Spotlight interview with Fionnuala Fallon
Over the last few weeks we have been running a series of Spotlight interviews with the facilitators who will be running workshops at this years Dalkey Creates Festival, today we caught up with Irish Times Gardening Columnist Fionnuala Fallon.
A horticulturist, garden writer and garden designer, Fionnuala Fallon has been the gardening correspondent for The Irish Times since 2011 and is also a longtime regular contributor to other publications including The Irish Garden magazine. Her first book, ‘From the Ground Up: How Ireland is Growing Its Own’ produced in collaboration with her photographer husband Richard Johnston, was published by Collins Press in 2012.
Q. What did you want to be when you were a child?
I grew up in a family of writers, poets and artists, which instilled a deep love and respect for the arts. But I’ve also loved gardening ever since I was a small child. Back then I didn’t have a clear idea of exactly what I wanted to be but I’m very glad that life has led me to a career that combines all of these interests.
Q. Do you have a routine in your creative practice?
Not really. Like a lot of people in today’s world, we are always multitasking. I might be meeting a deadline for my weekly column in The Irish Times, or working with my husband [photographer Richard Johnston]. So for example, this week I wrote a piece for The Irish Garden magazine about Birr Community Growery, an amazing community project in County Offaly that Richard photographed, then created flowers for a wedding and provided garden-style arrangements for a movie called ‘Vita & Virginia’ that’s being filmed over here. There’s also the flower farm that I run with my husband to look after, whether that’s staking dahlias, transplanting young plants or sowing seeds and bulbs for next year. As a freelance writer and flower farmer with a new business and three young sons, it’s never 9-5.
Q. Which work of art do you wish you had created?
After I left college, I worked in various art galleries for a number of years including the RHA and IMMA. Although I was handling hugely valuable works of art every day, I never looked at them and thought ‘I wish I’d made that’. I just thought ‘How amazing are these…and please let me not drop them!” I see great works of art as more of an inspiration, like seeds sown in your mind that come to flower in years to come.
Q. If you could give any advice to someone starting out on your path, what would it be?
I would advise them that few careers paths proceed in a straight line, that life never takes you quite where you expect it to… Try to be open to that because sometimes the things you think you want to do when you first start out in your work life don’t become the thing you end up doing. But they often lead to it. Also, if you discover that a particular career is not for you, don’t be afraid to move on. I’d also say that almost every experience- even the seemingly most menial jobs that I did as a teenager- has taught me something valuable that’s been of use to me later in life, whether that’s learning about good time management or forward planning or acquiring people skills.
Q. Who would you like to meet that you haven't already?
If I could travel back in time, I would love to meet Constance Spry [the British educator, florist and author, 1886-1960]. Original, innovative, creative and an absolutely passionate gardener, she wasn’t afraid to throw the rule-book out the window when it came to creating floral arrangements. Quite rightly, her work continues to have a huge influence on modern floristry especially in the growing popularity of using material gathered from the garden and the wild. Spry loved a wonky stem or a less-than perfect bloom because she knew that it brought her arrangements to life.
Q. What would you ask them?
I’d just love to study her actually working on an arrangement, to see the process in action. She had this ability to see the particular beauty in the materials she gathered from the garden or the wild. So, for example, if she felt that a kale leaf from the kitchen garden or some stems of wild cow parsley picked from a hedgerow would work in an arrangement, she wasn’t scared to use them. She was an original thinker, a real role model.
Q. Which actor would play you in the film of your life?
I’ve never seen my life in that way. To be honest, I worry that too much of our world is already seen and understood through the distorting prism of a lens, that it’s led to this very strange and artificial sense of life as a movie. In the end what matters to me is that I’m living my own life in a way that’s true to it, that I can look back at the end of it all, give myself a pat on the back and say ‘That was an interesting life well lived’.
Fionnuala Fallon will be running a workshop titled 'The Magic of Flowers' on Sunday October 22nd from 10am-1pm in Dalkey Garden School, Sunday October 22nd, Mornington, Saval Park Road, Dalkey