Always a good feeling at Bloom

By Andrew Collyer - Practical Gardening

The 'Transition' garden at Bloom 2017.
The 'Transition' garden at Bloom 2017.

If you din't go, mark 'Bloom' on your calender for next year

Abutilon vitifolium 'Album'

What a wonderful facility the Phoenix Park is. Driving in for this year's Bord Bia's Bloom festival Wenesday I couldn't help but be struck by the majesty of the place. There is one particular purple beech (Fagus sylvatica 'Riversii) on the Chapelizod road boundary that should be renamed black beech as the foliage is so darkly beautiful. The wall tops here are also festooned with enough beautiful pink valerian to induce a peaceful nights sleep for the nation. Within the walls the lush green open park land and mature trees were at their stately June best and Aras an Uachtarain was gleaming white.

This magnificence obviously wasn't lost on Bord Bia when they decided to locate the Bloom festival here in 2007. Bloom is very much a public show not a trade one and I have to get my head clear on this before I enter as there are many aspects that get under my horticultural skin a little. That said the positives on show vastly outweigh my crumudgeonly self and I stand in awe contemplating the amount of work and dedication that must be put in to get this show to fruition every year.

There is always a happy atmosphere at Bloom and a feeling of goodwill which must be a reflection on those that run it. The kids go free policy is a credit, as is the inclusiveness of children throughout the site involving the young at every opportunity.

While there are many aspects to Bloom these days, there is something for everyone, I still like to think that gardening in particular is the backbone of the show. And the show gardens are the backbone of gardening show.

There are 22 show gardens this year, some serious, some jocular and some just championing charities and good causes. Some gardens are just concepts, in fact they all are to a certain extent, while others are more grounded in reality. While all efforts are admirable there were really only two gardens that were exceptional and two others I personally liked a lot.

Oliver and Lait Schurmann's 'Transition' garden was stand out and was I would say a pretty easy choice of best large garden for the judges. It features a large pond that is subject to a 'tidal' rise and fall over a 90 minuite period exposing little islands within the pond at 'low tide'. A covered pontoon seating area juts out over the pond. Not only was it a good idea but it was excellently executed and I loved the planting in particular. This is an area that I think can be improved within the show gardens as there is a general 'grab and go' feel to a lot of the planting. That said the other stand out garden for me was totally based around a planting scheme that may to many fit my 'grab and go' accusation but actually was carefully thought out.

Alan Rudden's uber cool, tres chic mordern 'Urban Retreat' garden was very structural with a formal L shaped pool, fluted pergolas and sunken seating area but as the judges also felt, awarding it best planted, it was the planting that stood out here. I loved the colour scheme or lack of it. Everything was green or white. He used pleached trees to balance the pergola heights with some greenery without spoiling the pergola structures with climbers. Box hedgings, and my favourite aspect, dwarf pines as underplants with some white alliums, white astilbe and white geranium phaeum. Brave and not to everyones tastes no doubt but I loved it although it would be a little oppressive in the winter possibly.

I also liked John Durston's 'Nature's Resurgence' garden in which I was particularly taken by the water feature. It was a rill, small formal stream, type feature that spiralled its way to the centre of the garden where there was a seat. Like a river the water started off as rapids and as it got to the centre of the garden became calm.

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