Nicola Haines returns to Bloom this year after receiving a Gold Medal and ‘Best in Category’ for co-designing the UCD Evolution of Land Plants show garden in 2016.
With a training in architecture and horticulture, she established Dublin-based Tierney Haines Architects with her husband Stephen Tierney in 2004. Nicola designs both residential and public gardens that are bold and beautiful with strong environmental principles at their core. This year she is a co-designer of the DLR Fernhill ‘An exercise in Sustainability’ garden.
We asked Nicola why she does Bloom by Bord Bia, here is what she said.
Designing can be quite solitary, I spend a lot of time sketching and drawing on the computer on my own. Bloom is very sociable, you work as part of a team of people who have a different expertise than yours. The hours are long, the sun can be hot and tempers can flare. It is an intense experience and it can make or break teams but I have always found it a great bonding experience. My co-designer from 2016 Caroline Elliott –Kingston and our friend Dave Thomas who took 2 weeks off work to help us are now 2 of my closet friends.
It’s great to walk around the show garden area and look at the progress made by other gardeners. This is usually best done when feeling good about your own garden! When rubbing shoulders with some of the top players in Irish landscape design, nothing will put you in more of a flap than walking in after a few days off site to see all of the progress that has gone on in your absence.
Bloom reminds me of college days in the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. After every design project, the students present their work to a group of critics, usually after months of hard work and a few all-nighters. The single-mindedness and dedication that is required to get the project over the line are exactly the same as Bloom.
Bloom is a great opportunity to mix architectural components with the best plants you can source. The garden has to have a strong design behind it, piecing all the ideas together. The ideas have to be clear, well thought out with a strong message. Every aspect of the design from the choice of planting to the architectural elements have to work together to say the same thing.
Creating a show garden for Bloom is hard work and you need a lot of commitment as the designing process can start 9/12 months in advance of Bloom. Once you have a design that fits the brief, is within budget and that the sponsors are happy with, you submit it to the Garden Advisory Committee (GAG) who review all of the submissions they have received and decide which ones they want to see at Bloom. There is a process of review where you work in the comments from GAG. If they are happy with the changes you have made, you move into the detail design stage, finding suppliers and essential pre-ordering of plants and trees that suit your design and the budget. Having trained as an architect, I have to draw everything in detail. It helps me to get on top of every aspect, helps make sure there are no hidden surprises and makes me feel like I’m in control. In the run-up to the UCD garden, I drew around 65 technical 2D and 3D drawings. I’d say I will be close to that with the DLR garden too. Many garden designers don’t operate like this, it’s just a case of operating in the way that suits you. I would feel totally unprepared if I were to arrive on site without a pile of drawings. Whether you can get anyone else to look at them is a totally different matter!