Amazing Bloom as good as Chelsea
Written by Peter Dowdall for Irish Examiner
The Show Gardens in the Phoenix Park last week were as good as Chelsea, writes Peter Dowdall.
Winners of Solus ‘Brightest at Bloom’, Sofia Diadiajeva (10) and Diana Diadiajeva (6) from Offaly on the yellow carpet at Enable Ireland’s Beyond Boundaries Garden in association with Solus Light Bulbs at the Phoenix Park Bloom Festival created by Bord Bia , Dublin. Pic: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
Well, the show came and the show is now gone for another year.
The annual Bloom Festival landed in the Phoenix Park last weekend in the same way as the circus comes to town. Showmen and women lay their work, and in many ways their careers, open to the scrutiny of the public,then stood back to await the brickbats or plaudits that come with such a bold move.
This type of bravery is something that the rest of us mere mortals may only dream of — think about it for a moment, allowing the public, complete strangers to comment on the quality of your work. Add to that personal taste — some may love your style and others mightn’t but of course everyone has the opportunity to voice an opinion or worse still, to not even look.
However, with such courage comes imagination, risk-taking and this is how trends change, how everything evolves. If we didn’t have Bloom, then we wouldn’t have a national showcase event for designers and landscapers to be bold, to take that chance and put themselves and their ideas out there.
Bloom 2018, organised once more by Bord Bia, the agency charged with the development of Irish Horticulture didn’t disappoint.
The Show Gardens, the top models on the catwalk, so to speak, were inspiring, they were of a quality and standard that not only holds itself up to public scrutiny here in Ireland, but internationally.
I was speaking to Mark Gregory, a senior RHS judge and member of the Show Gardens judging panel who has been judging since the first year of Bloom and he was absolute in his praise of the gardens telling me that: “There are several here that have certainly reached and in some cases, surpassed what is expected at the level of a Chelsea Show Garden.”
I really enjoyed the Enable Ireland garden as, like all gardens on display, it nailed its brief, it was a garden that was accessible to all, no matter what your level of mobility. The space flowed, some of the beds were raised so wheelchair gardeners could use them and the overall feeling of the garden was of a relaxed space. It was great to see Linda McKeown achieve Silver Gilt for this garden.
There’s always a plant that for me, is the ‘plant of the show’. That’s not to say that it’s a plant that is judged on merits or as a new introduction, no, simply a plant that for me becomes synonymous with the Festival and for me that plant was Salvia ‘Carradonna’.
It was used in in many of the gardens and if the Salvia was the plant of the show then Kevin Dennis’ use of it with Trollius ‘Golden Queen’ was the ‘plant association’ of the show. The bright orange of the Trollius, for it’s not really golden as the name might suggest, created a dazzlingly beautiful effect with the rich, dark blue, nearly purple flower spikes of ‘Carradonna’.
Andrew Christopher Dunne’s Sustainable Seafood Garden which won the award for Best Large Garden, recreated a bit of the Irish marine landscape in the middle of Europe’s largest urban park. His inspiration came from being at home at Clogher Head, Co Louth and the attention to detail which went into this garden was astounding — from the old stone wall pier meeting the more modern, concrete and steel pier — to the positioning of seedlings in the walls on the margins which looked like they just ‘happened’.
Nothing happens by chance in the world of show gardens and Andrew had planted his garden long in advance of the show to ensure that it had that naturally occurring feel to it. That’s to take nothing from all the other gardens as the attention to detail throughout this show was astounding.
Alan Rudden’s Life is Rose garden sponsored by Santa Rita wines used porcelain tiles meeting a channel of water to create a sleek, contemporary, urban style garden planted with Mediterranean and arid planting and for this Alan won a Gold Medal and the Best Planting award. Apart from a few specific Cacti, Alan used plants that wouldn’t be out of place in Chile, but would survive the Irish climate.
There really was so much to see, appreciate and enjoy in the Show Gardens —I was in Clogher Head and then transported to Santorini just around the corner. Tunde Szentesi designed the Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again in anticipation of the movie.
SHOW GARDENS AT HOME
Show gardens are great if you have a vast budget but don’t, for one second think that creating a garden demands a big spend. It doesn’t, in fact you can create one totally for free if you want to grow from cuttings and seeds, the ingredients are all around us. Shows are the ideal space to get ideas, to see small nuances and little features which can be recreated in your own space. When planting a garden, less is more, Kevin Dennis, centre right, used big, showy, Buxus balls throughout his garden along with Stipa Ponytails and this simple combination created simple continuity in his planting along with providing evergreen interest. The paving and hard landscaping was such a feature of this garden that it needed the softness of the ornamental grasses and lushness of the Boxwood.