Bloom in the park, Ireland’s largest and most diverse gardening show

Bloom in the park, garden design, family gardens, family day out, garden show

Bloom in the park, Ireland’s largest annual garden festival opened yesterday in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.  Having completed show gardens there over the previous four years it is slightly strange not to be there.  I find that both my mind and body have to make adjustments to a new routine for May and June.

Yet, I still find myself inordinately busy as it is peak interest season for all things gardening and garden design: I do wonder how I normally complete a large show garden and have time to tend to my normal garden design business as well.  Truthfully, I would say that most of my regular garden design work usually has to be put aside for around five weeks from early May to about mid-June and one’s personal life certainly has to take a back-seat for that period too.

The five most intense weeks cover: the garden build time, time spent “on the garden” attending to press and visitors during the show and then the week immediately after the show which is, sadly, spent on the breakdown of the garden.  The party is well and truly over then!  There is significant time spent on design and planning the garden during the preceding six to twelve months also.

I have been there and done that so I doff my hat to any garden designer willing to take on the immensity of the task that is a show garden at Bloom.

Furthermore, those attending to large show gardens deserve even greater respect for the sheer scale of the task.  Despite what has been stated in the press recently, large show gardens have been completed successfully at Bloom in the park for less than 50k:  I can testify to that fact, as can a few others.  However, I would agree with the sentiment of the piece, as this approach really, really does mean you are putting yourself on the line.

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Constructing a large show garden at Bloom: The Growise garden 2011

For any garden, and especially when you are working without the full amount of sponsorship needed, you will need a very close knit team around you during the build (one day in 2009, I had 17 people on site – in a 10m x 20m space!!!), you will definitely need to call in all sorts of favours to get supplies and you may have to work with materials and even plants that you hadn’t bargained on using when you started your design!  It has to be confessed that this can be a risky and somewhat stressful strategy especially when the gardens are all being judged equally (by an expert panel including seasoned RHS judges) and you know what is required to get the top points.  You need to draw on incredible reserves and have “balls-of-steel” in order to pull this sort of approach off.

So, on reflection, I would agree that it would be better to have the 50k…if you can get it out of your sponsor!

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The President does the rounds of the show gardens with show organiser Gary Graham

Still, if you achieve it and complete your garden and get a medal; it is a very rewarding experience and can be great fun too!  I particularly like that period after the medals have been awarded when you can spend time, hopefully in the sunshine, talking to members of the public about your garden.  That is certainly very satisfying – especially when they like your garden! I particularly like to get the reactions of kids to my garden as I feel that they will be the most honest – fortunately, most have been favourable to date!

Anyway those are a few thoughts from a show garden designer for the moment that’s in it.

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Visitors and celebrity guests at the garden: Neven Maguire

Bloom in the park is a wonderful family day: there are the show gardens of course but there are also delectable cooking demonstrations, a profusion of plant stands, funky fashion shows and tonnes of other exhibits, talks and events as well.  I feel it is very good value and I am looking forward to attending Bloom in the park with my family at the weekend…this year, with a relaxed and stress free head!  Well done to all this year’s garden designers too!


  • Show runs from 31st May to 4th June inclusive 10am-6pm
  • Tickets range from €12-€20 and kids go free
  • 90,000 visitors recorded last year.
  • There are well over twenty show gardens this year.
  • I am attending the GLDA stand on Sun 3rd from 10am-2pm in the Grand pavilion: answering garden design queries
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