When the young and uber-gifted Gerard Mullen won gold and ‘Best in Show’ earlier this year, it was for a show-garden that the British garden designer, lecturer, writer and judge Andrew Wilson described as a sensation: “beautiful, simple, restrained.”
And as the long-time, highly respected chief assessor for the world-famous RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Wilson should know. Of course, Mullen’s gorgeous garden wasn’t built for Chelsea, but for another gardening show in a nearby country, an event where Wilson also regularly acts as chief judge.
A relative newcomer to the busy global calendar of garden shows, this five-day event is causing quite a stir and garnering much praise, both for its exciting show gardens, as well as its informal, buzzy, convivial atmosphere.
Any guesses as to its name?
Very appropriately, it’s called BLOOM. The highlight of Ireland’s gardening calendar since the inaugural show of 2007, it takes place over the June Bank holiday weekend (just a week after Chelsea’s show) and is based in the spectacular environs of a recently-restored, two-and-a-half-acre Victorian walled kitchen garden, slap bang in the middle of Dublin’s historic Phoenix Park.
Mullen’s award-winning garden at this year’s show captured the wild and watery beauty of Ireland’s wetlands, and the quicksilver quality of the Irish light. It’s the same glistening, gleaming light that also makes a visit to any of the island’s many remarkable gardens so memorable.
Add to that, Ireland’s mild, moist climate, and the unique opportunities it affords to grow plants from all over the world – scarlet-blossomed Chilean fire-trees, giant sequoias native to the mountains of California, crimson-flowered tree rhododendrons from India – and it’s not surprising to discover that the inhabitants of the Emerald Isle have long been a green-fingered (or should that be muddy-fingered?) nation.
The fact is that flowers make the Irish happy. Very happy. So much so that when they aren’t growing flowers, they’re arranging them. The same BLOOM show that awarded garden designer Gerard Mullen top prize this year was also home to 60 different floral displays, which were exhibited by members of the Association of Irish Floral Artists (AOIFA).
This countrywide organisation will be hosting next summer’s prestigious World Flower Show ‘A Floral Odyssey’ at the RDS in Dublin, an event that takes place from June 16th-22nd 2014, and is expected to attract visitors from all over the world.
Over the course of the show, 600 leading floral artists from all of WAFA’s 31 member countries will be competing for awards. Amongst them are some of Ireland’s best-known floral artists, including Joan Lockhart, herself a former Chelsea-medal-winner.
Along with the many wonderful floral exhibits, this event’s jam-packed programme also includes lectures, demonstrations and a series of tours to some of the loveliest of Irish gardens.
Each one is sure to be a fascinating floral odyssey in its own right. Maybe you could join in?