A Sligo woman is taking Ireland’s national gardening show Bloom by storm, taking a coveted Gold Award and winning the Best In Category for her re-creation of a garden she built right here in Sligo. Leonie Cornelius – who was born in Germany, raised in Sligo and now lives in Leitirm – won the chance to build her garden at Bloom in the Phoenix Park after her garden was selected as the winner of RTE’s “Secret Garden” TV series.
The show challenged five landscape designers to come up with a garden for five different families on a tight budget. Leonie built an amazing garden for Gerry and Mary Flynn from Meadowvale in Sligo Town.
She had to design it to be used not only by Gerry and Marie, but by their teenage kids, Aoife and Adam and their two pet rabbits, Cookie and Cream.
The result was a superb garden with raised planting beds, a three-sided shelter for the family to relax, an outdoor seating area and a specially-built hutch, including a tunnel, for the rabbits to use.
RTE broadcast the last episode of “Secret Garden” on Tuesday last, May 29, which was watched by friends and family of Leonie in The Dunes Tavern in Strandhill.
Leonie herself was not there however. She was already busy replicating her winning garden design in a plot in the Showgarden section of Bloom in Dublin.
Gerry and Mary Flynn were among the first congratulate Leonie when she was revealed as the winner of “Secret Garden”.
“Leonie worked really, really hard,” said Mary. “She’s very enthusiastic. She knows what she wants. She has a vision and she goes with it. I’m so proud of her. She deserves to be in Bloom.
“We always said we wanted a functional garden and when I say functional I mean ‘family’. This garden caters for all. We’ve got exactly what we asked for. I don’t know of another person who has a garden like this. It’s unique and its ours.”
Leonie herself was visibly stunned when her name was announced, but just after being presented with the Secret Garden award she said she was eager to get to Bloom.
“ I can’t wait to go to Bloom. I’m so excited. Bloom is just such a dream. I know I’ll have to just look at the garden again and adjust it to Bloom a little bit. Even that’s such an exciting process.
“It’s going to be so much fun looking at the plants again. I can showcase my work I guess, and also be involved in something that’s as amazing as Bloom which I think is really, really inspiring.”
And RTE caught up with Leonie four days after she started working on her Showgarden in Bloom, as her garden was beginning to take shape.
“We have the planting to do, I’d say there’s maybe two and a half, three days in that. It’s slightly different to the Flynn’s garden simply because its a different time of the year so we had to adapt to that but the planting is going to be really lovely.
“I think the [reaction from] the crowds is going to be great. I think it’s the payback at the end of a big job is seeing how people experience it.”
Bloom was opened on Thursday last, May 31 by President Michael D. Higgins and ran until yesterday, Monday, June 4. Leonie was one of ony six gardens at Bloom given the Gold Medal award and one of only four to win a Best in Category award.
Her garden, which she christened “Cookie and Cream’s Reclaimed Sanctuary” won the Best Medium-sized Garden category.
Mother-of-one Leonie moved to Sligo from Germany with her family when she was just eight. A degree in architecture and design from Sligo’s Institute of Technology led to further studies in the in the KLC school of design in London, where she discovered her love of garden design.
Leonie runs her own business Blume Design House (www.blume.ie), designing gardens, interiors, furniture and art. She now lives in Fivemilebourne, Co. Leitrim.