Tuesday 16 January 2018

Reigning cats and dogs in 'blooming' park

Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

YOU could say it was her pet project. Inspired by her two dogs and cat, 10-year-old Miah Ni Nuallain's garden was a popular attraction yesterday on the opening day of the sixth annual Bloom garden festival in the Phoenix Park.

Not only was it colourful and imaginative, but it was also the first show garden designed by a child.

'Reigning Cats and Dogs' was designed as a "worry-free space for pet and garden lovers" -- all the plants, trees and flowers are "pet-friendly".

The budding young gardener had help from family members with her design, which included a sculpted oversized dog bone as a garden seat and a specially commissioned upside-down umbrella pond.

"I don't have a big garden in my house but I help out at my grandad's," said Miah from Rialto in Dublin.

Asked if she had caught the gardening bug and planned to continue, she told the Irish Independent: "I think you should come back to me in eight years."


It was a family affair yesterday as her uncle Fiann O Nuallain, who helped with the design, was also showcasing his creation.

It was inspired by comments made by President Michael D Higgins on the campaign trail last year when he saw one of his previous gardens.

His design 'Stream of Consciousness' depicts the story of Fionn Mac Cumhaill and the Salmon of Knowledge.

The garden was developed as a narrative structure to help convey the story, as well as a performance space as it features a floating stage.

"He (the President) talked to me about art as a transformative tool and how gardens can tell a story," said Mr O Nuallain.

"I knew he was going to be the next President, and from the conversation talking about transformative power, I thought of Cuchulainn and Fionn Mac Cumhaill." President Higgins officially opened proceedings yesterday where the vast array of umbrellas and ponchos on display added a dash of colour amid the downpours.

"The show gardens highlight the inclusiveness and therapeutic potential of gardening and I hope that they will encourage everyone of all ages and ability to simply have a go," the President said.

The wet weather failed to dissuade the 12,000 first-day visitors as they toured the 27 show gardens.

"Real gardeners are never put off by the weather," said Pauline O'Crowley from Stillorgan, Co Dublin. She travelled with close friend Marie O Broin, who attended with more than 20 members of the Malahide Horticultural Society.

"For the last two years we have had hot sunshine, but then it's nearly too hot. We live in Ireland after all," Ms O Broin said. "We feel that there aren't as many flowers as last year, but it really is just a lovely place to go."

Meanwhile, Katherine and Gary De Brun, who were married at the Cavan Crystal Hotel earlier this month, were happy to give their wedding outfits a second day out and sip champagne.

The newlyweds posed for photographs at the hotel's garden designed by Patrick Dowling.

Bloom is very much a mix of the greenfinger enthusiasts and the dabblers mingling at the food stalls, the show gardens, the nurseries and the arts and crafts. The economy even made its way into the festival, as two young landscape architects focused on emigration.

'Departures' contains portraits of emigrants telling their stories, which are played via earphones.

One of the designers, Cillian McDonald, said the project explored why people were leaving.

"We were talking to people we didn't really know about emigration, and as it's such a personal topic, they didn't really open up," said Mr McDonald.

"Others were friends and family and they were willing to tell you all about it. So the stories are very evocative."

Bloom show manager Gary Graham said this year's event has a range of styles and themes, from traditional cottage gardens to ultra modern.

"Most gratifying for me is how designers have used both the concept and show-garden categories as communication platforms in highly creative, engaging and fun ways to add to the debate on wider health, socioeconomic and environmental issues," he said.

Bloom is on until Monday.

Irish Independent

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