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Oliver Schurmann being awarded a gold medal by Bord Bia Chief Executive Jim O'Toole at Bloom 2023 this morning. Fennell Photography
bloom 2023

Woodland garden focusing on outdoor play for children wins gold medal at Bloom

The festival was officially opened by President Michael D Higgins this morning.

A WOODLAND GARDEN for children aged under five has won three prizes on the opening day of Bord Bia Bloom 2023.

The festival, which is in its 17th year, was officially opened to the public by President Michael D Higgins in Dublin’s Phoenix Park this morning after the medals were awarded.

The ‘First 5 Garden of Wonder and Discovery’, designed by Liat and Oliver Schurmann in association with the Department of Children, highlights how children benefit from outdoor play in the natural world.

The garden was also designed in consultation with 20 children from Creative Kids & Co pre-school in Walkinstown. 

It was awarded a gold medal, as well as the ‘Best Large Garden’ and ‘Best Planting’ prizes this morning.

The entrance of the garden is framed by arching willow structures while large beech and hornbeam trees form a canopy that filters sunlight through the garden.

The main path then splits in three different directions, allowing children to explore the waterfalls and bridges and be creative with sand, willow canes and twigs, while a willow tunnel then leads them to an open play area.

BordBiaBloom08 (1) Children from Creative Kids & Co Pre-School at the First 5 Garden of Wonder and Discovery at Bloom 2023. Fennell Photography Fennell Photography

Speaking to The Journal, Oliver Schurman said winning three medals was a “massive surprise”. 

“One medal that we really enjoy is the best planting because doing the garden with plants that resemble wild plants and natural plants, it’s always very difficult to get that atmosphere across and with the detail that they expect as judges,” he said.

“We would have done so many show gardens and we know already in advance how far we can go. We see all the difficult things and we know how high we can set the bar. It’s that kind of a challenge, but it’s always a relief in the end when you do get your gold.”

Schurman said it was “fantastic” to work with the children on the garden, and that the importance of children being exposed to nature at a young age can’t be overstated.

A kid’s memory is basically like an empty memory stick at the beginning. Everything they take in, it’s memory for life, and they take in so much.

“It’s really important to introduce them to a natural environment. Playing with natural, self-made toys, to learn about risk, learn about water, to feel the water, to muck around and get their clothes dirty, all these aspects that a lot of kids are deprived of in our modern world.”

He said this was especially important because of the impact of modern technology, which he said is “taking over” and giving children a “prefabricated idea of what life is about”.

“We have to go out more into nature and teach them about nature, and then they learn to actually value it and to preserve it, to enhance it, and it gives them a stability of mind which will help them in later stages of their lives and give them confidence.”

Schurman added that he hoped the garden would create an atmosphere that inspired people to “take this picture back home to their own gardens”. 

bord-bia-bloom-2023 The First 5 Garden of Wonder and Discovery at Bloom 2023. Fennell Photography Fennell Photography

In a statement, Minister Roderic O’Gorman said he was delighted that the garden had won three prizes at the festival.

“I would like to congratulate garden designers Oliver and Liat Schurman and the 20 pre-school children from Creative Kids & Co in Walkinstown with whom they collaborated with on the design of this garden,” he said.

“The final garden design – a natural and untouched woodland – shows that children are the real experts in their lives.”

The Minister said he would encourage anyone visiting the Phoenix Park this Bank Holiday weekend to see the garden. 

“I would also encourage parents to visit the National Childcare Scheme stall in the Budding Bloomers section this weekend to find out more this Scheme and the benefits it can bring to their families.”

A total of 36 medals – 17 gold, 8 silver-gilt, 6 silver and 5 bronze – were awarded to show garden designers and plant nurseries this morning.

The best in category medium garden was awarded to Nicola Haines for her urban sustainable front garden, Citroën Power of One, while the best overall small garden went to Kathryn Feeley for The Forest Balcony. 

bord-bia-bloom-2023 The Forest Balcony won best overall small garden at Bloom 2023. Fennell Photography Fennell Photography

Both gardens focus on how to create green spaces and infrastructure in an urban environment and small space. Each garden also received a gold medal.

The Marie Keating Foundation’s ‘Catching Cancer Early’ garden, which focuses on the importance of early cancer detection, was also awarded a gold medal, along with the Looms & Blooms – 300 Years of Avoca garden designed by Kevin Dennis.

A Breathing Space for Fingal, which was designed by Jane McCorkell and highlights the benefits of outdoor activities for our health and wellbeing, also picked up a gold medal.

The Rise Garden, designed by Eugene Higgins in collaboration with the young people at Oberstown and GOAL’s Global Garden, designed by Tunde Perry and celebrating the diversity of our world, received silver gilt medals.

The Charlie and the Chocolate Factory The Musical garden, designed by Tom Leavy, and Joseph Eustace’s The Next Step garden also won silver gilt medals. 

NO FEE 6 President at GOAL garden President Michael D Higgins and Sabina Higgins with Mary Van Lieshout, deputy chief executive officer at GOAL Global, Jim O'Toole, chief executive officer at Bord Bia, and Tunde Perry, the award-winning designer behind the GOAL Global Garden at Bloom 2023. Mark Stedman Mark Stedman

The organisers of the festival expect to attract 100,000 visitors over the coming days.

It features an array of gardens as well as a food village and a stage which will feature talks on horticulture throughout the festival. 

More information on Bord Bia Bloom 2023 and a full list of the winners can be found here.

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