Archive for February, 2014

February 6, 2014

“Why do you garden?”- My Answer

by Ciaran Burke

Would you garden if you had no garden? What if you were imprisoned, locked away for life, unjustly, punished out of hate? Would you ask your captors for compost, for pots, for seeds? And if they let you, would you share your earthly bounty with your jailers?

One man did. And in his actions he found freedom, freedom of his spirit. Through his caring for seedlings, nurturing of plants and toiling with soil, his soul found solace. It was many years later that he walked to his freedom, for that man was Nelson Mandela.

In his writings he speaks of his gardening, his love of the natural world and his need to connect with nature, and to nurture. His captors provided him with seeds and compost. He created a garden in a hostile prison where his crops grew abundant. The prison guards shared in the crops, which he happily gave to them. Gardening helped to keep his mind free when his body was held captive.

Madiba wrote of his love of walking through the long grasses of the veldt. For an Irish man it might be the bog on a summers day, for a Finn it could be the journey through a lingon berry carpeted woodland, for a Moroccan the cool meander beneath the palm trees of an oasis. Nature connects us all, reconnects us to the reality, and transports us to the eternity.

In a plant we can see the wonder of creation; the sacred geometry of an unfurling frond, the sacred spiral of an infloresence, the dazzling beauty of colour in a speckled or striped petal. In the wind we feel power, in the sun, magnificence and warmth, and with rain we our showered with life. When we feel the earth, we feel the past, the present, the future. The product of erosion millennia old, teeming with life, the essentials for our seeds to grow and one day our labours may bear fruit.

One of the greatest pleasures of gardening and maybe most important, is that which is not often spoken about with such freedom and ease as is the harvest, or or the perfectly trimmed lawn or disease free rose. One of the best reasons to garden is that it sets us free, through the act we gain freedom of our spirit. As we nurture our crops and care for our plants we also feed our soul and ease our minds.

Gardening sets us free. Whether you are a prisoner or a judge, black or white, a leader of a nation or slave to a regime, nature is the level playing field. Moments spent in reverie, admiration of the sunset, listening to the drone of a working bee, or moving to one’s own rhythm making the garden weed free. In the act of gardening our spirits are nurtured and our minds revived.

Recently someone asked me why I like to garden. I said it because I liked the exercise, that I enjoyed the air and the smell of flowers. That it was nice to grow your own food. I did not mention that I did it for my soul, as like many gardeners I felt shy to speak of its spiritual benefit. If I am to be honest with myself, and with others, this is probably the main reason, the whole reason. When asked the question, I should have replied, “it sets me free”. I think that is an answer Mandela would have liked.

February 6, 2014

Sculpture & Nature Spirits- Scoodoos in Loughrea Co. Galway

by Ciaran Burke


When my wife hanna and I started making Scoodoos sculpture for our garden o a little over a year ago, we had no idea what we were starting!

Now they have their own website and Facebook page and Scoodoos are visiting schools doing workshops encouraging children to love and respect nature and appreciate the importance of trees. Scoodoos are ancient tree spirits, are now they are reaching out to humans to help save the environment.

Scoodoos at National museum of Ireland -Country Life, summer 2013

Scoodoos at National museum of Ireland -Country Life, summer 2013

A Scoodoo Sculpture trail was installed at the National Museum of Ireland -Country Life in County Mayo and also at Bloom, Ireland’s biggest gardening festival. The Scoodoos attracted attention of the Derek Mooney Radio programme on the national radio station RTE 1. Scoodoos are capturing the imagination of young and old. We are delighted, it is a fun way of bringing attention to very important issues to a new audience, both young and old. LISTEN TO THE PODCAST

The very first Scoodoos Sculptures

The very first Scoodoos Sculptures

This Spring we are involved with galway County Council in creating a new Scoodoos Sculpture Trail at Loughrea in Co. Galway. Loughrea is a great location, where a large lake provides amenities to busy town closeby. An important amenity is the blue flag beach where bathers come to bathe in summer.

Information Evening

An Information Evening, hosted by The Garden School, relating to a Scoodos Sculpture trail in Loughrea, will take place in the Lough Rea Hotel and Spa on Wednesday, February 19th at 7.30pm. Ciarán and Hanna Burke from The Garden School, have received funding from Galway County Council under the Agenda 21 scheme to design, and install and educational sculpture trail at located alongside Loughrea’s Blue Flag beach at the Long Point on Lake Road. The Scoodoos Sculpture Trail will feature ten sculptures made from branches and twigs, with each sculpture being accompanied with an information board, displaying information about environmental awareness, and the special amenity that is Loughrea’s Blue Flag beach.

With Scoodoos, The Garden School aim to raise awareness about the importance of caring about the environment, and raising awareness of the beauty of trees and nature. The Garden School host workshops in schools, work to design and install Scoodoos Sculptures designs, and install educational trails. As part of the project, The Garden School would very much like to work with the people of Loughrea, and are inviting individuals, community, and business groups from the area to be involved.

On February 19th, The Garden School will explain the concept behind Scoodoos, show an example of a Scoodoo sculpture, and discuss how groups, and individuals can be involved in the project. If you are planning to attend the Loughrea meeting on February 19th, please email to confirm your attendance to More information via the Scoodoos Sculpture Trail Loughrea brouchure or at


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