02 Jul 2022

Gardening with Jo: My favourite Bloom gardens

With Jo McGarry of Caragh Nurseries

Gardening with Jo: My favourite Bloom gardens

Jane McCorkell's 2007 garden for Keelings

In the normal running of events, following last week’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show would then be followed by Bloom in the Phoenix Park, a magnificent event run expertly by Gary Graham, Kerrie Gardiner and the team at Bord Bia.

Over the years, we have been involved in many capacities from building gardens, sponsoring gardens, supplying gardens to plant stalls. Each time has been such a great experience and it is great to see so many beautiful and well put together gardens. So I wanted to give you my favourites over the last 14 years.

In year one, which was 2007, there were some stunning displays. Back then the gardens were all inside the walled garden. That year Jane McCorkell produced a beautiful garden, for Keelings, which was just perfect for the time. It obviously had a fruity theme but the garden was a residential garden rather than feeling like an allotment.

It had a relaxed, easy vibe and Jane won a gold medal for it. Elma Fenton also produced a beautiful garden that year that included a natural swimming pool and an ecologically sustainable design, yet it has been planned to work as a place of relaxation and entertainment with shaded rest and eating areas.

The main element, a natural pool, was self-cleaning with filtration occurring organically through appropriate planting.

The main tree planting was three beautiful Pinus Pinea Standard Trees that we supplied, and the highlight was seeing people swimming in this stunning natural pool in the Phoenix Park.

The following year, we not only supplied but built the garden for Elma again. This year was a very different affair - a Colonnade Pavilion dominated, adding beauty, proportion, structure, function, and shelter, and an opportunity to entertain within the garden.

Twin reflective water ponds emphasise the beauty of the space and offer contemplation and stillness. Sculptures enhanced this beautiful garden without dominating it.

The same year, the star of the show was Paul Doyle’s garden, a formal affair called The Art Deco Mulberry Grove for The Travel Department.

It was formal and beautiful with stunning planting. That same year was another of my favourites from Paul Martin. This was a great year which was a usable family friendly space that looked even better at night than it did in the daytime.

A couple of years went by before anything else really struck me. Those were the years when spending on gardens was frivolous and unnecessary and the gardens in Bloom reflected that; but by 2014 the show gardens were back producing magnificent spectacles. Yet it was 2016 before I saw anything that I was bowled over by and which was going to get the Irish public back building magnificent gardens again.

Alan Rudden’s garden in 2016 was fantastic but his Savills Garden in 2017 was perfect. Another favourite of mine, it included pleached trees surrounding a beautiful dining area which was finished to perfection.

In 2018, one of my favourite gardens yet was produced by Andrew Dunne of Andrew Christopher Designs. His realisation of a Sustainable Seafood Garden, which was sponsored by Bord Iascaigh Mhara, promotes the idea of sustainable fishery and features a moored fishing boat surrounded by swathes of picturesque planting. It was just perfect and was awarded Gold and Best In Show too.

No story of Bloom can go by without mentioning Oliver and Liat Schurmann and their gardens. They are always a little different, always thought provoking and never, ever boring.

I have so many favourites of theirs - they do what a good show garden should do, make you think about how we use the garden space and bring drama to what has always been a great show.

I think my favourite was their 2017 garden, but then what about their 2011 garden!

For this year, once again Bloom is on hold, but when we are able to design and build gardens again in the Phoenix Park, we along with lots of other designers, landscapers, nurseries and everything else that goes into making some of the most stunning gardens will rise to the challenge and all the waiting will be worth it. See you at Bloom 2022!

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