international garden festival

the garden that time forgot...

the garden that time forgot...

I got a call from a friend of mine on Wednesday asking me to Emo Court in Laois to take a look at a garden festival taking place there. I went but I was dubious, mainly because I thought it was just another [yes another] garden show.

We just had Chelsea, then straight to Bloom where I had my own garden to build. Now The International Garden Festival and it does not stop there?

To explain I must delve a little deeper into my hesitant negativity. With any gardenshow where awards are given, the designer has two choices; They can build an amazing garden or/ and fulfil the brief and get the medal. So often the people that are the paying visitor and the spectators can be forgotten, in that what they take away from the show and the designs they have seen. They may see gardens that are nice and symmetric and gold medalled but, they may not walk away inspired or excited. Big budgets and sponsors have their place and are necessary, but for the man who designs with his soul and borrows and builds with little or nothing, it may result in the most amazing garden that becomes so quickly forgotten as a result of ‘critics’ who feel it safer to mention those of solid gold standard in order to maintain their standards.

This exhibition however is a revelation and a breath of fresh air and I ask that you will love it and embrace it as I did. There are no medals for media critics to follow by and the reward for the designer – building a garden because you are passionate and strive to make a difference. Here I met people who liked this one or that better and the criticisms, witticisms and charms are what you ‘the customer’ takes from each garden.

The other twist is that this is not a weekend event, unlike most this actually runs from June 29th until 23rd September. So why would six French designers, one each from the USA, Australia, Germany and Italy and four Irish designers do this? And a love for what you do was the answer I was always given. Not only does one have to give up the three weeks to build the garden but also the three months to maintain it. Whilst the show is in its infancy, festival director Rosaleen Flanagan really does deserve praise for her efforts and consequently the results of her passion and drive for this festival are there to be seen. Rosaleen has secured a five year minimum deal with the Office of Public Works and Emo Court, proof enough for me. But the main reason I felt her ambition and determination was the attendance and belief in her show by three garden legends. All three; David Fountain, Chelsea gold medallist and the genius behind; Andy Sturgeon of Chelsea gold fame and Stuart Sharpless owner of tadpole engineering and myself will all most likely build gardens here next year. Potty?! Whilst I did really like all of the gardens in very different ways two gardens, in my opinion, stood out from the crowd.

I have built showgardens myself and one must appreciate that my choices are solely because I saw something very different. As a spectator I felt I would love to introduce one or more elements of that design into my own garden. The first is a/maze: meeting the world designed by Rebecca Massey and Dominic Griffith, two students from UCD. My advice to you before entering this garden is to leave adulthood, mortgage rates and world leaders outside.

This is design in its purest form and I truly love it for that, which makes it so amazing. It combines a maze of international flags hanging like washing from a large family clothes line arena. The flags are so large and set in such a way that one can get lost so easily and then find little gems like a swing or the two oaks that frame the natural backdrop that is the lake of Emo. If you are fortunate enough to meet the two young designers and Dominics Mother at their garden do pass on my best. More importantly remember not to walk but to run through the garden like a child freed from school at summer time. My other favourite by Victor Moreaud and Catherine Charles is The Garden That Time Forgot. One of the many treasures of this gem are the twenty foot plus fishing rods with large red balloons attached to their ends swinging through the Irish gales. This really made me smile and if something makes you that happy then it must be good for the soul. I’ll look forward to meeting you there. Enjoy!

For more information visit The International Garden Festivals Website.

UPDATE 15th October 2007: please see this article

9 replies
  1. john
    john says:

    peter – i wouldnt have minded going to that. I did see bloom however and lets just day your garden stood out from the crowd! thats a compliment by the way. I spoke to my mother in law – we dont speak that often – turns out she went and thought similar [very much so] to yourself. Pretty well covered in the ladies magazies also.

    Any news on Bloom 08 and another ‘mad’ reinvention for peter donegan design?

  2. mick
    mick says:

    john – i went twice once at the start and once after around two weeks ago to be honest peter is correct in what he is saying and i assume you [peter] wrote that piece at the start of the IGF launch. The gardens looked ‘clean’ and new at the very start but it seems to be that a lot of the ‘designers’ didn’t pay too much attention to their pride of joy over that long wet summer. It was disappointing to say the least as I know they did get a few quid towaards the build of the garden [and or for maintenaining I dont know] either or as a paying ‘joe’ public I would have expected a little more.

    That aside when I went first pete I was impressed with the show overall and the surrounds particularly although we did not do the tour so the link was quite useful for emo itself.A decent piece written by you but I dont read womens magazines [like john] and didnt see a whole lot on the lead up. I was impressed with the car, missed it personally but the wife did go and I got the making of it on your web. I’m looking forward to the mad hatters te party next bloom.
    any thoughts on that or have you considered doing emo and the IGF.
    cheerio – mick
    [an armchair gardener]

  3. doneganlandscaping
    doneganlandscaping says:

    I havent seen it in a while Mick. I was brought along by Stuart as he’s hoping that maybe myself, Dave and Andy may get involved. It is quite easy for me to be critical but the big point I made was that it didnt’t matter what I thought and in particular no ‘critic’ really mattered as there was no premiership medals to be given out. It was simply just gardens for fun surrounded by one big historical garden. I also felt that people should look outside of the plants and the weeds or discrepencies, if there were any and realise that it wasnt bloom. I think because also it was such a relaxed atmosphere thats why The four of us thought it would be very much a different show to get involved with versus Bloom which to be honest some people slammed me on. MOST loved it and saw it for what it was and asked the ‘brief’ I submitted to the judges – but some didnt and while thats still good it was for others unfair that they had a good garden or a nice garden but no medal and therefore some never even acknowledged it as it would have been frowned upon possibly.

    Mick we are actually thinking of doing both next year, Bloom and emo, at the moment anyway and ONLY thinking. Most likely Bloom first but like everything we’ll have to wait and see for a little bit first. I’ll keep you posted as plans become more solid.

    John re: my mad invention for next year: I do have one in mind but I want to keep it under my hat for the moment.

    Slán go foill

  4. doneganlandscaping
    doneganlandscaping says:

    An ‘anonymous’ email has informed me [and been confirmed] that The International Garden Festval has ceased trading and closed its gates to the public last week.

    Other information was given with the email but until official confirmation or further definite information is received I will not be commenting. It’s disappointing that it may have faultered in its infancy bu moreso that I do not know, at the moment, if it will event next year.

  5. doneganlandscaping
    doneganlandscaping says:

    OPW & Fáilte Ireland Comments on IGF

    The OPW Press Office say:

    ‘The closure was nothing to do with the OPW, it was a decision made by the organisers, a private company, International Garden Festival. We were just as surprised by the closure as the general public were. OPW had no time to advertise this closure.’

    Fáilte Ireland say:

    ‘I have no further information on the International Garden Festival other than it closed last Friday. I would suggest you contact the Festival Director [name and contact details omitted here by PD] Fáilte Ireland has no business association with IGF, apart from the fact they received some funding through our Festivals & Cultural Events Fund.’

    My email to both said:
    A Chara, I have been informed hat the International Garden Festival has ceased trading or is closd, can you confirm this and do you have any further information o the future of IGF. Yours sincerely Peter

  6. M Buckley
    M Buckley says:

    We went twice. First on what was probably the only dry day in July and then at the very end of August. The second day was very windy, which allowed for some interesting photos.

    I loved it both times, as we brought a picnic and treated it as a day in the country. Five reels of film mean that I’ve been working on the photos since then. It was very interactive and
    it was a pity that the Summer weather was not clement.

  7. M Buckley
    M Buckley says:

    I thought you might find the comments posted on my blog interesting. I have been unable to help the people who designed the “Genetic Garden”, who are trying to find photos of their work. I took photos of the landscape context rather than of individual gardens. If you have photos of that garden, perhaps you would be able to make them available, please?

  8. peter donegan MI Hort
    peter donegan MI Hort says:

    A Chara M Buckley,

    I was there on the opening/ press day, the weather was very poorly but I loved it! I didn’t get to return after which was a little bit of a shame but those of the gardening fraternity who understood the gardens where there for three months all seemed to follow your/ our reaction. The setting was a massive added bonus.

    No problem regarding the pictures. I’m better at gardens than computers so a little patience is probably required for that.

    Slán go foill

  9. M Buckley
    M Buckley says:

    Many thanks for taking time to reply, Peter.

    If you should upload more photos on your site
    I’ll be very interested to see what took your
    attention. Like the designer who contacted
    me I thought the Garden Festival very
    successful and thought provoking.
    Perhaps trying to have it continue would
    build on the considerable work already laid
    down? It originated as a five year plan.

    My attention was drawn to the fact that
    the site was on a slope, which made it
    very difficult for individual gardens to create
    a sense of height
    as my eye was constantly being drawn to the
    wider context.
    This generated a lot of thoughts on the
    problems facing designers in general, so
    the second visit was a good idea.
    The pathways were exceptionally
    pleasantly laid out and led from one
    garden to another with no sense of
    strain or confusion.

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