Thursday 21 September 2017

Watch: From rocker to taxi driver to gardener - a blossoming career towards Bloom acclaim

Garden Designer Kevin Dennis in his garden ‘Living Oasis’ by Santa Rita. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Garden Designer Kevin Dennis in his garden ‘Living Oasis’ by Santa Rita. Photo: Caroline Quinn

Rebecca Lumley

BLOOM winner Kevin Dennis wasn’t always set on a life of garden design, despite scooping one of the coveted gold medals at this year’s festival, Ireland’s most prestigious horticultural display.

Having played all over Dublin as part of a rock band in his early adult years, Mr Dennis swapped set lists for gardening gloves and now says he has found his calling in garden artistry.

Fresh from news of his award yesterday morning, Mr Dennis told Independent.ie:

“I love this job, I love creating gardens and I love meeting people. It’s the type of job where you meet someone, you connect with them and you work towards making them happy.

“And when you create a garden people are happy with it ends up being a good experience for all. So we’re heading towards the light and at the end of the day, it’s a celebration.”

While Mr Dennis has always been green-fingered, it was just nine years ago that he decided to turn his interest into a business. Leaving his music career to the side, Mr Dennis spent time working in Canada, then returning to Dublin to work for his father’s taxi service.

The al fresco kitchen sees the clay oven, left, join the BBQ as a garden must have as in this design by Kevin Dennis
The al fresco kitchen sees the clay oven, left, join the BBQ as a garden must have as in this design by Kevin Dennis
President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina with a bee at the opening of Bloom 2017 in the Phoenix Park, Dublin. Pic:Mark Condren 1.6.2017

“It wasn’t really for me,” he admitted, explaining that his interests always lay in more creative fields.

Gardening became more than just a hobby when Mr Dennis was approached to work on other people’s gardens. Having jumped between careers, he decided to pursue gardening in a serious manner, obtaining a degree in horticulture from ITB and the Botanic Gardens.

“Once I made the decision I dropped everything else I was doing at the time,” he said.

Things moved swiftly from there, with Mr Dennis creating the business Cityscape Gardener and taking on staff.

“I just decided that this was the one area that had something creative in it, that I could develop. While I might have been doing some paving or planting or separate items, I thought hold on, maybe I can paint the full picture here,” he said.

“It was the one thing that had lots of elements that could be something big, rather than trying to go into a business that would be more singular.”

Mr Dennis’ garden, entitled ‘Living Oasis by Santa Rita: Living La Vida 120’, is one of 22 show gardens at this year’s Bloom festival and is one of just six entries to take home a gold medal.

His vision for the space was one of tranquility, with the small plot encompassing a glistening water feature and luxurious hammock, all surrounded by leafy green plants of various origins.

“The garden is an oasis. We wanted to create an oasis, a place of calm within the hectic lifestyle of living in the city. So it’s an exaggeration of what a garden design can become. We’ve over-emphasised all the elements,” he said.

“We wanted a place that would transcend you into a calm, serene area and take you away. We have a combination of things going on here. It’s mainly a green foliage garden, rather than your kind of typical floral show garden.”

Mr Dennis’ creation is minimalistic, featuring clean lines and bursts of orange and red foliage, adding splashes of warmth to the jungle-esque aesthetic.

An enclosed living room area leads onto a white pavilion, an important feature in terms of meshing modern homes and designer gardens, according to Mr Dennis.

“Homes are becoming more contemporary so we need something in the garden that kind of connects our mind, design-wise, with the space.”

While the opening day of the popular Dublin festival was somewhat overcast, Mr Dennis describes the almost green appearance of the water feature in bright sunlight, “glistening and reflecting the green surroundings.”

Describing his win this year as an “excellent result”, Mr Dennis has high hopes for future horticultural endeavours.

“The standard of the judges is quite high, so when they give you a gold it’s deserved and we’ve worked hard for it,” he said.

On the surface it seems like a far cry from his days of gigging around Dublin, but this Bloom victor says the feeling is much the same.

“I’ve kept music going throughout my life. I like to write music, to record music. All my life I’ve kept in touch with music, that’s the kind of creative release I’ve always enjoyed but I’ve somehow managed to get some music into my career through gardening.”

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