Friday 18 August 2017

Top five gardening tips from Bloom’s big winner

Oliver Schumaan with his Garden Transition at the Bloom Festival in the Phoenix Park. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Oliver Schumaan with his Garden Transition at the Bloom Festival in the Phoenix Park. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Rebecca Lumley

When it comes to gardening, Bloom winners Oliver and Liat Schurmann know what they’re talking about.

The married couple scooped the prize for best large garden at this year’s flower festival, adding to list of seven previous Bloom in the Park accolades.

Their stunning tidal garden, inspired by the Connemara coastline, amazed judges with a sophisticated water feature designed to mimic sea tides. In the centre of the glistening pool sits a small pavilion, half enclosed by glass panels and half open to the air, part-stranded on the water like an island. The “smokers’ room”, according to Mr Schurmann.

Here he sits down with Independent.ie, divulging his top tips for garden greatness.

President Michael D. Higgins with his wife Sabina at Bloom yesterday Picture: Mark Condren
President Michael D. Higgins with his wife Sabina at Bloom yesterday Picture: Mark Condren

1. Light

According to Mr Schurmann, lighting can make or break a garden. While correct positioning of plants can illuminate key features, getting it wrong can result in a space that is too dark under cloud and glaringly bright in the sun.

Cellist Jenny Dowdall in the FBD Insurance ‘Transition’ garden. Photo: Julien Behal
Cellist Jenny Dowdall in the FBD Insurance ‘Transition’ garden. Photo: Julien Behal

He said: “When it comes to thinking about your garden you have to consider all the light aspects. How the light travels through your garden, how you want to use your garden.

“Never place your patio in the full sun. It’s often nicer to look out from a dappled, shady spot, looking out at the illuminated garden instead of the other way around.”

According to Mr Schurmann, this mistake is often made in the construction of sunrooms. He advises on partial light entry, so as not to overheat the area and create a space that is too bright.

2. Plant choice

Mr Schurmann advises putting “a lot of consideration into what trees and shrubs you’re planting in the garden”.

“These will grow and they will form the backbone of your garden in the next 30, 40 or 50 years. So the choice of that is really important.”

He advises choosing plants that look good through all seasons and have varied and interesting visual features.

“If it’s a small garden, trees and shrubs with multiple interest. So if they have a good growth pattern, they may have interesting bark, they have interesting leaves, good flowers in spring, perhaps good berries in autumn and good autumn colour. An all-in one tree does a lot of things.”

Mr Schurmann’s recommendation for such a hard-working plant comes in the form of a Rowan tree.

“The Rowan tree has an interesting flower, it doesn’t have a massive growth habit, it has beautiful leaves, it does autumn colour and berries.”

3. Spatial tailoring

Working with what you’ve got is important with any garden and being able to master even the smallest of spaces is essential for garden designers.

If you’re working with a very small space, Mr Schurmann believes manipulating perspective is the solution.

He said: “The tiny space has to turn into a kind of a picture. It has to give you the impression of a larger space.

“You play with perspective, there’s different ways of playing with perspective. Say you have a path going through the garden and it’s winding through. If the path is getting narrower you cheat the eye and you’ve got perspective.”

“You can bring taller plants closer to your view, so you look through plants to a layer of plants behind. Again, that fools the eye and creates perspective.”

For large gardens, Mr Schurmann believes it is often beneficial to seek professional consultation, as large areas can seem like a daunting task to cultivate.

“The best things is get a consultant that would have a few ideas, who has the lay of the land, who understands how the garden fits into the landscape, what you want to block out, how you want to create shelter. That’s so individual depending on the actual site.”

4. Longevity

While gardening projects may be started with a lease of life and a love of horticulture, Mr Schurmann warns against planting anything that requires too much maintenance.

He said: “You also have to consider that you might be starting a garden when you’re young and maybe you want loads of hedges. But if you start planting loads of hedges you have to keep in mind that you have to maintain these. As we get older and have less energy, we’re still cutting hedges.

“You spend so much time cutting hedges, cutting vast amounts of lawn and that kind of thing, you actually become a slave to the garden. And it shouldn’t be like that. You should have a plan that your garden will evolve and mellow out so that eventually it needs little or no maintenance.”

5. Water

While low-maintenance may lead to garden success for many, more ambitious gardeners should think about water. Not just a vital component for keeping grass and flowers alive, water can become a beautiful and striking element in any garden. 

Mr Schurmann describes it as “certainly worthwhile and certainly important.”

“You just have to go by understanding water properly and understanding how you can naturally keep your water quality. But it’s a great asset to a garden, especially for wildlife.”

Describing how the large water feature in his Bloom garden had attracted a family of blue-tits, Mr Schurmann believes water is a great asset for nature lovers.

“If you want to invite wildlife into your garden, water is the best way to do it.”

The Schurmanns’ garden will be on display at Bloom in the park until the end of the Bank Holiday Monday. Tickets to the event range from €16- €22.50 and entry is free for children under 16.

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