Judging Process

Bloom aims to exhibit the best of design and horticulture in the form of our wonderful show gardens. Every year, our designers and their contractors work tirelessly to bring these colourful and vibrant creations to life. For the duration of the festival the show garden area represents one of the main attractions and will draw in excess of one hundred thousand visitors over the five days. The designers work to very strict criteria in the design and build of their gardens which are subject to a rigorous judging process involving assessment of:

  • Meeting of the Design Brief– realisation of brief and feasibility asper client, location or intended use.
  • Overall Impression/Design– including impact, originality, balance and scale.
  • Construction– quality, finish and special features.
  • Planting– design, colour & texture, association & relevance and use of locally-sourced plant material.

We are also proud to exhibit a selection of Postcard Gardens which have grown from strength to strength in recent years. These are effectively pop up gardens built in one day by various training colleges, schools, community groups and organisations and are well worth a visit during the Bloom weekend.


The Gardens you see on display at the show are the culmination of countless hours of design, planning, sourcing of materials and ultimately, hard manual labour on behalf of our garden designers, nurseries and artists.  The judging panels are integral part of this process, offering their expertise and ensuring that visitors to Bloom can enjoy the highest possible quality exhibits and show pieces.

Andrew Wilson

Andrew Wilson is an award winning garden designer, lecturer and writer based in Surrey, England. Although trained originally as a landscape architect he now specialises in creating contemporary gardens in London and the South East of the UK as a partner in the Wilson McWilliam Studio. He is also a Director of the London College of Garden Design based within the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, teaching and lecturing in garden design both nationally and internationally.   Andrew is a published author and writer, producing his most recent book The Small Garden Handbook for the RHS. He also contributes regularly to ProLandscaper and the RHS Journal, The Garden.

Mark Gregory

Mark is a highly respected and successful contractor based in Surrey in the South East of England, with over 30 years of Quality Landscaping experience. He now concentrates on high end private gardens and quality commercial landscapes. He also specialises in the construction of show gardens for The RHS Chelsea and Hampton Court, Flower shows, with over 120 medal winning Show gardens to his name, including 55 at Chelsea alone. He is ambitious and driven in his work; attention to detail and technical expertise are his trade mark and he regularly achieves awards and plaudits from industry.

Karen Foley

Karen Foley is a landscape architect with a background in education and practice in Ireland and the UK. She is currently Head of Landscape Architecture in the School of Architecture, at University College Dublin and teaches design studio and landscape planning. Her research interests include landscape change, landscape preference, and urban resilience.

Paul Maher

Paul Maher started his career in Trinity College Botanic Garden Dublin and subsequently joined the staff of the National Botanic Gardens in 1974, where he is currently the Curator. During a three-year career break in 1987 he developed a garden design practice in the greater Dublin area. He was a participant in one of the first Irish Garden Festivals in 1988 where he won the ‘The Most Marketable Garden Award’.  He has established himself on the garden lecture circuit and has participated in plant collecting expeditions to China and Chile collecting on behalf of the National Botanic Gardens. He has exhibited at the Chelsea Flower Show with the Irish Garden Plant Society as the designer of two Silver Gilt medal winning educational exhibits.

Feargus McGarvey

Feargus is an award winning Landscape Architect and Garden Designer who has worked on projects across Ireland, from gardens for a private castle in Co Cork to the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre in Co Antrim. His international experience includes projects in the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, China and Saudi Arabia. He is author of national guidance on accessibility for people with disabilities to our landscapes, and on children’s play in urban areas. He has been a judge for the Association of Landscape Contractors of Ireland Awards, and is on the submissions panel for the Garden and Landscape Design Association.

Frances MacDonald

Frances has worked in gardening for over 40 years having trained in the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin. Frances ran her own garden tour company for many years but now organises and guides garden tours to gardens and horticultural shows across the world for the Travel Department.   She has worked as the series consultant on the RTE Radio 1 programme ‘Planting Passions’ and has judged at Garden Heaven Show, Hillsborough Garden Show, Harrogate Spring and Autumn Show. She writes a regular column for The Irish Garden magazine and freelances as a writer for other magazines and journals. She also lectures on behalf of the RHSI to garden clubs.

Jim Buttress

Jim is a judge at many shows including RHS Chelsea and Hampton Court, and for South East in Bloom. He was Chairman of London in Bloom for ten years and is Chairman of the London Gardens Society. Trained at Wisley, Jim worked for Croydon Parks, the Greater London Council and The Royal Parks where he ended his career as Superintendent of Greenwich Park.  He was a Trustee of the Gardeners’ Royal Benevolent Society (Perennial) and is an ‘Associate of Honour’ of the RHS. He was awarded a Fellowship of the Institute of Horticulture in 1999 and achieved the highest accolade in the gardening world, the Victoria Medal of Honour.  Jim devotes much of his time giving talks to societies and charities and has gained renown for his television appearances.

Dr. Tom Curtis

Tom Curtis is a botanist and horticulturalist with over 35 years garden and botanical experience in Ireland and abroad. Until 2001, he worked in the National Parks and Wildlife Service, latterly as Chief Scientist dealing with conservation research especially on rare plants. Tom has published over 50 scientific papers on many aspects of Irish plants and is a Research Associate of the Dept of Botany, Trinity College Dublin. He is a Board Member of Biology and Environment Royal Irish Academy and Sectional Editor for Botany of The Irish Naturalists’ Journal. He gardens in Bray, Co. Wicklow where his chief interest is in unusual and tender, herbaceous perennials.

Brendan Sayers

Brendan Sayers is Glasshouse Foreman in the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin. Brendan specialises in Belizean and Irish orchids and published with botanical artist Susan Sex, the much-coveted and awarded duo of Ireland’s Wild Orchids and Ireland’s Wild Orchids – a field guide. In 2011 he received the H.H. Bloomer Medal from the Linnean Society of London for raising the profile of Irish orchids. Brendan’s work over the last decades has brought him into close contact with other Irish botanical artists and the botanical art archive of the Library, National Botanic Gardens. Brendan was raised in County Kerry and educated in horticulture at The National Botanic Gardens. He worked in professional horticulture in New York and New Jersey, before returning permanently to Ireland in 1993.

Belinda Northcote

London born Belinda’s childhood home was close to Kew Gardens and her interest in botanical art is hardly surprising, as the gardens were her playground and its wonderful botanical art her inspiration. She travelled widely in the Far East, lived in Japan for a number of years and the celebration of individual flowers, plants, animals and insects in her work clearly shows an Eastern influence. Her home in the picturesque fishing village of Ballycotton in Co. Cork provides much of her inspiration. From her studio in the Shanagarry Design Centre nearby she produces a range of striking botanical prints, a new children’s collection and a contemporary series of charming illustrations. All of her work can be seen on her website www.belindanorthcote.com.

Alexandra Caccamo

Alexandra is the Librarian in the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin. She is responsible for curating and cataloguing the collections in the Library, including the art and rare books collections. Alexandra studied Botany in Trinity College Dublin and the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh before going on to work in the Botany Department of Liverpool Museum. After returning to Ireland, she retrained as a Librarian and eventually was able to combine her interests in plants and librarianship in her present role. She is currently the Chairperson of the Irish Society of Botanical Artists.