Updated: Mar 1, 2020
Almost a year late, but here is the story of my involvement in Bloom in the Park garden show last year.
Picking up icy cold stones in January of 2013 as the winter was slowly easing its grip on the country, I powered on through the cold in a bid to get my outdoor classroom project completed for my May deadline. It was during this time that I was contacted by renowned Irish landscape designer Tim Austen. A regular medal winner at Bloom, Tim was designing a large garden for the competition and was wondering if I would be interested in creating one of my mosaic panels as a centre piece for his garden.
Being a fan of Tim’s previous show gardens, I was delighted to be a part of his latest garden.
As Tim explains on his website Giardino della mostra, translating generally from the Italian as “exhibition garden” or “garden of exhibits,” is a garden that encourages you to design your own garden to a strong theme whilst referring to the fact that a good garden is formed from the sum of its parts. The concept and layout are, in part, inspired by Ireland’s only permanent exhibition of show gardens at Gardenworld, Kilquade (the National Garden Exhibition Centre), Co. Wicklow. Here a wonderful collection of individual gardens, arranged around the central avenue, collectively inspire and encourage gardeners at all levels to follow a design in their own gardens. The central avenue, with water features and arches are the main elements that are referenced in Giardino della mostra, along with beech hedging that forms a soft backdrop to the garden. Moving through the garden, areas of differing character are also seen.
Unfortunately for me the garden show was on the weekend before the completion date for my outdoor classroom project so this meant that I would be spending many weekends over the next few months in the studio.
When making mosaic panels (as well as other stone art pieces) I try and see if the client has any connection with any particular stone. In this case, as Tim is a proud Wicklow man, and golden granite being the stone of Wicklow, we decided to incorporate granite into the mosaic. So my first task was breaking up chunks of granite into usable pieces for the mosaic.
As the workload started to mount up, working on both the outdoor classroom and the show garden, I called in reinforcements to help. Help with the mosaic came from my wonderful supportive wife Christine who came and helped out with completing the mosaic work.
Back on site, work was commencing with the garden. There was some friendly rivalry between designers on site, and they were often seen walking the grounds checking out the competition. It was for this reason that Tim wanted to keep the mosaic secret only to be installed for the big reveal at the end. The framework for the mosaic did have to be installed earlier in the build, so to keep people guessing ‘flatscreen TV here’ was written on the framework to throw the rivals off.
Tim had a really great crew working with him on the garden, and it took most of them to help me get the mosaic into place. Made of natural stone and cement, it weighed well over 200kg.
Tim was also keen for me to be involved in two of the other stone features in the garden, the old forest-like dry stone wall and one of the water features. As I was short on time I thought this would be a great opportunity for some of The Dry Stone Wall Association of Ireland to get involved in the project. Two good friends of mine from the DSWAI Ken Curran and Alex Panteleyenko took over the responsibility for this from me and did a really wonderful job of making a dry stone wall look like it has been sitting there for decades.
Unlike the mosaic panel, the water feature had to be made on site. Tim was inspired by the free flowing pebble work of UK artist Johnny Clasper and wanted something similar. I first contacted Johnny to see if he wanted to come over to do it but unfortunately he was busy with show gardens in the UK at the same time. So I decided to do it myself. So I would spend the next three days on my knees in the garden building the water feature, and it would have been even longer had Alex Panteleyenko not stuck around for an extra day after finishing the dry stone wall to help get me started with the water feature.
I was delighted to see Tim win Gold for the garden. It was wonderful to be part of the whole process and look forward to future involvement in the show. It was great to see the reactions to the garden over the festival weekend. Tim’s garden proved to be a big hit with many of the 110,000+ visitors who attended the show over the four days of the event.
For more information about the garden and its designer check out Tim Austen’s Website http://www.timaustengardendesigns.com/
If you have time check out this great short film about Tim’s road to Bloom and the building of the show garden. Well worth a watch.
Thanks again to Tim Austen for letting me be involved in the wonderful garden. I would also like to make a very special thanks to Alex who after Bloom was over came and helped me for a day to finish off the outdoor classroom which I am pleased to say also got finished on time.
Also of note. I custom make these mosaic panels in all shapes and sizes so be sure to contact me with your enquiries should you want one for your garden.