Bloom In The Park

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garden at Bloom Festival

Looking for inspiration?  Bloom in the park was an amazing garden event that took place in Dublin’s Phoenix Park. This year the gardens ranged from the unusual to the beautiful and one garden even displayed an amazing crop of stiletto shoes.

Myself and himself went on Saturday and arrived there at 8.45 in the morning hoping to beat both the queues for parking and the crowds. It wasn’t early enough though as we still had to wait in a half mile long queue into the car park for twenty minutes. I dread to think how long the afternoon visitors had to queue.

Still Bloom was worth the wait. There were a lot of early arrivals like us but we were still able to walk around the show gardens in comfort. However, by the afternoon the crowd increased to such an extent that it was difficult to move around. As someone who doesn’t like crowded places so for me, that meant it was time to go, so I was really glad we had arrived early.

Bloom seems to be getting more popular ever year, probably as a result of it being televised. But television can only appeal to some of the senses and it certainly can’t convey the essence of the garden, that mingling of plant fragrance with fresh air and that feeling you get when you see something so beautiful that it makes you feel more connected to the earth.


Some of the show gardens at Bloom were quite beautiful and inspiring. But to be honest, there were some which I just couldn’t quite get enthusiastic about. This is because, in my view many of the gardens on view were not a whole lot different than the garden displays you see at garden centres – pretty but not particularly unusually creative or inspiring.

There were some gardens that a seemed to feature garden furniture and hard landscaping over flowers and plants. That horrible Celtic Tiger idea of a garden being just another room in the house – only outside.

Worse still, those gardens seemed positioned to sell their blingy furniture rather than to show us the beauty of the garden or even a glimpse of nature. However, there were several which for me made the trip to Dublin worthwhile.


The Goal garden was the work of  the Dun Laoghaire based designer, Joan Mallon whose theatre and arts background was very much evident in this garden which could easily have passed for the set of a play.



The garden included a reconstruction of a tiny village from the developing world and used it to demonstrate how families faced with what seem like impossible challenges can harness their environment.


Village Pump

The techniques on display were  micro-gardening, bag gardening, recycling, rain-water harvesting, sanitation techniques and more.  The structures were all made from recycled and upcycled materials like pallets and lengths of old wood.

The bag gardening consisted of old sacks in which were growing greens like spinach and kale or ‘stretch the week’ as it is known, due to its ability to make food last longer. Bag gardens do not need much labour and provide extra food or another source of income throughout the year.


The growing wall was impressive in its economical use of valuable garden space by growing food vertically in a colourful and healthy display. Vegetables included Lollo Rosso, Beet leaves, peas and of course ‘stretch the week.’

The Goal garden was impressive, not just because of it’s worthy message and aims, but also because many of its ideas, like the vertical gardening in the image below and bag gardening can be used here in our own home gardens. You can see what I have been doing in my own vegetable garden here.



a chair in a secret garden from Bloom Garden Festival

This garden is the work of Lorely Forrester, a founder of ‘Secret Gardens Of Sligo she writes wonderfully about her garden here.

At first glance this cosy hideaway appears to be exactly what a writer would wish for in a garden, however this is not a recreation of Yeat’s actual garden, rather it is a work of imagination – it is the garden Yeats dreamed of while living in London.

This is not a garden that a offers you a clear view but rather one that you peek at, having rowed an imaginary boat across to a clearing on a wooded island.


It is a completely private garden and Yeats imagined it on a island with the gentle waters of a lake close enough to wet the toes. He has provided shelter in this fictional space with a makeshift cabin and comfort provided by a rickety chair. The purpose of this garden is to think and obtain peace, however he has grown a few vegetables and wildflowers for sustenance, beauty and fragrance.


Of all the gardens on display in Bloom that day Yeats Secret Garden In Sligo was my favourite.  As a writer it appealed to me in many ways – it provided a sense of  solitude, privacy and peace. Aesthetically, its simple planting of flowers and shrubs felt very natural and the simplicity of its design means it doesn’t compete with the mind’s work of creativity instead it enhances it by providing a secret and special place where the ‘real world’ can be left behind and the imaginary world in the mind can be entered with ease.


Footfall is the work of Hugh Ryan who specialises in the design and construction of private gardens and his garden features an amazing crop – stiletto shoes!

Shoe-sculpture-in-gardenFootfall is a conceptual garden and therefore does not have to have a function as such. He uses high-heeled shoes because they are ‘for the most part solid and useful’ as well as the ‘power of their beauty’ and ‘their ability to enhance the confidence of the wearer.’ I am not sure those of us who have suffered their foot-binding effect of high-heels on our cramped toes would agree with him! Maybe Hugh has never tried walking in high heels. Still there is certainly a striking form of beauty and creativity about his design. It may not look like a relaxing space to enjoy nature but it certainly was a compelling attraction which provided a stark contrast to the other more flowery and conventional gardens on display.


Fiona Dillon is a food and lifestyle blogger and her Freddy Buttons garden is related to her series of food adventure books which introduce the concept of ‘real food’ to children.

colourful-childrens-gardenHer cottage garden is colourful and bright, with lots of extras to entertain the eye.  This is a garden I would have dreamed about as a kid growing up in a Liverpool city street with no garden whatsoever. Everything about this garden shouts fun, adventure and there’s absolutely loads for kids to explore. One charming example being these beautiful bee covered hives below.


Fiona certainly packed a lot into her garden and even managed to include this lovely scaled down chicken run you can see below. By the way if you are interested in chickens you can see my own chicken tractor here.

The Freddy Buttons garden aims to get kids thinking about where food comes from and introduces them to growing food and judging by the amount of kids surrounding the garden on Saturday I think Fiona has more than succeeded with all of these aims.

I can’t fit in all the sights of Bloom in this post and sadly if you want to see more it’s a bit too late. Still there’s always next time and if you haven’t been to Bloom before then I would urge you to mark it in your diary for next year and make the trip – but whatever you do go early in the morning. Oh and clear the boot of your car out to make room for all those plants you because if you are anything like me, you just won’t be able to resist.

Happy gardening








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