Garden Stories: Bloom In The Park

Something about gardens is good for the soul: exploring nature and absorbing the wonders of Mother Nature’s work can have a hugely positive impact on our emotional well being.

In a world where man-made objects and technology dominate the advancement of modern life, it is wonderful that gardens still hold an undeniable value to humanity.

Wandering through the show gardens at last week’s Bloom festival, the impact and appreciation we have for our outdoor sanctuaries was palpable.

Each garden was a story. Its tale passionately relayed by the associated Designer. An accumulation of features. Features with meaning, symbolism and significance within a thoroughly thought-out design.

It has been said that ‘to plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow’. The act of gardening brings with it themes of belief, confidence and ritual.

Within these themes the therapeutic benefits of gardens are well supported. The focus of cultivating something from nothing. To watch another form grow with gentle human involvement is as soothing as it is fulfilling.

We see the therapeutic benefits of gardens in settings like hospices, hospitals, institutions, asylums, wellness centers, spas and retreats.

A garden can be merely a design. A collection of plants, flowers, shrubs, furnishings, textiles and details. But when details are considered in a conceptual way, when aspects of the design are critically considered for their relevance to the story, the impact is far greater. It pushes beyond aesthetics to produce a meaningful design.

Each of the gardens at Bloom had a story to tell. A message to spread. Knowledge to share.  Several gardens grabbed our attention for their use of symbolism and ingenuity in driving awareness for their collaborative partners.


The Damascus Courtyard Garden, By Brian Burke

Together with GOAL, Designer Brian Burke created a garden  inspired by the traditional courtyards of Syria. The Damascus Courtyard Garden sets out to be a place of reflection and relaxation for refugees.

The original design was a garden divided in two: one half representing the Syria of times gone by, a space at peace. This was to contrast darkly against the second proportion of the garden in a state of disrepair; a family’s personal possessions distributed chaotically across the garden, symbolising their abrupt departure from their home.

However to respect the garden’s visiting refugees this plan was altered. The Designer and members from GOAL’s team decided against a garden space that refreshed notions of war and symbolism that could potentially cause refugees distress.

The finished garden was a space drawing on the traditional Syrian courtyard design: a space of beauty, of life, of peace.

The GOAL garden will be recreated in the Syrian refugee centre in Kildare, providing an emotional and physical connection to their homeland.



Serene Sanctuary, By Alan Coffey

Garden Designer Alan Coffey created a space entitled ‘Serene Sanctuary’ in conjunction with Irish Country Magazine and Mental Health Ireland.

Alan’s garden featured a muted, restful colour palette of blues, whites and purples, creating a soft and tranquil tone to the space. The concept behind this garden was to build a restorative and meditative space where one can escape the demands of day to day life.

The garden was designed to be a journey eliciting positive emotional responses along the way: the textured pebbled path, wild and free flower beds, a poignant sculptural focal point, through to a day bed and concluding at an enclosed terrace.

The pathway meanders through the garden, navigating the visitor through the path’s curves and turns, designed to represent life’s journey with all its twists, turns and complexities.

The space was tranquil, wild and shed light on an important topic within Irish society.




The Santa Rita Garden, By Alan Rudden

Alan Rudden’s garden design was a collaboration with esteemed wine brand Santa Rita. Alan’s garden transports the visitor to a Chilean estate, representing of the origins of the brand.

As part of the design process Alan toured Casa Real Estate, the home of Santa Rita to draw inspiration and experience first hand the culture and designs of South American gardens.

Cultural influences dictated much of the gardens layout and functional design. Alan noted the wonder of Chileans indulging in good food and wine in their beautiful garden surroundings. As such the garden featured a prominent dining area with a rustic, wood table.

Conceptually Alan combined old and new design features to denote the historical beginnings of wine production across Chile, and the progression through to modern day Santa Rita, Ireland’s most popular South American wine brand.

The garden was a vibrant, inspiring yet placid space and was awarded a gold medal at Bloom.




The Designers Backyard, By Lait & Oliver Schurmann

The Designers Backyard is based on a small urban garden design.

The concept for the design was to create a habitat for a variety of plant species, as well as the Garden Designer himself. The space, albeit an urban area is designed to be a retreat for the Designer. Somewhere to escape to but also feel inspired within.

Space within this garden is exaggerated through the use of clever design. There is a sunken area, the use of water and mirror for their reflective properties, as well as the vertical arrangement of plants creates an illusion of a space bigger than it is.

The garden visitor observes the space through windows. Much like the Garden Designer himself who views the garden from his office window, drawing inspiration from the arrangement of plants and the design features of his outside haven.




Judge Interview: Leonie Cornelius

Super Garden has just come to a dramatic end with the final of the five gardens being revealed. The countdown is now on to Bloom 2016 and the winner of Super Garden being announced. We chatted with Roisin’s fellow Judge Leonie Cornelius about her love of garden design and the latest series of Super Garden.

What is your own background and how did Super Garden come about for you?

I have always been fascinated by nature and design, even from a young age I have always appreciated well placed objects and had an appreciation of beauty. My career in design started with my studies in Interior Architecture which I have an Honours Degree in. I decided to study Garden Design with KLC in London because I was fascinated with how the interior and the exteriors connect and how, in cleverly designed spaces, they can seamlessly blend to create one living space. Now I see design everywhere, from plants to shells to graffiti walls, it’s hard to switch it off once you become aware of it!


What appeals to you about gardens and garden design?

Gardens are fascinating to me, they are ever changing and evolving-never stationary. I love how the plants create a perfect theatrical moving display and how they are such a fantastic juxtaposition to the solid forms of structure and hard landscaping. I am also fascinated with clients and how every person, brand or company I design for has a different dream and idea of what their personal space should be, it makes my job really fascinating and never boring!


What are you looking for from this year’s contestants?

I am a firm believer that a strong concept makes for the best garden.

Good concepts take the clients dreams, combine them with the knowledge and talent of the designer and create a new synthesis which is unique and personalised. Show gardens are fantastic examples of concepts condensed to become incredibly strong and impactful. I hope that the winner of this year’s show will take an approach that creates an exciting and fresh concept which will work for the homeowners but also as a stunning show garden at Bloom.


What criteria makes a garden worthy of a spot at bloom?

I think a lot of the above applies here-a strong concept is one people will recognise walking past a garden. It will allow the garden to speak for itself. Also, people come to Bloom to get inspired and take ideas from the show for their own gardens. I remember when I won the show in 2012 and my garden went to Bloom a lot of people commented on the fact that they liked that the garden was a real, usable garden. That always stayed with me.


If you had to pick one stand out favourite garden over the entire series of Super Garden, what would it be?

Oh there are so many! I liked Ken Byrnes Container garden in 2011, that was pretty cool and last year’s winner Brian Burke had such a strong concept and really delivered for the family. I think Super Garden is so great because there is something for everyone – all tastes, all styles.

How would you describe your own garden and gardening style?

My background in Architecture and Garden Design really informs my designs and my gardens aim to blend structure and nature. I am fascinated by how architecture and planting create a whole new feel and  I think they work so elegantly and wonderfully together. My planting style  is blend of soft, subtle meadow style and modern clean lines too. It seems to seep in everywhere!


What’s your favourite aspect of your own garden?

I love the way my own garden changes through the seasons. The greens of the trees right now are amazingly zingy lime green and the plants coming up always surprise me even though I planted them. I also have many associated memories with many of the plants – I have Irises and Lupins from my Bloom garden in 2013 and the grasses, Achillea and Lavender from my garden in 2012. I also love my glazed pergola, it looks out over a lake and means I can sit out whatever the weather!

What are your favourite plants to see in a garden?

That’s so hard to answer…I am a designer so I’m always changing my mind! There are however staples that I do end up using in many designs simply because they are so stunning. I love Iris siberica, there’s nothing better than that striking blue against the sword like leaves! I also love grasses such as the Hakonechloa macra and Stipa tenuissima which bring softness and texture into a scheme and I adore Foxgloves!



Why do you think gardens are an important space?

Gardens are places where we can really relax and let go. They are spaces that connect us to the ‘real’ and basic side of life, organically growing, green and calm. They can therefore be spaces that really give our minds the space they need to rejuvenate and switch off, like meditation or doing Yoga, they can help us focus and feel at ease. I think that’s very important particularly in current times where many of us spend a lot of time indoors or at the computer.


Across the world, where are your favourite gardens to visit?

My absolute favourite garden is the Alhambra palace and Generalife gardens in Granada, Andalucia, Spain. The gardens are breathtaking and so incredibly sophisticated. The builders of the palaces were so talented it’s hard to understand, so intricate and simply stunning. I’ve been so many times and always want to go back.

Another one I love is the haven of Central Park in New York. When I first visited it I couldn’t believe that such a gem is smack bang in the middle of Manhattan.

I also love the annual garden festival of Chaumont sur Loire in the Loire valley in France which is a more experimental festival of gardens. Here there are also show gardens but not how we know them from Bloom or Chelsea but rather conceptual spaces echoing a common concept such as ‘Deadly sins’ or this year it is  “Gardens for the coming century”. It’s a fascinating display of creative ideas from cross collaborative teams of designers, architects artists and more set amid the grounds of the most incredible castle once owned by Catherine de Medicis. Heaven!

Super Garden, Week 3


Super Garden: Hazel’s Garden, Week One


Week one saw Hazel design a garden in Westport, Co Mayo for Joanne and her daughter Lily-Rose.

Art work

Artwork in gardens is something that people are starting to spend more time on in Ireland. Art has been a staple in European gardens for years and it is a fantastic way to add colour, personality and fun to the garden space. It is also another way of linking the garden to your interior space.

Hazel has incorporated some striking art pieces into her garden design. For me, they are a favourite piece in her garden. The main piece is an artistic divider between the two levels of the space. Hazel worked with a local artist to create the screen out of fibre glass and then created a soft, hand painted finish. Her use of colour added vibrancy and a strong focal point to the space. What I particularly like is the way that Hazel used the Cuprinol colours. Hazel combined a set of complimentary red based colour tones to create tone and warmth. Abstract painting works so well in the garden and is quite unexpected.

Art is a very personal thing so be selective in the pieces you choose. Make sure you love them and they brighten your day when you look at them!

Colours used: Crushed Chilli, Rich Berry, Raspberry Sorbet, Purple Pansie, Summer Damson, Rhubarb Compot


Consider mixing different tones to create a focal point or mural within your garden. Use colours that reflect your own personal taste. Cuprinol paint is such a versatile way to change up your garden and is very easy to liven up if you change your mind!



Always consider the journey and experience within any space you are designing.

Creating different zones in the garden creates the feeling of different rooms. It makes for a more exciting space and experience. There is something magical and a little ‘Alice in Wonderland’ about the hidden, lower area. It means that you are taken on a winding journey when you walk out into the garden; An unexpected journey of discovery. What works so well in Hazels garden is the soft use of the curve. It gently leads you around the garden and down the sloped level to the secret lower room of the garden.

Rather than having your garden all visible, think about defining different areas and adding your own secret sanctuary to escape to. Curves are calming and can be a pretty addition to most garden spaces. Meandering paths evoke curiosity and lead you through the space. They are much more exciting than having everything visible all at once.



One of Hazels key considerations with her design was the need the homeowner had for privacy. This is a common issue as a lot of houses are very overlooked by others. The boundaries are the walls to the garden room and should be thought of as such.

Hazels garden is the largest on this season. In order to save on budget, she recycled the existing fencing and painted it in a rich Red Berry tone. This brave and creative choice was perfect for the space. It adds warmth and richness to the garden and unifies the large boundary area.

When selecting your colour for your boundary, think about the atmosphere you want to create and make sure to test a few options before committing. Much like interior colour, it is important to get the tones right!


Super Garden Week 2

Super Garden Week 1