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There's nothing shallow about this gardening gala

THE finishing touches to Ireland's largest gardening, food and family festival were completed yesterday, with judging beginning on the show's gardens.

Bloom Festival kicks off today in the Phoenix Park in Dublin and runs for five days.

Visitors can enjoy live cookery and craft demonstrations, free gardening advice from experts, workshops and the best of Irish food and drink.

But at its heart are 27 show-gardens, which were scrutinised by a panel of international judges yesterday.

Horticulturist Tim Austen, who won the gold medal and overall winner awards at Bloom 2009 and was a judge on RTE's 'Super Garden', is among those taking part.

His 'Growwise' garden uses a mixture of old and new materials, symbolising change in landscaping.

Mr Austen has also revived crazy paving, created an orange catwalk through the middle of his garden and included clear Perspex pools. Around 3,000 plants have been used in his work.

"There is a huge amount going on in this garden. It's a tricky thing to combine old and new and I hope the judges think I pulled it off," he told the Irish Independent.

Another striking garden is Liat and Oliver Schurmann's 'To the Water's Edge', which features a submerged seating area surrounded by water.

Meanwhile, Qin Huang and Libo Han's Chinese garden had every plant and feature imported from China, while the 'Kells Bay Garden' by Frazer McDonogh and Billy Alexander is an oasis of calm.

Also new to Bloom this year is the Bord Bia Food Village, with the best of Irish food. And for those who fancy a tipple in thesunshine, the Bloom Inn offers a range of local artisan beers and spirits.

Irish Independent