What a weekend. After agreeing to take a commission from Bord Iascaigh Mhara, the Irish seafood Development agency, just ten weeks ago, (not something I would recommend), we were delighted to receive Gold and best in show at Bloom this weekend. In addition to this and in recognition of their high standards of construction, our contractor, Silverstream Landscapes received best contractor award.
Our garden, “The Sustainable seafood garden”, told the story of the journey from tide to table of the fish and seafood that surround and inhabit this island and the multitude of people and industries that support it. This journey starts in the water and ends on a plate and it is the fabulous bounty it produces that the garden hopes to celebrate. The garden was designed to illustrate how the fishing industry has been modernized and developed by Bord Iascaigh Mhara in an ecological and sustainable way into the industry it is today. The garden encouraged an appreciation of the incredible resources, industries and produce that this island has to offer and reminds us that it is in all of our interest to protect it.
There were two piers in this garden one traditional and one modern. The purpose of these structures was to highlight how the very old tradition of fishing has been modernized into the cutting edge thriving industry it is today. The fishing boat was an obvious center piece, reminding us of the people and industry behind the seafood we love. In order to continue our celebration of seafood, it is fitted with and outdoor kitchen where some of Ireland's top chefs demonstrated how the wide range of Irish seafood can be prepared.
Our garden was inspired by the Irish coastline and the inlets and bays that connect to it. As such the ground often appears sparse, rocky and wind swept. However, on closer inspection, these areas can produce a bounty of flora. The garden was set in a harbor close to the coast and surrounded by mountains and birch woodland. The aim was to be inspired by the native plants and trees that inhabit our coastline but also to recognize that in many of these areas, unique micro climates exist that allow us to grow non-native species that might not otherwise survive.
In our garden we used a blend of traditional and contemporary materials. The combination of reclaimed materials of cut stone and cobbles with the more modern pallet of polished concrete and the hardwood, simulate how a successful fishing industry is a fusion of traditional and modern techniques. Our feature table also repeats the same theme. Its’ top has been constructed from Irish Elm and its legs are pipework from the old Beamish stout factory in Cork. The use of Elm (which largely speaking was wiped out in Ireland in the 1980’s) was a poignant reminder of the need to protect our valuable natural resources. It was accompanied by eight more contemporary looking Eames chairs to repeat the symbiosis. The stainless-steel fish by Jesse Meyer of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, represented organic farmed salmon, just one of the seafoods that are sustainably produced off Irish coasts and one of the fastest growing sources of extra food on our planet.
Many visitors to the show, (of which there were 119,00 over the five days), were amazed that the garden was a mere four weeks old as the planting had settled in well and features like our large pier wall and Street cobbles were planted up one centimeter at a time with wildflower and grasses. Indeed, much amusement was had when I revealed the fact that our pier wall was in fact a recycled Presbyterian church from Belfast no less. Yes, even the ladder on the wall was brand new and aged for the show.
After constructing our boat from elements of three separate boats, including a river Themes police boat and a Wheel house from a trawler in Dundalk, it was a surreal experience to watch our chefs cooking amazing seafood dishes on her over the weekend.
Our table too was a big hit. It was made for us by Liam McKenna of Industrialworkx in Drogheda. It was nine-foot-long and four-foot-wide and was accompanied by eight Eames chairs from Alternative Furniture.
We had all sorts of visitors to the garden from the Chinese ambassador, the Taoiseach and the President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina, however it was the friends, family and well-wishers that left the biggest impression. Many of whom had come from Clogherhead to wish me well or had happy childhood memories from summers spent in the fishing village where I reside.
Overall it was an incredible experience and the reaction to the garden was like nothing I had experienced before. So, thank you to everyone who helped make it possible and Hopefully we will return to Bloom once more in the Years to come.
Special thanks to:
Our sponsors: Bord Iascaigh Mhara
Our contractors: Silverstream Landscapes and
Our Contributors: Aqua System, Jesse Meyer, Industrial Works, McMonagel Stone, Stone Master, Hortus Loci, Garden world Nurseries, Tully Nurseries, Carragh Nurseries, Nightpark Nurseries, S. Alternative Furniture.