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Chicago Is Shipping A Giant Garden To Ireland (Seriously)

By Justin Breen | March 9, 2016 5:46am | Updated on March 9, 2016 6:07am


CHICAGO — Planes, ships and countless hours of manpower will be used to create and transport a giant garden from Chicago to Ireland.

The garden, called "Bridge the Gap," was designed by members of the Chicago Park District horticulture staff from Garfield Park Conservatory and will be unveiled at the June 2-6 Bloom in the Park — an international garden show in Dublin's Phoenix Park.

The garden's physical structure, which includes two bridge sculptures, blue acrylic panels and large walls, is being built by Vector Fabrication on the Near West Side and is scheduled to be completed by the end of this month or early April. It then will be shipped by boat from Chicago before arriving in Ireland the week of May 2.

One bridge will be covered by carex, a green ornamental grass, while the other will be blanketed with sedum, a hearty blueish plant that's commonly used in rooftop gardens, according to Matthew Barrett, deputy director of conservatories at the Chicago Park District, and one of four Chicago team members working on the project. The plants are being grown in Ireland.

"To us, this is not just another garden at a flower show," said Barrett, of Logan Square. "There should be some type of story, some meaning behind this if we're going to go through all this effort."

Barrett and his team are flying to Ireland on May 23 and will spend the next eight days completing work on the garden, which also includes two giant walls: one green with "Dublin" written on it; the other blue inscribed with "Chicago." The blue panels represent the Atlantic Ocean between the continents. The plant-covered bridges represent Ireland and the thousands of Chicagoans with Irish roots.

"This is especially exciting because Chicago and Ireland are deeply connected, as hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans have roots in Ireland," said Michael P. Kelly, General Superintendent and CEO. "We are pleased to foster that connection by participating in this event.”

The entire garden is 52 feet by 33 feet, Barrett said.

His team has been working on the project since October, when Bloom in the Park founder Gary Graham, a former executive at Chicago Botanic Garden, was seeking an entry from Chicago.

"We jumped at the chance," Barrett said. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Barrett said the garden will likely remain in Dublin after the competition, in its 10th year, concludes.

Barrett has a special connection to the project as his paternal grandparents grew up a mile apart in Ireland.

"The project is all about people and the connections they make," Barrett said.

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