A cardiovascular-themed garden aiming to cultivate a greater understanding of heart health, designed by Lero researcher Prof. Derek O'Keeffe, ploughs a new furrow at Bloom – Ireland's annual garden festival in Dublin's Phoenix Park

Professor of Medical Devices at NUI Galway, Prof. O'Keeffe, who is also clinical lead in endocrinology and University Hospital Galway, said that as a regular visitor to Bloom, he realised a cardiovascular-themed garden could educate people about cardiovascular disease and implant heart-healthy choices in their lives.

"My main research and clinical goal is to improve human health. The garden helps achieve this objective by employing one of the most important technologies – education. The garden has large red cylinders representing the blood vessels – the entry to the garden is a large open, clear red one, representing a healthy vessel. The one at the back of the garden is "blocked" with plants and a slow stream of water - representing blocked arteries.

Prof. O'Keeffe said they chose plants that give us modern medicines like Foxglove (Digitalis Alba) giving us Digitalis, which makes Digoxin  – a widespread and valuable heart medicine for heart failure/arrhythmia.

"Technology-wise, we have deployed an anthropomorphic robot (DAVE) to stand beside the garden and tell people about heart health in an engaging way. In addition, our HIVE (Health Innovation via Engineering) AI and drone work will be featured in the garden - as robotic drone bees. These will identify the same colour flowers in different bushes in my Croí garden and fly back and forth between them and pollinate them as real bees do," explained the 'Gardening Doctor', as some of his patients have nicknamed him.

Prof. O'Keeffe said this lays the groundwork for a meaningful conversation with visitors about why we need robot drone bees.

"This highlights the frightening answer that the natural bee population has halved in recent years due to our climate and biodiversity crisis. We need to focus on improving our environment before it's too late," added the Limerick man.

The Croí Garden, designed by Prof. O'Keeffe, is being presented with charity partner Croí, the heart and stroke charity.

To vote for the Bloom Garden People's Choice Award, text GARDEN1 to 51500 (standard rate SMS). The vote is open from 09:00 on Thursday, 2nd June to 13:00 on Monday 6th June 2022. Vote before 13:00hrs on Monday, 6th June. Votes will not be counted after this, but SMS rates still apply. Please follow the voting instructions exactly, or your vote may not come through. ONE vote per person per garden only. SMS Provider: Púca. Votes are open to ROI & NI residents only.