Top 10 garden trends
1: Say goodbye to decking - in case you hadn't heard, our love affair with decking is over. According to Alan Rudden of Outside Options, who has designed the Savills Urban Retreat at Bloom, "we just don't have the climate for it. We're tearing out decks all the time and replacing them with natural stone."
Kevin Dennis of Cityscape Gardener, who has designed Bloom's Living Oasis for Santa Rita, says of decking, "it's found its niche. It does work in some areas, especially where there are changes in ground levels." But the trend is towards using natural stone such as granite and hard limestones that stand the test of time.
Dennis is increasingly seeing a demand for porcelain in the urban and suburban gardens he designs. "With small city gardens it's very nice to do the garden up like the inside of the house so you continue the look throughout. There are a lot of grey and off-brown shades. Porcelain tiles don't look polished - they're not high-gloss, they're rough-textured but there's no doubt that they are tiles. But they are thick and very big so it doesn't look like you put down a kitchen tile."
And, just as in interiors, polished concrete is making a big show. Says Rudden, "it's very bespoke in a colour that the designer would have picked. It's in different forms, some people are covering floors with it and some are doing huge big blocks for their floor of polished concrete."
2: The rise of the outdoor living room - this trend has been around for a while, but this year sees the traditional patio move away from the house to become a free-standing structure in the centre or at the end of the garden, often partially or completely covered, according to Alan Rudden.
He says, "They are standalone, not connected to the house, and the whole garden is built around them. It's a place for people to go and enjoy the garden if the weather is not 100pc on their side."
Oliver Schurmann of Mount Venus Nursery, who has designed FBD Insurance's Transition garden at Bloom with Liat Schurmann, points to our love of large extensions with big glass windows as the reason builders tend to place a patio right beside the house - it makes both the extension and the garden feel larger. But by moving the patio away from the house, he says, "You really feel you're right in the garden and not just looking at an extended living room on the other side of your glass, and watching your expensive outdoor furniture deteriorating in the bad weather. It's much nicer to bring a curtain of planting between the patio and these large windows. It's quite exciting to watch the development of plants at close range with a piece of glass between both sides."
3: Move over barbie, the clay oven has arrived - while outdoor kitchens have been popping up in Irish gardens for the last few years, Kevin Dennis has recently been installing clay ovens. "It's an oven technically - you can get it up to 300-400 degrees so you can cook a pizza in three to four minutes." He likes to install them alongside a cooking area with a fireplace and built-in barbecue. "So on a summer evening, if there's a slight nip, you can put some logs on the fire and do some cooking."
4: Go wild - According to author, garden designer and interior architect Leonie Cornelius of Blume, who this year designs Everyone has a Dream for Woodies, "At Bloom, we're seeing a lot of agricultural references, with very natural, wild planting." But while planting may appear very natural, it has been carefully stage-managed. Cornelius's own Bloom garden - and some of those at Chelsea Flower Show - has a lot of colour with lime green euphorbias, irises, salvia "which spirals up beautifully", as well as cheeky touches such as plantain, a weed which can also be grown as an ornamental.
"This year at Chelsea," she says, "there was a lot of hesperus, which is a perennial that grows all over Ireland in wild meadows as well. So a lot of wild stuff and yet some feature plants thrown in as well, because if you're getting a designer in, you don't actually just want a field. You do want something that looks like an idealised version of nature."
Last year, Alan Rudden's garden for Bloom used purples and pinks, and a little orange and green. This year, he says he has pared his palette right back for his Savills show garden: "My planting is very green and lush and we're only using one colour - white. We've a lot of topiary and pruned box hedging and we're just using alliums and astilbe and small sprinkles of white throughout the garden. Very restrained. We're trying to simplify everything and make a statement that you can be simple and complement each other."
5: Swing in the garden - hammocks are a garden perennial, but the 2017 update is a swinging chair and they are available in every material from wicker to plastic to wood. Designer Joan Mallon, whose Enable Ireland Life with no Limits show garden features a candy-striped helter-skelter, has used them to add a stand-out feature in a tricky space for a private client. Most are also available with a stand.
6: Return of the rose - James Purdy, of JP Architects and Landscape Design, designs the Cuprinol Kaleidoscope show garden this year for Bloom with Dan Henson of Boys and Girls. Its central blast of colour is set around with a rose garden in pinks, whites and reds. Purdy predicts a revival for the lovely flower. And he is not alone - the Strawberry Bed Garden, designed by Maeve O'Neill, also features towers of palest pink blooms. Purdy's own favourite variety? "David Austin's Gertrude Jekyll for its early flower, sweet scent and colour."
7: Water, water, everywhere - "Water is going to be very big this year at Bloom," says Alan Rudden. "It's not just a small 'sound' feature, everyone seems to be going for big pools. There are a lot of reflective qualities, and that's what people are looking for." In his own show garden, he has constructed a large L-shaped pool, about 15m long and 1.5m wide that will have sound and reflective qualities, while Oliver Schurmann has created a garden inspired by the tidal landscape of the West of Ireland that takes up 80pc of the space. Every 90 minutes, 30,000 litres of water are pumped out into a reservoir revealing a stony low tide scene. "It's supposed to really capture the dramatic transition between high and low tide," says Schurmann.
"Water is becoming popular and people are becoming a bit more courageous," he says. "I mean there is always the scare of little children and ponds and things, but once water is constructed safely so that children can feel their way into the water, it's not as dangerous and people are inclined to go for it."
8: Calm it down - "I think this year [hard landscaping] will be very natural and very muted," says Alan Rudden, whose Bloom garden uses natural tones with Liscannor stone, cream limestone and chocolate brown. "We've no bold, bright colours. From what I can see across the board, it's generally very muted, a very elegant-looking colour scheme rather than the bright punchy scheme that has been there maybe two years ago."
Kevin Dennis agrees, saying that interiors' tones of the moment are now moving outdoors into materials. "I'd say warm-textured greys are a trend. I'm even using some blues which I've never used before last year. Colours that have a certain tone that make a really good back-drop for plants." In planting, this is translating into a turn towards greenery. "People are going a lot more for foliage," says Oliver Schurmann, "and going back to ferns and enjoying that much more, they're looking for texture rather than blowsy colour. People are a bit tired of the blowsy garden-centre look."
9: Grow UP - The trend towards making a green oasis wherever possible is on the up, literally. "People are converting their flat roofs into a garden," says Joan Mallon of Love Gardens! Simplicity is the key, she says. "You need plants that will give colour and interest all year long. So that is a big challenge for a designer to get all that into a series of rooftop planters."
10: Build in shade and shelter - we may not have the weather for it, but it seems when it comes to al fresco dining, we're optimists. Places to eat and entertain are big on our dream garden list. Alan Rudden's show garden has not one but two entertaining spaces - an open terrace and a sunken, half-covered space with a seating area, fireplace and feature wall, providing options for all weathers and showing a shift away from situating dining areas in suntraps to building in partial or full shade.
Oliver Schurmann has some advice for those planning a dining space: "I do think people are understanding more and more that large outdoor seating areas in full sun aren't as attractive any more because when the sun in Ireland does come out, it gets so unbearably bright and hot that you prefer a dappled, shady place. We're placing our patios in the wrong spot. I try to dapple them off with shade a bit."
3 tips on rooftop gardens from Joan Mallon of Love Gardens!
1: Go for simplicity in your containers, decide on your material, decide on the number, keep them all the same.
2: Follow that through with simplicity of planting — don’t try to be too ambitious. Roses won’t grow on a rooftop, wisteria won’t grow three storeys up. Think of the right plant for the right place. Think coastal, think of what will take wind, salt, exposure. Maritime planting is your best bet. The bible is Perfect Plant, Perfect Place by Roy Lancaster. Things like astelias are good, cordylines, flax, generally spiky-shaped things work very well. Eryngium planum or sea holly for colour then, or some nice pretty, soft stuff like osteospermums. Don’t be afraid to go big, weight aside, a pine tree can survive in a big container or try something hardy that can take the exposure.
3: Always have a water source — put a tap on the roof and possibly a sprinkler system and water everything. Wind is very drying.. You can never have too much water, even if it’s on the roof.
3 tips for a garden makeover from Leonie Cornelius of Blume
1: Dream big, don’t limit yourself at the start. Allow yourself to explore all avenues. You can always reel your design in later or make it happen in stages.
2: Get to know who you are — how you spend time in the garden or, if you don’t but you’d like to, what stops you. For example, in an ideal situation, you might like to do yoga in the garden but can’t because it rains so much. So you could say you need some sort of structure, a pagoda with a glass or polycarbonate roof or a shed or studio. Explore how you spend your day, how, if you designed your garden in such a way, you could do all those things you want to there. Get to know how you want to use the space and how it actually functions for you.
3: 3 Be adventurous with the planting and don’t hold back. Have a strong concept and let your plants follow that. Plant up with impact and be bold with it and put a good bit of thought into planting, because once you put a good scheme of plants into the space, it will really bring it to life and will underline your concept.
3 tips on garden design from Kevin Dennis of Cityscape Gardener
1: A garden needs a really well thought-out design plan — and unless you’re good at that, you will need to hire an experienced designer who will find out what you want and shape a plan around your needs.
2: Don’t be afraid of planting — a lot of people want low-maintenance gardens but plants aren’t high-maintenance once they are well-chosen. If you get the right designer and the plant choices are correct, everything is going to be OK.
3: If you’re planning a new garden, make sure you hire the best-quality contractor that you can get — and it’s not always about money. Read reviews, check their work, see if they are members of the Association of Landscape Contractors of Ireland. If you’re looking for a designer, check they are a member of Garden and Landscape Designers Association, what their credentials are, read reviews and even go and see their work.
My 3 favourite plants Oliver Schurmann, Mount Venus Nursery
Hepatica nobilis — because you see all these little flowers of such a vibrant blue which come up through the frozen ground first thing in spring. It’s very much the early flowering plants that fascinate me.
Epimedium — they are like little fairies dangling off invisible wiry stems that arch over and have very attractive foliage, and there are lots and lots of different ones. They are early, ranging from the beginning of March and there are still very good flowering ones now.
Solomon’s seal or Polygonatum — It is one of those plants that in every stage of their growth habit are like a sculpture. They first come up out of a point, then the leaves unravel, the stem unravels and then they arch over and have white flowers hanging off an arching stem, like a crane. They are just very, very interesting.