to bloom or not to…

for a love of the game...

for a love of the game...?

bloomthat is was the question.

The search had been put out for my intended prop for Bloom 2009 but show gardens require a lot more than that. I have learnt that one the hard way.

It does require [a lot of] months preparation and hard work. It is not for the faint hearted. It requires a massive team – it is a mammoth task and a mammoth collaboration. This is not the turn off point for me.

It requires a love for what one does… to this I still feel the same as i did when I was a nipper – and in my heart, that child will never change.

Unfortunately, I have gone two years without financial sponsorship. I did have massive support for which I will be eternally greatful. And although I had got €20k towards Bloom 2007 from Bord Bia , for Bloom 2008 I had zero. For the record Gormleys fine art where noted as ‘in association with’. There was no monies paid to Peter Donegan Landscaping Ltd. This was to thank them for the use a piece of art. The sculpt in my garden.

I did send in initial designs for Bloom 2009. But…

The GAG failed to see how the concept behind this design will fit within any of the bloom garden categories and as such the panel is unable to accept your application at this time. However, the GAG would like to invite you to consider submitting another show garden design which they will be happy to review.

and the Garden Advisory Groups response also came with this important note

The construction of all gardens at bloom is dependent on sponsorship. Where sponsorship is not yet in place and the applicant is unable to fund the construction of the garden him or herself, please note that every effort should be made to secure a sponsor for your garden at the earliest possible juncture.

The first paragraph is fine and absolutely understandable, I suppose… [although it does make me wonder how my first two garden designs were accepted at all…..] I could have submitted another garden design – but then I read the important note [the second paragraph] I just couldn’t take the risk of not having having a sponsor, again. I did subsequently speak to ‘members of the bloom garden advisory group’ and I was told I could build ‘that’ garden as an engaging space – but not as a ‘show’ garden.

what's it all about... ?

what is it all about... ?

My writing here is not meant to knock anyone. I sincerely mean that [and I do wish Bloom and those involved every success]. My intenion is to explain ‘my’ situation.

I love what I do. I am so passionate about what is my hobby and my career. I spend more time with plants, I might suggest, than I do with people 😉 But sometimes external factors need to be considered.

At this moment in time I feel a little torn. I’m torn between a love of what I want to do and what I can do – and guarantee to be done. I’m torn between the people I love in my life and that, that I cannot make reality – that is, the gardens, nee the dreams I wish to create with plants… there are so many. Maybe the reality is that *my* show gardens are my dreams and for once, my dream, simply, cannot come true. Maybe I love what I do too much… maybe? Maybe I need to take a little rest from show gardening? Maybe at 32 – I am supposed to grow old… ?

Show gardens in my opinion, are *show* gardens. They should not be about business. They [ideally] should not be about money. Show gardens should be created solely for the people who pay the money through the gate… shouldn’t they? If this is so, I can honestly say I created show gardens.



My problem [and only mine] is that I am being restricted, curtailed or prevented. The rules don’t include for people like me….? The RHS Tatton Garden show seems to. They wrote to me and offered me £6,000 towards an accepted garden – with this poster [see left].

My other gardens are normal, those of the domestic kind; but I used show gardening as a platform to do something ‘not so mainstream’. Something not about medals. Something not financially rewarding to me. Something for the people, the payee, the reason the show is there in the first place. By way of money, rules or for whatever reason that child-like imagination that I have is being told… NO!

I remember my Grandfather [God bless], years ago buying my Nanny a Valentine card that when opened lights flashed on the front and it played the Elvis song ‘love me tender’. It made me smile, at first – but he did love ‘his Lilly’ so much, he really did. And I always thought ‘well why not?’. What is wrong there. What is incorrect about that. It was chidlike one could say. But it was also both romantic and amazing, youthful and brilliant, yet niaimh and one may say – as it should be. The kind of thing that could make you cry and laugh at the same time. The kind of thing that would make you want this love to never grow old. The kind of thing that would make you want to stay young forever.

Since I first drafted this article about two weeks ago now; I recieved an email from Bord Bia offering a maximum of €100 per square metre towards the cost of building a show garden. So for example last years garden [20m x 10m] would have got €20k. The new deadline for garden design submissions is February 19th 2009. This essentially gives one approximately 10 weeks and only ‘IF’ the garden is accepted on the date of application. If I wish to source another prop, like a boat…. it, for me, just cannot be sourced and prepared within that space of time.

All of that aside, it was last year when I believed I had a sponsor. It was last year when I needed the help; when I had a boat, restored and painted and with less than 4 weeks to go realised I was, literally, in the …. and alone. It is because of last year that ‘my’ pocket money saved is still paying for last years garden. In fact last year the most embarrassing for me was that I could not afford to buy a €250 evening ball preview ticket for two of the staff who had worked so closely with me on last years journey. This did not dampen my spirits as a by the way, at all.

Normally, none of this would deter me. It would be the ‘you can’t do that’ that makes my brain say a very determind ‘we’ll see about that then!’. But, on this occasion – I simply cannot. What do you think?

maybe... it's time for a little rest?

hmmm..... ?

8 replies
  1. Susan aka Miss R.
    Susan aka Miss R. says:

    Politics? Good luck.

    Here in the States it is rare to be able to find a sponsor for a show garden. Unless you are doing one of the really big shows here there is no support. We are expected to fund the gardens ourselves and to encourage materials donations to help take up the slack. I did four show gardens at a regional show, won lots of prizes and haven’t done one now for several years. They are too expensive and time consuming to mount for the small return on investment. Our shows tend to be in winter and the greatest cost is having the plants forced for winter bloom.

    I continue to mount designer show house gardens since these are less expensive to produce and have a track record of ending up as a permanent installation with most of the expenses paid.

    Some examples of both are in the Concept gardens tab on my website if you care to look.

  2. donna m
    donna m says:

    I commiserate with you my friend. In the art and photography world it is much the same – politics. Because i”m and ‘older’ artist, because I dont have any schooling to put on my pedigree for them to brag about, because i dont do odd ball things like stack folded white towels 15 feet high, or varnish insects and try to explain it away as my inner torment – i have little chance of having my photos shown anywhere but a coffee shop (and hence almost zero chance of ever selling any). however.. i keep going. because like you its my passion and my love. my only regret is that i didnt pursue it when i was younger, that i ‘sold out’ and got a ‘real job’ to make a living and that having to come to terms with my own mortality was the kicker to get me back on to my dream.

    dont give up. find another way to do what you love -if you cant do this competition – try to find something else that is just as satisfying, might have almost as much public exposure and wont put you into debt for it.

  3. Marie
    Marie says:

    Is there an event here in Ireland like the RHS Tatton? If not, why not? Is it possible to get some other like-minded garden designers to push the boundaries of art, expression and design through gardens and set up an organization or event here?

  4. Rick
    Rick says:

    This is a tough one because, like you, I have been of the “fuck it, let’s push the envelope” variety and see where that got me in the end….?

    You need to be careful that, in this climate, you don’t leave yourself on the wrong side of the line.

    Maybe a break until next year?

  5. Peter Donegan MI Hort
    Peter Donegan MI Hort says:

    firstly, to reiterate – i think bloom is great for ireland… we had no show of this size before and we do now. I cant knock that. However – how I feel in my heart is generally what I want to do – in this case for so many reasons I cant.

    @donna m
    thank you so very much – and right back at ye!

    this is as good as it gets in Ireland.

    I hear you brother… 🙄 I think afternoon tea with friends in bushy park may be order of the day – a break is as good as a rest and all that… thank you so very very much for everything my friend.

    @will knott
    *want to* yes 😆

  6. Jackie
    Jackie says:

    I think it’s an awful shame and will miss your exhibit in Bloom this year. I’ve never seen such originality & art in one show garden from someone who is brave enough to make a dream reality – its a pity that everyone cant open their minds. Thanks for the joy the last two years brought Peter.

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