Meet Joe Eustace, Bord Bia Bloom’s Cultivating Talent Winner

Joe Eustace is the winner of Bord Bia Bloom’s inaugural Cultivating Talent competition, an initiative that champions emerging talent in Irish horticulture by providing one Bloom newcomer with an opportunity to design a show garden at the festival. Joe combines studying for a degree in Landscape Architecture in University College Dublin with running his own business, Online Garden Designs. At 21 years of age, he is one of the youngest designers to bring a show garden to Bord Bia Bloom. 

Joe Eustace, winner of Bord Bia Bloom’s Cultivating Talent competition

What prompted you to pursue a career in garden design? 

I grew up in a household that was deeply rooted in nature so I have been passionate about gardening from a young age. My Mum, Jenny, is a Montessori teacher who firmly believes that kids should be encouraged to connect with nature, while my dad, Ken, is a landscape designer. As well as operating his own landscape construction business, Dad is my business partner and together we run Online Garden Designs, a pandemic start-up which offers an accessible and affordable garden design service via the internet. 

You could say that garden design is a multi-generational passion in our family. My uncle Jim is a landscape designer too and he and my dad inherited this passion from my grandfather who is an avid gardener. It is little wonder I followed a similar path – as soon as I could walk I was handed a shovel and as soon as I could fit into work boots, I was out helping them on sites. I learned the bulk of what I know from Dad and his excellent colleagues. 


How does it feel to be the first winner of Bord Bia Bloom’s Cultivating Talent competition? 

Winning the inaugural Cultivating Talent competition at Bord Bia Bloom is amazing yet surreal. I really didn’t know what to do with myself when I heard I won. I have been going to Bloom for so many years and I have been so inspired by the show gardens and the incredibly talented designers and construction teams that create them. To be chosen for this award and to be given the opportunity to design my own show garden at Ireland’s largest and most important garden festival is truly humbling. 


Tell us about the concept for your garden. 

It took me a while to come up with the concept for my show garden. Writing a brief from scratch wasn’t something I was familiar with but I knew I had to come up with an idea for a garden that would resonate with others. I was sitting by the window of the James Joyce Library in UCD when the idea struck. I looked across the campus and I thought, “this is a time in my life that I am going to look back on fondly but what’s to come after college? What’s next?” And that’s how I came up with the name, The Next Step. 


What can we expect from the design? 

The garden is designed to be unpredictable. I think of it as standing within a jungle of plants, trying to find your path. It’s up to you where you go and what you do next.  

The construction will feature different elements that represent navigating life. There will be a number of undulating paths and focal points, including a bright red steel plunge board that is intentionally designed to be intimidating. This will be placed over a linear trough of water, which is flanked by an angled mirror that reflects light and projects calm. The installation conveys that sometimes in life we have to take a plunge whether we’re ready or not. 


Who are you looking forward to seeing at the festival? 

I am so excited that I will be participating alongside so many talented and well-established designers this year and I am looking forward to seeing all of them and observing how they work. I know I am going to learn a lot from the experience.   

If I had to name just two, however, it would be Nicola Haines, my mentor in the Cultivating Talent programme who I am learning so much from, and Alan Rudden, a Bloom regular who, like Nicola, has won many accolades for his show gardens. His work is impeccable and I have gained a lot from following him at Bloom and on Instagram over the last few years.  

I am a big fan of Nicola’s work so I was thrilled when Bloom appointed her as my mentor. I have learned so much from studying the UCD Evolution of Land Plants Garden which she designed with Dr Caroline Elliott-Kingston for Bloom 2016 (relocated to UCD after the festival) and now I get to work with her closely and learn even more!