Designers and artists win coveted medals at Bloom
The Garden County once again lived up to its name as five talented residents brought home medals from the Bloom festival last weekend.
Three garden designers and two botanical artists were among the winners at this year's festival, which took place in the Phoenix Park in Dublin from Thursday, May 30, to the bank holiday Monday.
Rúaidhrí Bashford's show garden 'Moving Forward - Building My Best Possible Life' was awarded a coveted gold medal by the discerning judges of this year's competition.
The small concept garden aimed to inspire people to consider the importance of living in a home of one's own, whether that is in a residential setting or in a clustered setting.
The garden was sponsored by Cheshire Ireland - which supports adults with physical and neurological conditions and its ethos is to allow people to live their best possible lives on their own terms - and reflected the partnership between Cheshire Ireland and the people who use its services.
Within the garden, the willow wattle, willow nest and Irish woodland signifies the support the organisation gives to people in making positive choices around where they live. This combined with the sculpture of a figure facing forward indicate balance, growth, learning and harmony.
Robert Moore from Kilmacanogue was also awarded a gold medal for his 'Memories are made of this - Dementia: Understand Together Garden', which he created for the HSE.
The medium-size garden took its inspiration from the 1950s to create a space where people living with dementia can reminisce in a welcoming and supportive way.
The garden, named after the song made famous by Dean Martin, aimed to take people back in time to when gardens not only provided food for the soul, but food for the table too. It featured a manicured formal space with box hedges and tea roses emblematic of the era, as well as a practical fruit and vegetable patch that provided much of what was on the menu in people's homes at the time.
For many of those living with dementia, recalling memories from years gone by is often easier than remembering more recent events and so the garden shed was transformed into a relaxing place that allowed visitors to access memories and share them in a comfortable setting.
The 'Breath of Life' garden designed by Tunde Perry for the Marie Keating Foundation was awarded a silver-gilt medal by the festival judges.
The Calary-based designer aimed to tell the story of lung cancer, Ireland's biggest cancer killer, through her creation.
The multi-coloured garden highlighted the stark reality facing many of the 2,564 men and women diagnosed with lung cancer each year, as well as the hope that exists with the advent of new treatment options and greater awareness of its early signs and symptoms.
The show garden also aimed to promote the important role that healthy eating, exercise and quitting smoking can play in reducing a person's risk of, not just lung cancer but, all cancers
Two artists from Co Wicklow were also successful in the hotly-contested botanical art competition.
Lynn Stringer, a botanical artist from Kilcoole who specialises in watercolours and pencil, was awarded a silver medal for her work 'Tufted Vetch - Vicia cracca'.
Niamh Harding-Miller from Enniskerry, who has a broad artistic background and works in a number of mediums, won a bronze medal for her creation, 'Asplenium Scolopendrium, Hart's-Tongue fern'.
In addition to Wicklow's strong showing in the green-fingered elements of Bloom, it also had a strong presence in the food village and Bloom Inn, where a number of local food and drink producers showcased their products to the thousands of visitors.
Among those who took part were Janet's Country Fayre from Kilcoole; O'Hanlon Herbs from Glenealy; Miena's Handmade Nougat from Castlesalla, near Donaghmore; 250Kal Foods from Wicklow town; Wicklow Brewery from Redcross and Wicklow Way Wines from Newtownmountkennedy.
As well as capturing the public's attention, exhibiting at the festival brought further exposure and opportunity to local producers.
On Friday, the food village was a hive of activity as over 250 trade buyers from across Britain and Ireland availed of the opportunity to meet with the more than 100 Irish food and drink companies exhibiting at this year's event.
The trade breakfast, which is now in its sixth year, featured the largest number of buyers yet boasting a combined buying power of €15 million. The buyers included representatives from leading retailers, food service organisations, hotel groups, specialist retailers, distributors and airlines, and included the likes of Harrods and British Airways Lounges from the UK and large Irish retailers such as Dunnes Stores, Tesco, Lidl and Aldi.
Bloom also provides a platform for food and drinks companies to launch new products to the market. Last year, Wicklow Way Wines tempted passers-by with its new raspberry wine and, this year, Wicklow Brewery launched its latest offering, the gluten-free 'GingerKnut' Ginger Beer.