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Bloom In the Park. A Show Garden Return ?

donegan gardens

Talking today with Gary Graham for The SodShow, the garden radio show, conversation naturally led to show gardens and the question as to the ‘would I make a return to show gardening’ ? Gary is, in short for those who are not aware, the brains behind Bloom in the Park. Ireland’s premier garden show.

Personally, I’ve a lot of time for Gary. I’ve a lot of time for Bloom. Like it or not, Bloom is good for Ireland; it’s also great for Irish gardening and in that context alone, Bord Bia have done a real sterling job. One which deserves ovation standing, as versus applause.

We nattered back and forth and chatted ourselves into the easily led to conclusion that I missed, sincerely, the controlled pressure that came with the creation of show gardens.

mary mcaleese

For those who aren’t aware, I’ve done two Bloom show gardens:

After 2008, I took a pause. I was busy. I needed to be. I had showy gardens to create, but they simply weren’t gardens that were awarded medals at the end of it, though they did come with good PR.

The reality is show gardeners, to qualify a show garden submission need three strings to their bow. A proven ability to build show gardens, a great design and last, but by no means least, a sponsor. For two years running, I was missing the latter.

donegan gardens, bloom

Would I make a return to Bloom for 2013 ?

Yes, I would. Were this post going live now has relevance is that the work would be much easier less complex if it were to start within the next six weeks. So soon you might believe, but design submission begins around September/ October and whilst I have already the concepts, I like my designs QED ~ ie. without question, on time, fitting its budget [yours or/ and mine], show timing complete before schedule and with all of the ingredients in place ~ pre planned.

Don’t get me wrong, I can create a fine garden within a very short space of time, designs, submitted and accepted. No problem. But if show garden is to be about the, as Gary put it, the showmanship, then a little more homework/ light reading is far better.

As a by the way, The SodShow, A Bloom in The Park 2012 special, an interview with Gary Graham will air this Friday at 3pm and will be available a little later in the evening as podcast.

If I’m to do it and do it rightly and though I’ve always been blessed in that department I’m proud to admit, I’ll need the right people by my side. For now, I guess, I’ve a little thinking to do and for this bank holiday weekend I’ll happily settle for making daisy chains with my daughter, most probably in The Phoenix Park.

Thoughts on the matter/ Fancy a cuppa ? 😉

donegan gardens

bernice burnside…. pr garden guest #9

If you would like to know more about the thursday garden guest the pr sessions – click here.

For the moment writer #9 is Bernice Burnside of Bvisible PR

bernice

bernice

ABOUT:

Bernice Burnside began her career in television before establishing Bvisible Communications in 2001- a PR agency based on Malahide.

She grew up surrounded by actors and musicians and managed to keep her thespian and musical interests alive until the arrival of her two children, who have replaced these hobbies with a new version of acting and music! Her current interests include food, films and photography. When she does get to relax she likes a bit of yoga, a brisk walk by the sea or a good book

WHAT I LIKE ABOUT GARDENS:

When I was growing up in Sligo, I was lucky enough to have always had plenty of outdoor space for playing. I was fortunate. Ireland’s increasing population as well as our ravenous demand to own a patch of land has resulted in many children being raised with little or no outdoor playing space.

We lived in two houses in my youth: the first one was in an estate and had a wonderful sloping garden – a God-made playground feature and my friends, siblings and I used to roll down the verge when the weather was permitting (and sometimes when it wasn’t).

In my childhood gardens were the herald of seasons: springtime meant seasonal strawberries, gooseberries and edible flowers in our neighbours garden, which I and many of my friends gorged ourselves on (sometimes surreptitiously) and summer was announced by the sensory overload of the smell of cut grass (which reminds me of childhood summer to this day) and the distant buzz of various lawnmowers, hedge-trimmers and other macho motorised-blade machines. Even the man-made calendar year had a relationship with the area, as my school loomed over our back garden reminding us in summer of the blissful distance we were from going back to class.

We moved when I was 8 to a house surrounded by its own piece of land. This was more like it: the garden area was literally 10 times the size of the one in our last house, opening up the possibilities of childhood games. It was dominated by a large Yew tree from which my parents hung a swing that survives to this day. The dry, decorative well was a the focus point for tip-the-can, the open area was ideal for chasing, and best of all, there was a forest to the side and back of our house blooming with possibility. To this day I’m not sure who it belonged to, but for all intents and purposes, it was ours.

This upbringing has almost certainly coloured how I’ve been raising my kids and the back garden and outdoors area was a huge factor when we were looking to buy in Malahide. We got lucky.

Not only is it a corner house with its rear flanked and side by trees, but the previous owner was a very handy handyman. He had built a chair into the back wall, and some furniture in a seductively secluded part of the garden. Micah, like her mother, is irresistibly drawn to the garden – shivering in delight in water fights as early as April, and inventing countless games throughout the summer. Like her mother, her love for the garden is more as a consumer than a curator – I’ve always been happy to help out, but my love for the outdoors is matched only by my ignorance of its flora.

When time becomes a more plentiful commodity, I hope to approach the knowledge and dedication of my husband, starting with the planting of my own collection of herbs. This, ideally, will fuse my love for food with my passion for the outdoors.

One plant I will always remember is ivy and calla lilies. These were chosen for me by a good friend for my wedding day, based, according to her, on my colour preference as well as my persona. A florist by trade, she chose the elegant, aromatic Oriental flowers to greet me when I entered the church. Sometimes I like to imagine that she thought it reflected my mysterious, ageless beauty, but I’ve never had the nerve to ask!

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neil kirrane – pr garden guest #8

If you would like to know more about the thursday garden guest the pr sessions –  click here.

For the moment writer #8 is  Neil Kirrane of Edelmann PR

neil...

neil...

ABOUT:

Neill Kirrane is account executive with Edelman.

An outdoors enthusiast, Neill is a big fan of water and trees and can be found climbing a mountain most weekends.  Trees over water on the side of a mountain are a big favourite.

He plans to put in some serious garden time this summer. You can catch him in The Maharees. The land where gardens don’t grow.

WHAT I LIKE ABOUT GARDENS:

I live in an apartment. A small one. Tiny. Like a little box. Nice though. Homely. A fireplace, some art; two original Picasso lithographs, a Miles Davis portrait and a mismatched assortment of paintings, posters and photographs from the four corners of the globe, France to Japan, Cambodia to South America and back home again. Piles of CDs, newspapers and books gather in the corners and either side of a seldom used fireplace.

Would I like a garden? Absolutely. A sprawling lush green forest with a small stream that rushes and races at first and then slows to a gentle flowing and swirling pace. I could catch trout with my bare hands, pick mango in the orchard and pull wild carrots from the rich soil.

As a munchkin, gardening and gardens meant wholly different things. Heaven and hell. One meant picking stones in preparation of my back garden. For days upon days. Who knew that a football pitch could be such a pain in the back. And head. And arms and knees. And back again. Gardening also involved me forgetting to water the plants. Then lying about it. Then hoping nobody would notice the missing rose bush. Or the dead lilies, cactus, or rhodedandrum. Once it even meant a football destroying a greenhouse. Again, lying about it. And hoping nobody would notice. In different order this time.

Raking and weeding and shovelling and planting. Struggling with a wheel barrow. Cursing when it tipped over and spilt soil everywhere. Cursing louder when it tipped wet cement. Hoping nobody would notice…either the cement or the cursing.

Gardens were different. Bright patches in the dark years. Hours upon hours upon hours of football. First to 50. Then next goal wins. Then penalties until it got too dark to see the ball and goal and teammate. Debating the offside rule. And we all cursed, the louder the better. With nobody listening who cared.

Gardens were grass stained jeans, and dirty green cons. Twigs in your hair, a torn tee-shirt, scratched arms. A big stick to beat a path to Feidhlim’s through the tropical man eating jungle that was the empty site next door. And beating that same path anew at the beginning of each summer. Planning expeditions that would follow the river to the sea on a great adventure, like BB’s Little Grey Men, and putting it on hold until after dinner. Or just reading the book again instead.

Lying with a disposable camera, motionless, in wait of the neighbourhood family of foxes, positive that this would be the money shot, wondering if fantastic Mr. Fox looked the same in person as in my head. National Geographic here I come. Giving up and expanding our tree house with Daire and Paul. Swiss Family Robinson. Robinson Crusoe. Launching water balloons at girls, then begging forgiveness. Then launching again. National Geographic can wait. So can forgiveness.

Good times.

Unfortunately, Never Never Land was a myth. And today instead of a lush green forest or a tree house I have a concrete balcony. Where the soil quality is decidedly not deadly and definitely not rich.

And so mine is an indoor oasis. Two tomato plants sit in the window. Spindly little fellas. Tall and thin with illusions of grandeur. And every now and then I’m honoured with two or three bright red baby tomatoes. Once every six months. But they are delicious. Sweet and juicy and they taste all the better because they are the fruit of my labour. I guess that makes me a grower? Self-sustainable. A man of the earth who likes to let soil run through his fingers, sifting through it plucking out grit and stone and errant plastic. Nails cracked and knuckles skinned, a robin redbreast sits on his shoulder, his face weathered by the sun and caressed by the world’s winds and with a back that creaks beneath a chequered shirt and blue skies.

The tomato crop shares a west facing French window with an orchid. Very nice, but struggling because of a lack of sun. I think it may be on the way out. Unless I relocate it to a sunnier spot. Like Spain.

The pride and joy of this little copse of reality, however, is a Chinese Privet. An 18 year old bonsai. And it is breathtaking. 45 inches tall with a wonderfully curved trunk and overgrown foliage. I mist it every evening. Like telling a bedtime story to a child. Every week I soak the roots in rainwater. The leaves and branches should be pruned regularly but I’m a little careless in this. I like it shaggy and unkempt.

Allotments and greenhouses are the way of the future. Man will plant his own produce and nurture it and watch it grow and enjoy it all the more because it is his own creation. Spinach and carrots and spring onions. Rhubarb for dessert. Instead of dropping into a neighbour for a cup of sugar or some Barry’s tea, you borrow a turnip and some mint leaves. Sound for that. I’ll bring you over some spuds and strawberries in the morning. Sounds good no? No food miles or chemicals or cutting down rainforests. Just a cool garden.

I better build an extension to the balcony. It’s a great spot for water balloons.

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stephen rawson – pr garden guest #7

If you would like to know more about the thursday garden guest the pr sessions –  click here.

For the moment writer #7 is  Stephen Rawson of Rawson Communications

ABOUT:

steve...

steve...

Steve Rawson is a Media & Public Relations consultant based in Dublin, Ireland. He specialises in Public Affairs, Media Relations, Media Training and publicity/Promotions.

His interests include current affairs, environmental issues, music, travel and food. He is a musician (vocalist & guitarist) and enjoys good food, good company.His favourite books include The Shadow of the Wind by Carloz Ruiz Zafon, Suite Francais by Irene Némirovsky, Hell at the Breech by Tom Franklin, Ghosts of Spain by Giles Tremlett and A Woman in Berlin.

Favourite Films (too many to mention) but include Once upon a Time in America, Festen and Crash. Favourite TV programmes: The Wire, The Sopranos, Frasier, Malcolm in the Middle, anything by David Attenborough, Eco Eye.

WHAT I LIKE ABOUT GARDENS:

I spent most of my early childhood in the late 50’s in Greystones, County Wicklow on an imaginary horse riding the range in search of Indian trails across Greystones Golf Club and the environs around Hillside Road. It was an era when children had the freedom to roam and the natural world flourished all around us.

Smell can be such a subjective experience but for me the nutty coconut aroma of yellow furze, the seemingly omnipresent perfume of privet along with hay harvest, farmyard manure and elderflower bring back well-embedded memories.

Memories of my mother trekking us across the golf links to pick crab apples with us all given a job to prepare the resultant clove-scented crab apple jelly – the storing of jam jars, the purchase of jam jar covers (hard to find today), the sterilising, cooking, cooling, name tagging and storage. The recycling of lemonade bottles, the knife-sharpening van, milk delivered by horse-drawn cart, travellers calling to fix pots & pans. It was basic environmentalism out of sheer neccessity.

That I now tend an organic cottage garden at my home in Killester is no accident nor is it based on some eco-fiendish plot to convert you – for me it’s always been that way – planting, harvesting, composting and recycling back into the ground – a natural common- sense cycle of life.

I’m also a foodie so my perquisite for any garden starts outside the kitchen door with a Belfast sink and a half barrel wooden tub containing parsley, thyme, sage, bay leaf, fennel and wild garlic. A sunny spot outside the front door is a perfect growing environment for our prolific rosemary bush. There’s no excuse for not being able to grow these herbs in pots on a small apartment terrace and the ease with which you can grab a few herbs to finish off a hearty beef bourgignone, a summer salad or a wild garlic risotto all adds to the pleasure of fresh food and is bound to impress your guests.

When it comes to plants I like to go for scent and I’ve strategically placed jasmine, honeysuckle (woodbine) outside the backdoor. These two plants are easy to grow and they give off a pungently heady scent making summer evenings a real treat with the backdoor and bedroom/bathroom windows open.

Wildlife will always be attracted to cover so I have planted privet and fuchsia for hedging and fern and mombretia for top of bed cover while lavender borders give off a much needed therapeutic scent. Again, lavender and gravel is a perfect remedy for the low maintenance gardener while fuchsia and fern can all be grown in pots for apartment terraces.

The above mentioned are the basics before I head to the garden centre for trays of annuals –, alyssum, stock, petunia (get the scented trailing variety usually available from late May/early June)) nicotiana, while aubretia and trailing lobelia (red for effect if you can find it) are not scented but provide wonderful colour. The one plant I always grow from seed in pots is night-scented stock for summer evening scent.

Of course, the far side of the scent spectrum is the pungent aroma of compost breaking down rotting veg, grass and tree clippings as the worms eat their way through the compressed but warm rotting vegetation. All green waste is recycled cutting down on waste charges.

I built a small pond approximately 6 ft in length by 4 ft with a shelved depth to 3 feet bordered with liscannor paving with a water fountain. You’ll hardly have your back turned from filling it with water (from the water butt attached to the outside downpipe) before the frogs arrive and take up residence.

For birdlife, apart from the aforementioned cover, I have put up a birdtable and feeders for wildbird seed, peanuts, fatballs and sliced apple. Again, feeders can be easily placed on apartment terraces. Apart from your common or gardener visitor I have goldcrests, green finches, long-tailed tits and black caps. Of course, it’s not all sweetness and light here as I’ve also had visits from predators herons who like a nice feed on fish and frogspawn while a hovering sparrowhawk has also spied the rich pickings on offer.

All of the above plants mentioned attract butterflies and bees but you just can’t beat the hum and sight of a bumble-bee’s arse hanging out of a foxglove or antirrhinum flower in mid-summer with a background of birdsong and trickling waterfall as you sip your glass of cool sauvignon waiting for the bar-b-cue coals to heat up.


If life deals you lemons, make lemonade. If it deals you tomatoes, make Bloody Marys.

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richard fitzgerald – thursday garden guest #6

If you would like to know more about the thursday garden guest the pr sessions –  click here.

For the moment writer #6 is Richard Fitzgerald of Cybercom

stephen & richard

stephen & richard

ABOUT:

Richard Fitzgerald is 25 years old and works for Cybercom, a digital marketing company where he is an account executive… Not too much is know about Richard after this apart from the fact that he blogs under fitzycloud and at this moment in time he is [really] climbing Mount Everest with Stephen Murphy at this moment in time…. and has absolutely no interest in hugging trees 😆

WHAT I LIKE ABOUT GARDENS…

This is hard. My first instinct when asked to blog post on gardening this was to get on to some gardening sites and ‘adapt’ the information. I just know nothing about gardening. I don’t know the difference between all the trees, flowers, shrubs, plants – not even growing there with landscape gardening terms (I’m assuming there’s a hole lingo). But I’m not a gardnerphobe. I appreciate the skill, the craft. I understand that it requires dedication, expertise. I like how it relates to nature, the earth. One day I would like my own garden. But not now.

I blog about brands. So I’m going to gardenblog very loosely about a type of flower (a common one). I’m going to blog about Cadbury’s Roses. Is there a connection between the chocolates and the flowers? Appropriately (luckily for me), Cadbury Roses were conceived in 1938 in Cadbury Bourneville which was renowned as “a factory in a garden”*, and Roses were popular then, hence the name for the distinctive assortment. That’s the only connection.

Cadburys Roses have had two famous TV campaigns. The 1964 ad which ran with the slogan ‘Roses Grow on You’, and the 1979 ad with “Say ‘Thank You’ with Cadbury Roses”. The latter ran in to the 1990’s with many popular versions.

What next for Cadburys Roses advertising? No idea. I would associate them strongly with Christmas time, a big tub of Roses has become part and parcel of Christmas decorations. But, every year there seems to be changes made to the selection. Would the brand embrace the digital age of advertising by having an online vote of which ‘Rose’ to evict (Big Brother style). Users could campaign to save their favourite ‘Rose’ with Facebook groups and the like. Cadbury’s products have done some good stuff online. Dairy Milk and Cream Egg spring to mind. Maybe Cadburys Roses deserve some digital love? Or maybe, the brand should return to it’s routes, and build on the vague association between Gardening and Cadburys Roses?

Cadbury's Roses Thank You