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Garden festivals galore


by James Alexander-Sinclair

This week I went to Ireland to visit the International Garden Festival on your behalf. Garden designers from all over the world have made fifteen conceptual gardens set amongst swaying oats in the grounds of a Georgian mansion called Emo Court in Co.Laois.


Emo CourtThis week I went to Ireland to visit the International Garden Festival on your behalf. Garden designers from all over the world have made fifteen conceptual gardens set amongst swaying oats in the grounds of a Georgian mansion called Emo Court in Co.Laois. It is the next step in shows like Chaumont in France or the (late lamented) Westonbirt show in Gloucestershire (I had a garden there in 2004).

Many people are justifiably wary of the word conceptual in relation to anything, especially gardens as it is often an excuse for being pretentious. It would be foolish of me to deny that some of that has not crept into the International Garden Festival but the majority of show gardens here are pretty good. In any show like this it is important to leave loving something and loathing something else. Whatever happens the gardens should never be bland - as many are at Chelsea and other mainstream shows. You should never be able to wander past without finding something to think or argue about.

So what did I love? The easiest to love was Gerard Mullen's "Home abhaile" - clean modernist rendered walls with windows showing the view of the lake and some good pockets of planting: well done but not exactly original. I have seen it before and the point of shows like this is to be ground breaking. I also liked The Garden that Time Forgot by Catherine Charles and Victor Moreaud (dripping water, twisted metal and balloons), The Frog's Dream by Remi Salles (boxing rings,goldfish and Edith Piaf) and Amelie Leroy's Family Tree. I disliked American Patch and Work (it is a mistake to rely on planting when the planting is ill advised), Genetic Landscape (badly constructed and not thought through) and O Sole Mio (looks like a nightmare in a ready made pasta sauce jar).

I have not got the space to go into it any deeper here but judge for yourselves... there is a more in depth analysis here, Helen Fickling's excellent official photographs can be seen here and my pictures are here. The show is open until September 23rd - well worth the trip.



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Gardeners' World Web User 13/06/2009 at 12:25

visited emo 2years ago wasent impressed try bloom next june 2010

Gardeners' World Web User 28/11/2011 at 18:29

Try Future Gardens (near St Albans). www.futuregardens.org