Bloom 2017: The pick of a very beautiful bunch
We preview the best of this year’s festival, which kicks off in the Phoenix Park on June 1st
Garden enthusiasts at Bloom in 2016. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
Bloom’s Grand Pavilion is the place where you’ll find hordes of the country’s hardcore plantaholics dedicatedly scouring the handsome displays of specialist nurseries for the very latest plant introductions and most alluring rarities.
While the number of nurseries exhibiting this year is down by almost 20 per cent, the good news is that the size of the plant creche (the place for weary shoppers to temporarily stash their choice purchases) has been doubled. And a new plant creche wheelbarrow taxi service from the pavilion has also been introduced.
In a move to fully exploit the decorative potential of this huge covered space, the show’s organiser, Bord Bia, has also brought Dublin-based creative collective Queen of Neon on board to create one of its innovative floral-inspired installations in the nursery marquee.
The best of Bloom’s show-gardens combine skilful planting with expert hard landscaping details.
Design duo Oliver and Liat Schurmann of Dublin-based Mount Venus Nursery have a particularly distinguished track record in this regard. Entitled Transition, their large show garden for this year’s event is inspired by the rugged coastal landscape surrounding the couple’s recently restored holiday cottage in the west of Ireland.
The design celebrates the raw beauty and ever-shifting nature of Ireland’s shorelines/foreshores, right down to some ingenious, behind-the-scenes engineering that will enable water levels within the show garden to slowly ebb and flow, repeatedly revealing/concealing different elements of the naturalistic planting.
Another gifted Irish designer showing at Bloom this year is Niall Maxwell, a previous winner of best overall garden, who is creating a show garden for Oxfam/Goal exploring the concept of cultural diversity. Visitors can expect a thoughtful, elegant design and lots of beautiful plant combinations.
Meanwhile in the small garden category, garden writer, broadcaster, designer and author Leonie Cornelius is back with a design entitled Everyone Has a Dream. A distillation of her recent book Dream Gardens, it will showcase how the smallest outdoor space can be designed to be functional, beautiful and individualistic.
Let’s not forget Bloom’s “Postcard category” (these tiny outdoor spaces measure just 2mx3m): this year’s exhibitors include the environmental organisation Friends of the Earth, with a show garden designed by Wicklow-based permaculturist Suzie Cahn and Friends of the Earth chairperson, Dr Cara Augustenborg. Entitled The Bright Side of Life, it will highlight the many ways in which gardeners can create a green space that’s productive, pretty and nature-friendly.
Bloom’s edgier sister, BloomFringe, also has plenty going on over the June bank holiday
Other environmentally minded organisations taking part in Bloom this year include Birdwatch Ireland, The Irish Beekeepers’ Association, An Taisce, CELT, the Native Woodland Trust and the Irish Wildlife Trust, all of which will be represented in the show’s conservation area.
Lovers of botanical art, meanwhile, should make a beeline for the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre where the Society of Irish Botanical Artists will be holding their fifth annual art exhibition at Bloom with work by many leading botanical artists including Lynn Stringer.
If garden sculpture is your thing, head straight for Bloom’s Sculpture Garden, curated by landscape designer Ingrid Swan and Ruth Liddle of Carton House’s Kildare Gallery, which will showcase a collection of more than 50 pieces of sculpture including work by the Russborough-based husband-and-wife blacksmith team Gunvor Anhoj and Michael Calnan.
Speaking of the latter,the Association of Irish Floral Artists (AOIFA) is also back in Bloom’s pavilion again this year with a host of floral exhibits as well as a “Floral Art Stage” where its members will be giving demonstrations and advice to the public.
Just as in previous years, GIY will also be hosting its “Food Matters Stage”, with contributions by food growers, cooks and dieticians including Rory O’Connell of Ballymaloe Cookery School, author of Gut Feeling Paula Mee, health and wellness guru Alison Canavan and Dr Donal O’Shea of “Operation Transformation”.
Over on the “Ask The Experts” stage, visitors will be able to pick the brains of some of the country’s leading horticulturists including Gerry Daly.
Finally, for visitors in need of a brief respite from the hustle and bustle of the event (Bloom attracts an average of 100,000 visitors), there’s the grand old lady of horticulture that is Ashtown Walled Victorian Garden, a peaceful oasis located right in the heart of Bloom’s busy showgrounds.
The main event aside, Bloom’s edgier sister, BloomFringe, also has plenty going on over the June bank holiday to interest the green-fingered brigade. This includes secret garden tours of Dublin city’s green spaces led by garden writer/historian Dr Vandra Costelloe.
The horticulturist and broadcaster Peter Donegan will host the SodShow BloomFringe Pecha Kucha talks in Dublin Castle’s Printworks where he’ll be chatting to members of Denmark’s Aarhus Green Embassy (an urban food growing collaboration) and Sarah Venn, founder of the community food-growing movement, Incredible Edible Bristol.
For details of all these events as well as many more, see bloominthepark.com and bloomfringe.com
Tickets for Bloom, which runs from Thursday, June 1st, to Monday, June 5th, (9am-6pm) are available online from its website (prices start from €16, with various concessions available to students/OAPs, family groups and season tickets) or at the gate. Tickets for individual BloomFringe events, which takes place on Saturday June 3rd and Sunday June 4th, are available to book through its website.