Barretstown children’s garden

Seeds of Magic

garden in Barretstown

I was honoured to be selected by Barretstown to design and construct their show garden at Bloom in 2014 and then to organise the transferral of this garden from Bloom to Barretstown itself as a permanent addition to their garden spaces.

Barrestown is a wonderful charity, originally set-up by the Hollywood film actor Paul Newman, which organises fun camps for children affected by serious and terminal illness at their premises in Kildare. I intended with this design to create a magical, thought provoking and fun journey for all those who visit. An emphasis is placed on nature, interactive activities, and engagement of all the senses through colour, texture, mystery.

I took inspiration for the design from Barretstown itself, as well as from children’s story books such as ‘The Wind in the Willows” and “The House at Pooh Corner”; the garden was inspired by certain Irish myths and legends too (see my initial sketch plan for the garden alongside).

At Bloom, subtle opportunities were presented to parents and family to engage with the garden and understand its true meaning, such as the artwork wall, which was created by visitors to the show. The window gives an actual and metaphorical view in to the garden; the castle walls reference the safe-haven that Barretstown is for the children who visit and stay there. The red door provides a mental imprint.

That year, mine was the only garden to be directly open to the public at Bloom and, as it was designed to be fully wheel-chair accessible, it was the most visited because it was also easy for parents with buggies to enjoy the garden as well.

The garden includes a range of interactive elements for families and children alike including a magical moongate and a sunken hideaway “hobbit-house”, which proved the most explored attraction in the garden…everyone wanted to go below ground into this little earthy, hidden sanctuary including the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny and the President Michael D. Higgins…it just shows that sometimes a small cosy, den is sometimes just as appealing as a grand house or Presidential palace…just ask any passing hobbit or fairy and they will confirm this!

Our full crew and sponsors were delighted, on behalf of the charity, to receive the Peoples’ Favourite garden award from visitors to Bloom, a commendation that this sort of garden has wide appeal.

The entire garden was transferred and has been rebuilt as a permanent garden in the grounds of Barretstown and is being used as a recreational play garden by the campers. It was featured on RTÉ’s Nationwide programme in December 2014.

I continue to be inspired on my journey to create gardens that have a health and well-being aspect to them. I do believe in the power of gardens to provide sustenance, regeneration and healing and above all that they can be sanctuaries where people can enjoy fun and friendship.