Meet the flower-fighting Irish men from Netflix’s new series
Landscape architects Declan Cooney and Eoghan Riordan Fernandez took part in The Big Flower Fight
Eoghan Riordan Fernandez and Declan Cooney are partners in Sequoia Design, which creates spaces for people to live and work in, inspired by their shared love of nature
Bloom may be off the calendar for this year, but flower fanatics are getting their horticultural fix from Netflix’s new series, The Big Flower Fight. A bit like The Great British Bake Off, but with plants instead of pastry, the show pits teams of garden designers against each other in a battle to create the most fabulous large-scale sculptures using blooms, grasses, bark and other natural materials. The series is presented by comedian Vic Reeves and actor Natasia Demetrio, and one of the judges is celebrity florist Kristen Griffith-Vanderyacht.
But Irish eyes will be on two contestants from this neck of the woods, landscape architects Declan Cooney and Eoghan Riordan Fernandez, who have been in business together for the past few years, and are making their first foray into showbusiness. Declan and Eoghan are partners in Sequoia Design, which creates spaces for people to live and work in, inspired by their shared love of nature. Among the company’s projects are the pop-up Granby Park in Dublin, and they’ve also created unique spaces for the Body & Soul Festival.
What was it like taking part in The Big Flower Fight?
D: “Very special – it was a great opportunity for Eoghan and I to do something different.”
Did you have to go through an audition process?
E: “We were invited to London to audition – that was nerve-wracking. Some of the other teams were dressed very flamboyantly, and we thought, how are we going to compete with these?”
D: “We arrived in our Snickers work gear, and people thought we were just part of the TV crew.”
Would you recommend gardening during lockdown?
E: “It’s very meditative, planting seeds and tending to plants – I’d definitely recommend it.”
D: “Life is so hectic most of the time, and people can often feel they have no control over events. But tending to your garden is something you can really take ownership of.”
But don’t you need green fingers?
E: “No, there’s no magic formula. Gardening is in Irish people’s genes. Nature is who we are. What people lack is confidence. Just do it: plant a few seeds, and learn by doing. And you don’t have to spend a fortune at the garden centre. You can get cuttings from your friends’ gardens and plant those. Some of the best gardens I’ve seen have been grown entirely from cuttings. And there’s something more personal about it – each plant has its own story.”
What is landscape architecture?
E: “It’s the design of spaces outside a building, outside workplaces or in urban settings, any outdoor space where people gather.”
D: “It encompasses a lot of different skills. We look at spaces from a sculptural angle, and what materials to use – steel, stone etc. We also look at dimensions – the height, the available space and how to utilise it.”
E: “We also think about how it’s going to look in a few years – how it’s going to evolve over time. That’s important. We have to think about how the space will be managed and maintained, and look at how people are going to use it.”
D: “If it’s a residential project, we want to capture what the client needs, and capture their imagination. We like the challenge of achieving a space that people want to be in.”
How can people apply principles of landscape architecture to their own gardens?
D: “A garden is a living space, and like any other space, you need to think about use and functionality. How do you want to use the garden and get the best out of it? There are lots of things you can do to make your garden a place you can enjoy – even in winter.”
You also design something called “living walls”. What are they?
E: “They’re literally vertical gardens, perfect for adding a wow factor to outdoor and indoor spaces. They can be expensive, and they need to be maintained, but you get serious bang for your buck. They bring oxygen into a building and improve the air quality, and protect against water damage. They also reduce heat build-up, so they’re perfect for cooling off in a concrete jungle.”
Has coronavirus changed the way we think about outdoor spaces?
E: “Definitely. We believe outdoor spaces are going to become even more relevant since the Covid-19 crisis. Lifestyles and social life will change to become more outdoor-focused, more like in Spain and Italy, with well-designed and managed outdoor spaces. A lot of Mediterranean countries have designed their outdoor spaces well, with big esplanades and wide paths. Ireland is a bit behind on that, and we need to up our game.”
D: “It will be with us for a while, and as people start to come back into the city, it will become more difficult to move around safely. Paths are too narrow, and spaces are not being maximised. I think as cafes and bars reopen, they’ll need to use the spaces outside on the streets more, so we will have to make more room for businesses to expand into the outdoors. That will mean better management of traffic. It will be different, but good for society.”
Does it present an opportunity for your business?
E: “We’re excited about it. We love creating spaces for people to enjoy, and we’re hoping local authorities will get in touch with us to do public projects. We’ll take it as it comes.”