i joined some of the 14,000 people who took advantage of the amazing sunshine and visited the North West Garden Show in Castlefin. Now in its 3rd year (i'll re-word that, only its 3rd year), the Castlefin show has an amazing energy about it, ran by a small commitee and an army of volunteers (between 80+100 on each of the two days) this show is well worth the trip. With 145 exhibitors and as many marquees as would put a royal wedding to shame!! The parking and the Park'n'Ride facilities were second to none.
Held within the CPI complex on the main Lifford - Ballybofey road the site itself has a year-round allotment project, showcasing many traditional growing techniques, such as the lazy bed, and a full size working polytunnel and various vintage farm tools (this is open for anyoen to visit and see all year round)
now back to the show itself, apart from the glamour of Tim Austen and Diarmuid Gavin (we'll come to this later) there was lots going on, the first thing that caught my eye was a super wee display of 'Pallet Gardens' from various local primary schools, each had their own wee story and were nice and varied...(i love the wooden turtle one...that was my favourite)...i didn't see who won best in show but they were all fab! ( as i was taking these pics there were eager kids hauling parents up to show them 'their garden')
sunday was the perfect day for selling garden furniture, and off the 145 exhibitors there were about 6 stalls dedicated to garden furniture. Wood seemed to be right out of fashion with outdoor hessian style, wrought iron and steel seeming to be the more fashionable offerings..
something I really enjoyed was the Tree Surgery display by Colin Farrell Tree Services, every hour the lads winched themselves 30' up a tree (in full tree surgery get up) and gave a great wee talk explaining all their equipment and the methods they were using to gradually cut down a big ash tree, all this in 27C heat...and yer man was never out of breath (he was using a microphone headset but i was amazed he wasn't out of breath!)
There were some super displays from Garden Centres, this swan was a real feature piece on the Ashtree Garden Centre stand, now there wasn't the 'unusual choice' that you would get a Hillsborough but the garden centres and nurseries all had stellar displays of plants which were in bloom or in great colour.
there was also a strong Grow-your-own showing too, with lots of the garden centres selling vegetable plants and fruit bushes (amazing 5' tall blackcurrents!). Also on show there were 2 polytunnel manufacturers, giving great dislays and info on the benefits associated with polytunnel growing, Colm Warren Polytunnels said it was their first time at the show and were delighted with the crowds and the interest in polytunnel growing
now I wasn't there entirely as an interested spectator, I was helping out at the Cookeryschoollive.com pavilion, working with Brian McDermott (communitychef.ie) on spreading the healthy eating and healthy gardening message, providing advice on growing your herbs and tasty salad crops throughout the day. Everytime Brian took to the stage it was standing room only! Within the same pavilian as Brian there were a super display of local food producers, buns, meats, oils, breads etc etc (I ate nothing - i'm still inspired by Ivan Blacks slimdown lol!)
Something which the north west garden show doesn't have it ShowGardens. Now Hillsborough had a number of nice gardens (not enough but it had some), but in Castlefin there are none. Something show director Michael Carlin is doing very bold and brave to address. They have great plans to construct a Diarmuid Gavin designed garden on the site for 2013. Titled 'An Irish garden for the White House' its a walled garden with flavours of ireland through it, designed to fit in the grounds of the White House it will surely become a great tourist attraction all year round for the CPI centre. (anyone hoping to catch a glimpse of Diarmuid were needing to be quick, he was in and out in 15 mins on sunday.......)
Somethign which i really enjoyed were the Landscape dsigne talks given by RTE's Tim Austen, in each talk he covered conception, planning, implementation and had some great pictures of gardens 6 months later to see how they matured. Over the day i think he gave 4 talks aswell as walking the crowd giving garden advice in his stride, a true horticultural gent. This is Tims second year at the show and he was giving the mighty task of performing the opening on the Saturday. heres McDermott, Austin and Austen....
Like Hillsborough foodie types were spoiled for choice with the yummies on offer here, Rathmullan House were in attendance aswell as a number of food sellers doing barbecues and there must have been a dozen ice cream vans lined up at the front entrance! and as much free sampling of stuff as you could stomach.....
a pink sink.....sure why not! Fleming Steel had a querky stand shwoing all the colours and things they've coated over the years, cinks, wheels, doors, shutters, gates all in every colour under the sun.....
All in all the 2012 North West Garden Show was a triumph for the commitee and the volunteers, show director Michael Carlin told me that over 21,000 people attended the show over the 2 says....a startling achievement for something only in its third year. The weather was the true star of the weekend, it made everything look better, smell better and made the flowers and the plants more attractive. The main thing which got me was the 'buzz' of the show, the eagerness of the people attending, the eagerness of the people showing and the great feeling of positivity you get from hanging around thousands of gardeners. If you didn't go this year its well worth a trip in 2013...even to see the new Diarmuid Gavin garden alone...
Gardening on Radio Foyle
A summary of each weeks gardening on Mark Patterson Show and beyond