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Robert Moore, who designed the Marie Keating Foundation's Catching Cancer Early garden for Bloom 2023. Fennell Photography
bloom 2023

'Everyone has been touched by it': Importance of early cancer detection highlighted at Bloom

The festival gets underway in Dublin’s Phoenix Park tomorrow.

THE IMPORTANCE OF early cancer detection and being aware of our health is highlighted in one of the show gardens at Bloom 2023 this year.

The festival gets underway in the Phoenix Park in Dublin tomorrow and features 22 show gardens that will be on display for the public to see over the coming five days. 

One of the gardens, the Marie Keating Foundation’s Catching Cancer Early garden, focuses on the importance of early detection and the positive outcomes that come when cancer is diagnosed early.

It features a charred timber backdrop and boardwalk along with structural frames and water bowls made from rusted steel. Designer Robert Moore told The Journal that these are meant to represent the penetration of cancer in our society. 

“It’s everywhere. Everyone has been directly or indirectly touched by it, so I really wanted to create something that was going to be stark,” he said.

“Then all of the planting relates to the relief, the hope, the optimism, if someone’s at the start of the journey or at the end of the journey. The whole garden is about screening and early detection, because the survival rates are massive when people get screened and if it’s detected early.”

unnamed (10) The Marie Keating Foundation's Catching Cancer Early garden at Bloom 2023. Jane Moore / Jane Moore / /

Five trees located throughout the garden symbolise strength and shelter as well as support, representing the role of the Marie Keating Foundation for those experiencing cancer, while the five water bowls give a mirror effect while allows those in the garden to reflect. 

“There’s five colours within the planting scheme, and the reason for the fives of everything is because they represent the five most prevalent cancers: skin cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, bowel cancer and prostate cancer. Each of them is represented by a colour,” Moore said.

The yellow and orange flowers represent being sun smart in terms of skin cancer, for example, while the pink and purple plants represent breast cancer.

Moore’s design was partly inspired by his mother, who passed away from lung cancer in 2019.”We knew she was ill. She was diagnosed with stage two but in fact, it was stage four, so early detection would certainly have helped her,” he said.

“I was keen to get involved, not because of that. Obviously that’s a strong part of my life, but I kind of went ‘the message is there’.

We want people to reflect and take ownership of their own situation. Healthy choices lead to healthy outcomes, whether it’s getting checked or just adapting your lifestyle.

He also commended the work of the Marie Keating Foundation and said he was keen to “anchor” them in the space.

“They’re part of the support structure in Ireland. They’ve got a mobile unit, they’ve got nurses that can advise people in terms of healthy choices, healthy options, but also where to go to get screened, what to do if you see something different and that’s the key. Communication. Someone reaching out.”

Some of the other gardens at this year’s festival focus on the importance of sustainability and biodiversity, and how to incorporate that into urban areas with nature. 

The Green Cities Europe parklet shows how this can be done in towns and cities across the country. It incorporates an Irish wildflower meadow with recycled seating and a grove of native birch trees in a small space, similar to a row of parking spaces. 

unnamed (12) The Green Cities Europe parklet show garden at Bloom 2023. Jane Moore / Jane Moore / /

Landscape architect and urban designer Daibhí Mac Domhnaill, who devised the concept of the garden, told The Journal that innovative greening can be easily introduced in urban spaces.

“Rather than just being flowers or vegetation for aesthetics, this is actually a nature-based solution. This is a rain garden, so the gaps in the curbing will allow water to flow off the road carriageway into the vegetation where it will water the plants, but also it’ll get filtered through the soil,” he said.

“A lot of the water that lands on our city streets and roads is picking up dirt, grime, oil, hydrocarbons, and most of that water goes straight down a gully through a pipe into our watercourses. So by using nature-based solutions like this parklet, we can intercept the water and it gets cleaned and filtered just by passing through the soil.”

Mac Domhnaill said that while decarbonising our transportation will help with greening in cities, we need to do more.

All the physical space that’s set aside for cars, we need to reclaim some of that.

“People need to see it as not punishment, but reward that we’re going to have maybe fewer on-street parking spaces in the city centre so we can reduce congestion, but there’s a huge dividend for people who live and visit the city.

“One of the great reasons to do the garden is that it allows you to make some of the solutions and some of the opportunities visible to people. Not to put the spotlight on looking at the problems, but to put the spotlight on what the solutions might look like, which is great.”

Another show garden that features at Bloom this year is GOAL’s Global Garden. It celebrates the diverse yet interconnected nature of the world by incorporating various plants, crops and ecosystems from the regions where the charity works with farming communities.

It features sweet potato, which identifies Africa, olive trees and blue flax representing the Middle East, corn and beans representing Latin America and sunflowers, which symbolise Ukraine.

unnamed (13) GOAL's Global Garden at Bloom 2023. Jane Moore / Jane Moore / /

At the centre of the garden is a woven pergola made from Irish willow, which holds the sections together, symbolosing connection and support.

“I did research and I found out that the weaving is part of every country where GOAL Global works,” Tunde Perry, who designed the garden, told The Journal.

“This is a very nice interconnecting theme that can go through the garden and I wanted to translate that to the garden and show the plants what we are using for weaving, not just basketry, clothes, any other functional items what human beings use for making everyday lives much more easy,” she said.

Perry wanted to highlight the importance of food and farming in the garden, adding that sunflowers are not just beautiful, but also a “very good food source all around the world”. 

Victoria Walshe, GOAL’s global citizenship manager, said the garden is about “showing how we’re stronger together and the beauty you see when we are interconnected”.

“That’s really something we believe in, and also the Irish willow as that boundary supportive feature is what we’re trying to represent in terms of the work that we do in GOAL, and Ireland as a nation in supporting very vulnerable communities around the world in crises,” she said.

“It’s really important now more than ever, with climate crisis, conflicts and natural disasters. GOAL was present in responding to the earthquake in Turkey and Syria in February, where we unfortunately lost 32 colleagues. We have other colleagues there responding and trying to rebuild communities in that region.

We just find this is a really great platform to engage on a really visceral and tangible level with the Irish public and to empower Irish people’s education and awareness around global issues. 

Many of the gardens at Bloom this year also focus on children and young people, one of which is the Rise Garden. It was designed by Eugene Higgins in collaboration with young people in Oberstown Children Detention Campus in Lusk. 

The garden features a curved path, which is meant to symbolise the twists and turns of life. It is surrounded by colourful planting and also features tall conifer trees, to represent the pillars of society, mirrors for reflection and a pool of water.

The focal point of the garden is the Tower of Stories steel structure. It features a mural which was partly designed with renowned street artist Joe Caslin.

unnamed (14) The Rise Garden at Bloom 2023. Jane Moore / Jane Moore / /

“He’s worked with the young people in Oberstown, has huge representation and [the murals] are very cinematic, so we then landscaped accordingly around this elevated area,” Higgins told The Journal.

John Smith, the activity coordinator at Oberstown, told The Journal that when the opportunity came to receive funding to send a garden to Bloom, the project began.

“The garden tells the story of a young person’s journey through Oberstown and the different partnerships that’s created through that journey,” he said.

“We talked to every young person on the campus, got an idea of what they want in a garden and then split the lads up into different groups to build specific aspects of that garden.”

He said the corrugated steel surrounding the garden, which represents borders, was painted by the young people at Oberstown, while the wooden benches and glass panels were also built onsite. 

The young people also had a say in the mural itself. The bottom part shows a boy in detention, while in the second part, he is being supported by a hand. In the third part, the boy is standing on his own two feet. 

“All the planting then represents the staff, the young people, some of the trees represent the management. If you look at the pathway, it’s a rocky pathway in the beginning. It’s a smooth thyme pathway on the way out, but there’s rocks within that pathway, saying that it’s not always smooth.

“Ultimately, because the young people can’t come here to actually view the garden, I wanted some sort of their presence here, so we got them to handprint the boulders. If you look at the boulders, it has all the handprints of young people that worked on the garden back on the campus, so in a way, they are present.”

The garden will be installed at Oberstown after Bloom.

Higgins said it’s important that the young people were represented at the festival.

I met with them, and they didn’t know a lot about Bloom apparently, but they do now.

“They’ve seen how their work gets to be seen, so I think it’s going to have a huge positive effect on their well being and how they can participate in something that’s extremely positive.”

Among the other gardens on display at the festival are the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory The Musical garden, designed by Tom Leavy and inspired by the storytelling of Roald Dahl and the Next Step garden by Joe Eustace, which symbolises how we navigate life.

The First 5 Garden of Wonder and Discovery, designed by Liat and Oliver Schurmann and highlighting how children benefit from outdoor play, will also be displayed at the festival. 

Bord Bia Bloom 2023 takes place in Dublin’s Phoenix Park from 1 June – 5 June. You can find more information on their website

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