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.
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 4scapes.com; 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.