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Bloom 2010 – reviewed

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If you did read my post on Thursday, you would have got my recommendations for Bloom In The Park 2010. And so I went along again on Sunday and Monday.

The weather was cracking for most of Bloom, but the last two days meant the umbrella’s had to come out. But then, this is Ireland… That said, I did notice in contrast to Blooms first year a massive difference in the ‘dealing with Irish weather‘ facilities around the festival. Well done behind the scenes team.

The layout did change slightly to the main area outside the show gardens and for some I wondered why they had a prime pitch, with almost little or no relevance to horticulture. It was however a little easier to navigate than the year previous so maybe there’s method behind the decision. From a visitors perspective it was one I was glad of.

I did like the food area and the tasting and it was nice to see the forgotten crafts speaking taking place. I particularly enjoyed the Burren Smokehouse talk. I Never really knew what went into making a good smoked salmon. I do now. As a by the way, they sold out of every single piece of fish by 4pm on Monday.

To the right of that were some crafted outdoor displays which I felt delivered a nice message. Of note was the Wicklow Educate Together School Tin Man and the display for oil versus renewable energy. This replaced last years Obama replica vegetable garden. Very refreshing.

As always I don’t really like to comment on the gardens, as I’ve built and designed, been awarded medals and not…. That said I do recommend you read this post on building a show garden. It’s not easy 😉 I think I’m personally still suffering the aftermath of 2 years without a sponsor. Anyhow, you can comment, I won’t, but I will say the layout was good and quite relaxing walking around. Well done to all the sponsors and gardeners.

I didn’t make it to taste the crafted beers… but I did get to hear some of the bands in that area and it was great to see on Monday evening families dancing in the rain to a chorus of ‘Hello Mary Lou‘. Next door, the crafts area was nice and open and left places for people to sit and picnic. I also like the arts and crafts dotted throughout and the gentlemen singing acapella were amazing.

I thought the fact that speakers like Shawna Coronado from the U.S. were introduced was a great idea – I also believe her talks went down extremely well. Well done Shawna. [Also: my interview with Shawna Coronado]

There were suggestions that the food was well priced. On a different note, phone coverage and in particular internet phone coverage was poor. This I heard from too many people and from a meeting up point of view I only found afterwards that they’d been there. It also meant I couldn’t do live video’s and picture posting.

From speaking with Aidan Cotter and some of the Bord Bia team I believe numbers were up on last year which is great to hear. Aidan also queried whether I was returning to Bloom 2011 to build another show garden, with a twist difference…. I meant to ask him if there’s a chance of me getting partnered with a sponsor 😉

Overall, some say the direction has changed. Some say the garden judges were a little tougher this year. Others simply say Bloom 2010 has come along way in, what one should not forget, is just 4 years. All in all, I personally and sincerely enjoyed the show. Whether I go back in 2011 as a visitor or as a designer is a question I’ll need to answer soon. Either way, you will see me there.

Well done to all involved. Take a bow and when you find the time a well earned rest.

I’ll have some video’s and information to go up this week. You can also view my other images from Bloom 2010. I personally love this picture taken by my good friend Stephen 😉

What do you think….?


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Bloom 2010

As always you can rss the podcasts via iTunes or direct via audioboo

To all things Bloom, once again, I quote myself from last year:

To only mention the gardens is, maybe, what I should be doing…. but, as a garden builder and designer at Bloom – they are all [seriously] amazing and I simply can’t be pushed to just pick one. Anyone who designs and/ or builds a garden here is a genius in my eyes ;) I will however give an over view of the  entire Bloom experience & some of the interesting people I met on my sabbatical :lol:

My Recommended Bits And Bobs:

As per the podcast…. here are the links to those I mentioned

  • Shawna Coronado – she’s @shawnacoronado on twitter and will be in the garden expert area. A must see.
  • entertainment tent [#20 on the map]- ice creams!
  • imaginosity – loved it last year. Even better this year.
  • Craft demonstration area. Remember the blacksmith Michael Budd and Kathleen from the basket makers association – even more crafts this year.
  • Agriaware area – see the pics below
  • Chefs Kitchen. Nevin will be mobbed 😉
  • Go say hi to Dawn Ashton [she helped on my Niall Mellon gardeners day out] in her garden. All plants there were supplied by my good friend Pat Fitzgerald – remember him from last year…
  • Show times dates and how to get there are below the pics other than that see the bloom website
  • And finally – don’t forget to upload your pictures to the Pix.ie Bloom Group – where you can see the rest of my bloom images

How to get there:

Show times and dates:

  • friday 4th June 10am – 6pm
  • saturday 5th June 10am – 6pm
  • sunday 6th June 10am – 6pm
  • monday 7th June 10am – 6pm
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Garden Of Hope 2010

The Niall Mellon Office have been on the phone. I got a call saying thanks for signing up.

I did… when ? yeah sure why not…..

Last year I had to raise €5k and did the table quiz, the poker night, the gardeners weekend, the famous picture also got a couple of hundred in and I still ran short. But I got there in the end. Thanks to you! I did try getting team donegan sponsored to raise a few bob…. it just didn’t work out for no apparent reason. 😆

If, I do make it this year…. It will be my fourth year travelling with the Niall Mellon Township Trust as part of a very large and amazing team to build the community gardens. And this year I only need to raise €4,250. I got a discount 😀

I’m a big believer in getting something back for your euro, where possible, even if it is for charity and there were a couple of suggestions in as regards raising a few bob.

So everything is for up for a few bob for charity. You can sponsor my podcasts, blog posts, throw money at me for the craic – pay me not to talk…. call me names for a tenner…. whatever!

And all you have to do is click the link and put some money in this my charity account. I’m open to suggestions….

The video above is the story from last year.

Fancy a chat….? The coffee pot is always on the brew or you can contact me via the following options.

  • by email info[at]doneganlandscaping[dot]com
  • via this website: click the contact page
  • call mobile – o876594688

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Irish Times 31st May 2010

I got a call last week from Conor. He was doing this article on Grow Your Own and asked for some thoughts.

To the pieces I know that I have written that may refer to my quotes below.

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Grow your own kits cheaper than B and Q. I think it’s a logic alternate piece. There are many products I have reviewed that I purchased from b&q. This just happened to be one I thought was a bit not for me.

This is one post on which compost to buy. If of course one wishes to buy miracle grow compost, which comes with a feed in it, plant in your bedding plants – which have a feed in them and then purchase a liquid or granular feed…

The ultimate guide to chickens. There are hen houses out there that do cost more than others. But if I see one more person tell me that my hens know by instinct to not eat my lettuce, radishes and prize roses will eat weeds and that grow your own hens will save me money…. i’ll implode. €1500 plus is a lot of eggs.

And as a buy the way I also did a talk, quite recently, for one of GIY groups.

The pieces I point out above are just some. There are many others in there. You may have to search within the blog. My comments are in bold below but I do recommend you read the entire original Pricewatch article by Conor Pope.

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Pay Less For Your Greens

The Grow it Yourself movement means gardens everywhere are being taken over by fruit and veg – but growers take note – there’s no need to spend a fortune, writes CONOR POPE

IT IS A WARM sunny afternoon and Trevor Sargent, the former Green Party leader and recently resigned Minister of State with responsibility for Food, is covered in bees. Since he stepped down from his ministerial post in controversial circumstances earlier this year he has become an amateur bee-keeper and has proved so adept at managing his hive that the bees now need a second home.

He is in the process of relocating some of them when Pricewatch interrupts him to talk gardening.

Along with the bees, Sargent has a kitchen garden which has grown rapidly in the last two years. While it is hardly a surprise to learn of this ardent Green’s green fingers, the amount of fruit and vegetables he is cultivating on his small plot of land – no bigger than 7 by 13 metres – is quite remarkable.

This year he has potatoes, onions, leeks, shallots, garlic, beets, chard, kale, cabbage, four types of beans, lettuces, radishes, apples, blackcurrants, plums and a cornucopia of other fruits and vegetables growing in his patch. It has even been floodlit and laid with concrete paths to allow him to garden day and night and in good weather and bad.

For Sargent the motivation is not about saving money but about “appreciating what goes into making the food that appears on our supermarket shelves and understanding the difficulties our growers face. I don’t know how I’d measure the financial cost of the hours I spend in the garden in the middle of the night but it is cheaper than a psychotherapist and keeps me sane. I find the weeding relaxing and something of a therapy after the frustrations of politics,” he says.

Sargent is part of a growing army of Grow It Yourself (GIY) advocates in Ireland and as the movement grows so does the amount of cash we spend on herb, fruit and vegetable plants. It has increased by 40 per cent over the last eight years. The estimated spend on such plants in the gardening year between April 2009 and March 2010 was around €14 million. Spending on sheds, glasshouses growing tunnels and the like increased by 38 per cent to €58 million from 2007 to 2010.

Not wanting to be left out, Pricewatch hopped on the bandwagon earlier this year and we planted our own potatoes in a barrel. In keeping with a long-standing Irish tradition, the planting took place on St Patrick’s Day. Incidentally, this tradition first took root because in the 19th century, the Catholic Church distrusted potatoes because there was no mention of them in the Bible and they grew underground so were obviously closer to the devil. Not wanting to incur the wrath of God or the priest, the peasants sowed their spuds on holy days and sprinkled them with holy water, for all the good it did.

Our seed potatoes cost less then a fiver, the bag in which they are growing cost the same, the compost was another tenner which takes the total cost of bringing our crop to table at around €20. We could, in fact, buy considerably more potatoes for that sum than we’re likely to get, but to look at it from a purely money-saving perspective is to miss the point, says radio and TV presenter and ardent grow your own enthusiast, Ella McSweeney.

“You’re not going to save money in the first year but if you set yourself up properly it is conceivable that you will ultimately cut your costs by growing your own vegetables,” she says. She cautions newbies like us against rushing out and buying all the gear needed to set up a full-scale kitchen garden on day one.

“The more you spend the higher your expectations and the more likely you are to feel like you have failed if things don’t go right from the start.”

She advises people to start with the easy things – lettuce, radishes – and points out that the key is to grow the things that you like eating. The other key is the soil. “If you get your soil right then everything will happen but if you get it wrong then it will be a lot of frustration.” She says people can source well-rotted manure from farms and stables for free or half nothing.

All might not be rosy in the GIY garden, however. Peter Donegan has a landscaping business in north Co Dublin and writes an engaging blog on all things gardening. While he is 100 per cent supportive of people who decide to grow their own vegetables, he expresses grave concern at the rampant commercialisation of the sector and wonders why many of the GIY advocates, those with the loudest voices, are not warning people against spending big money on fertilisers and kits which are entirely unnecessary and ridiculously overpriced.

He cites the example of a grow your own kit which sells in B&Q for €6.99. “For that you get three small pots, three handfuls of compost and a couple of seeds. Given the fact that a couple of handfuls of compost cost virtually nothing – five cent tops – and you can buy 1,000 seeds for no more than €4 and use jam jars as pots, the total cost of a DIY kit could be no more than 10 cent.”

Donegan points out that there are scores of companies trying to cash in on the grow your own movement by selling bags of supposedly enriched fertiliser at sky-high prices, chicken runs for €1,500 and glass houses for even more again.

“Gardening as I knew it when I was five years old was compost-less. It was a handful of muck, sieved and at the back of it all just good craic. But now there is so much claptrap paraphernalia out there now that people are being conned into buying and no-one seems to be shouting stop.”

While McSweeney agrees that we don’t need to be spending much on getting off the ground, she does look beyond the finances and says growing your own gives you “an enormous amount of respect for what you buy in the shops and it gives you a huge insight into what it takes to grow crops. You learn all the time and it is possibly the most satisfying thing of all.”

For his part, Sargent is critical of the “purist approach” supermarkets adopt to vegetables. “Their insistence on vegetables conforming to a standard size for example leads to a huge amount of waste.” He also bemoans the fact that a lot of the stuff cannot be bought from Irish growers in Irish shops. Only 15 per cent of the onions sold in Ireland are actually grown here so if you want to be sure of eating Irish onions your best bet is to grow them.

A lot of vegetables which can and are grown in Ireland never make it on to supermarket shelves because the big retailers and wholesalers prefer to deal with international suppliers who can guarantee a constant year-round flow of information so while scallions grow handily enough in Ireland, the big boys prefer to ship it in from Mexico where they are produced for a pittance by workers paid peanuts. “Wholesalers would have to shift their gaze to smaller Irish producers,” says Sargent. “But they seem reluctant to do that but it is what is going to have to happen at some point if we are ultimately to have food security.”

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Irish Mail On Sunday 23rd May 2010

Yesterday, Eugene Higgins of The Irish Mail On Sunday did a great Piece on The Garden Group with the tagline How a Bloom maverick is taking bloggers on tours of our ‘secret’ gardens and titled it A www.walk on the wild side

The main picture is of Dena [@curlydena], Mom Vena [@VenaW] and Dad Andrew Walker. [And to think I spent so long brushing my hair that day 😀 ] The other two images are courtesy Jennifer Farley Photography [@laughing_lion]. I’ve asked Eugene for the main text of the piece and will post it below as soon as I get it. For now…..

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