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Climate change, food safety, sustainable gardening and sustaining living, as well as creating beautiful gardens, are themes of this year’s Galway Garden Festival, which will take place on Saturday and Sunday July 4th and 5th at Claregalway Castle.

Entertainment and revelry will also feature, with live music, family theatre, gardening and trade stands and a range of locally produced food at the two-day event, which is designed to cater for families as well as gardening fans.

The festival will be followed by a special conference Soils Matter on Monday July 6th to mark 2015 as UN designated Year of Soils.

This year’s festival will run from 11am to 6pm daily and will include a series of free talks from guest lecturers on a range of horticultural, environmental and ecological issues.

Author and gardener Alice Taylor will kick off Saturday’s events with her talk called The Gift of a Garden. Physician and herbalist Dr. Dilis Clare will then teach people how to Grow your own drugs—Hedgegrow Foraging for Herbal Medicines. Kitty Scully, Environmentalist and Head Kitchen Gardener at Dublin’s Airfield Estate will discuss Pretty and Productive Gardening, while plant collector and garden designer Carl Wright of the Burren’s Caher Bridge Garden will talk on A Plant for Each Month of the Year; 12 Brilliant Plants for Better Gardens.

On Sunday Botanic Artist and Author Jane Stark will speak on The Painted Garden: Irish Botanical Artists, Past and Present. Climatologist and Deputy HEad of Forecasting at Met Éireann Evelyn Cusack will outline The Wonders of Meteorology Explained. Head Gardener Kylemore Abbey Enya Gohike will discuss The Resurrection of the Great Garden of Kylemore—and Insights for Gardeners on the Western Seaboard.

Talks will conclude with a panel discussion chaired by garden designer, organic expert and author Klaus Laitenberger to mark 2015 as International Year of Soils.

A highlight of this year’s festival will be a reading by the renowned poet, essayist and memoirist, John Montague, on Saturday evening, preceded by a reception and performance by the RTÉ ConTempo String Quartet. (This is a ticketed event €15—and early purchase is advised. Book via claregalweaycastle.com or 087 941 9274).

Free musical events at this year’s festival include a concert from St Patrick’s Brass Band from 2–3.30pm on Saturday. There will also be performances by the University Hospital Choir, and Silvermoon Jazz ensemble, followed by 5pm by the RTÉ ConTempo String Quartet. On Sunday, Sonic Strings from Gort will perform at 1pm followed by a concert by The Army Band of 2nd Command from 2–3.30pm.

Sunday’s music will come from the Baytones; there will be Ragtime with Stride O’Brien, Silvermoon Jazz ensemble and the unique Troubadour Mules.

Family entertainment comes courtesy of Tommy Bakers Puppets as well as The Gombeens, who make a welcome return bringing mayhem and anarchy. Meanwhile, the fabulous Fanzini Brothers and friends will do a World Preview of their new show, Circus Jukebox, on both days. Members of the Medieval Combat Society of Ireland will be settling scores while other diversions are also planned.

Local craftworkers and foodmakers will have their work showcased in the Made in Galway tent—supported by Galway County Council—while nurseries and garden suppliers from across Ireland will offer a range of plants, trees, seeds, garden furniture, and equipment.

The Galway Garden Festival will also welcome back the Claregalway Botanical Art Expo—this popular attraction is a major event for Ireland’s foremost botanical artists.

Birdwatch Ireland, the Green Sod Land Trust and other organisations will advise and share a range of knowledge and experience, while gardening books, botanical art books etc will be available in the Bookshop over the two days.

A free return courtesy bus will run from Ceannt Railway Station to Claregalway Castle daily, starting at 10.30am and running hourly from then on. Free parking facilities are also available.

People who buy plants, crafts or artisan food produce at the Festival can leave these in the plant creche until they are ready to leave.

All gate profits go to Christian Blind Mission www.cbm.ie and The Galway Simon Community. Entry €8 and children go free.

Further information at www.GalwayGardenFestival.com and to book for the Soil Matters Conference on Monday, July 6, email Margaret@nots.ie.