never far away but it’s serious business this floral art, which is why I never like to be asked to judge any of the exhibits in the competition!

I cannot think of any other craftmanship, where so much thought, effort and skill goes into creating works of art from living, perishable materials which will only last a few short days or perhaps weeks. Perhaps that’s one of the things that make floral art so special, for it is so fleeting and if art is to reflect life then, maybe this is the ultimate art form, reflecting the transience of life itself.

Each year the organisation designates a charity to be the beneficiary of the fundraising events and raffles held by all member groups throughout the country and each year AOIFA holds a National Flower Festival to showcase the skills of its members.

This year that charity is Pieta House and the National Flower Festival is in the stunning venue of St Colman’s Cathedral in Cobh, Co Cork.

Splendour in Flower and Stone is the title of this year’s festival, which runs from September 27-29, and I cannot wait to visit to see the displays. The entire Cathedral will be decorated within with many individual members creating floral artworks on specific titles, interpreting these titles as they will but all under the larger theme.

AOIFA is part of the international group the World Association of Floral Artists (WAFA) and every three years WAFA hosts the World Flower Show which in 2020 will be presented in India.

Ireland hosted the event several years ago and Ireland punches well above its weight in terms of awards and medals on the world stage.

The World Floral Show is like the Olympics of Floral Art if you will and several Irish members who will be competing and exhibiting in India next year will have displays to be admired in Cobh this weekend.

Between two and three thousand visitors are expected to flock to St Colman’s for the festival and the adjoining community centre will house craft stalls, plant sales, refreshments and much more.

This Saturday evening, September 28, Amanda Neri, Ireland’s Bella Voce, will perform in the Cathedral with the RTAI Choir in a concert which is sure to be sensational.

If you have yet to discover this wonderful world then be sure to get yourself to East Cork this weekend and if you are tempted to pick up a florist’s scissors for the first time then there will be plenty of experts on hand at the festival to guide you and to let you know where to find your nearest club.

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