Bloom festival 2016: Gardens you must see

This year’s festival in Dublin’s Phoenix Park tackles past and present suffering

Bloom first-timer James Purdy from Belfast has won both the Overall Medium Garden category and Best Plant Design Award for his ‘Podscape Garden’, which demonstrates a sustainable approach to everyday life. Video: Bryan O'Brien


The plight of Dublin children caught up in the Easter Rising and the sufferings of Syrian refugees are highlighted in two of the show gardens at this year’s Bloom festival which opens in the Phoenix Park in Dublin today.

Spent bullet cartridges strewn on ornamental paths are not what visitors might expect. But garden designers Fiann Ó Nualláin and Brian Burke separately came up with the symbols of the spent cartridges to convey the loss of innocence and how children are the first casualties of war.

Ó Nualláin’s “Bullets and Boiled Sweets” garden, which concerns the fate of children who lost their lives looting sweet shops during Easter Week 1916, is based on a simple premise: “What happens if you are an ordinary Dublin child and you wake up on Easter Monday and you learn that Ryan’s sweetshop is on fire?”

The planting is a riot of colourful aquilegias, geums, salvias and alliums, to reflect the kaleidoscope of opportunity presented to these children.

“It speaks of the excitement of these very poor children who would never in a million years see a gobstopper,” he said.

Contemporary sufferings


The one at Bloom has a Middle Eastern theme with olive trees, palms, wisteria and jasmine.

The fate of refugee children is reflected in the diagonal display, which includes a child’s show, a plastic toy, a mobile phone and a picture frame.

Burke was moved by the plight of Syrian refugees. “This is only the beginning of the story for this garden,” he said.

After Bloom the plants will be moved and relocated to a new garden at the Syrian refugee centre in Monasterevin, Co Kildare.

The annual festival has a preponderance of gardens with a serious theme this year.

“On the Other Side: a Garden of Hope” tackles the issue of breast cancer. Padraic Woods’s garden “Sharing the Load” is about the topical issue of mental health and is meant to convey the journey from light into darkness.

Hungarian native Sofi Dosa, the youngest designer ever at Bloom, having turned 21 last week, is responsible for “Blurred Lines”, a garden featuring a series of sharp horizontal and vertical lines softened by the plants.

She stresses it has nothing to do with the Robin Thicke song of the same name.

President Michael D Higgins will open Bloom today. The festival continues until Monday.