By Laois based award winning garden designer Brian Burke
I was involved, with a group of local volunteers, in the restoration of a neglected, abandoned and derelict Famine Graveyard in Athy.
Before Christmas it dawned on me that the project could potentially be a great Show Garden at Bloom 2017.
I thought it had a lot to say about the neglect of entire chapters of our history and how selective we are about the strands of our heritage that we deem to be worthy of commemorating.
While the garden was certainly possible, I felt the resplendent setting of Bloom might compromise the solemn message. The depths of winter would probably be more appropriate.
Around the time that I resigned myself to forgetting about the Famine garden, the email from the various entities seeking design submissions arrived.
I looked closely at four. The temptation is to take a blanket bomb approach and apply for them all but I relented realising that I needed to adopt a more pragmatic, surgical approach. With a busy day job and a tribe of kids, the time simply does not exist to run with a blunderbuss strategy.
When I saw the invitation from Dogs Trust I knew the direction in which to channel my energy. I instantly recognised the potential to incorporate stimulation and entertainment for the dog into a dynamic, contemporary family garden.
I submitted the initial concept for Dogs Trust which I knew was strong enough to hold attention.
When I got the call to meet them I put everything else on hold to create the space to develop my ideas through solid research.
I arrived at the meeting well prepared and armed with a clear vision in my head and on the page.
Having the idea precisely represented on paper is vital for clients. You might be well able to articulate verbally but leaving something concise and coherent for their review and deliberation afterwards is critical.
There was not much time between the call and the meeting so here was the entire process in miniature; produce under pressure.
The submission route is a good way to go. It’s a ready- made, fully engaged and motivated sponsor and success means that you circumvent so much of the onerous and objectionable process of looking for money.
Being pitch prepared requires considerable work but it makes a world of sense to do everything you can to get on board particularly when you deem the alliance to be a good fit, which in this case I certainly did.
I was determined that the lessons I have learned over the last two years be incorporated into the approach to this year’s show. Securing a client in advance of Christmas is a crucial part of that masterplan. Conversations with plant growers are well advanced and the trickier aspects of the build are already being fine-tuned by my...eh, technical team (Paddy).
We have also already had a series of productive meetings with the clients, feedback from which has fed directly into the design.
But feedback can work both ways. My experience has greatly helped my sponsor to understand how they can best prepare for the event with volunteers, logistics, media and the general approach to the weekend.
This is valuable knowledge accumulated from observing these things in previous years. Designers with experience of the show have extensive insight that can translate to positive exposure and results for the sponsor.
So, yet again all roads lead to the Park for our annual stamina/endurance/stress test.
Eventually when I am old and decrepit and strumming a banjo in a rocking chair on my front porch I will try to analyse and understand the unquenchable compulsion of a person to put himself through such physical and mental anguish on an annual basis. Some day. There is probably a deep rooted, underlying psychiatric phenomenon at play but, for now, it’s just because there is nowhere else on Earth any of us would rather be that weekend. And that’s good enough for me.