'How did you get those freckles?' - Bloom 2016 'every bit as good as Chelsea Flower Show'
Published 04/06/2016 | 02:30
Aged just two years old, Ed Keegan from Dundalk, Co Louth, was wheeled into Bloom in a toby wagon kitted out with a parasol and plenty of room for ice-cream and marigolds.
He has become a regular at the Phoenix Park festival, thanks to parents Olly and Clare Keegan, who have attended almost every year.
"We missed it one year but that was because he was born in May," Olly said.
"He loves to tow things around in the wagon and we have a nappy bag at the back so we're sorted - this is not our first Bloom.
"We love it. This year we're going to have a look at the recycled plastic benches."
Ed was one of the first to greet Taoiseach Enda Kenny when he embarked on a three-and-a-half hour tour of the show gardens and exhibitions.
It appeared the Taoiseach was looking to catch a few rays himself, as he asked two young boys in astonishment, "how did you get those freckles?"
Also enjoying the atmosphere in advance of the weekend were Ruth (6), Emma (10) and Sarah (11) Hynes from Co Westmeath, with parents Lesley and Douglas.
"We come every year, we just love the vibe here," said Douglas. "We love coming for the food too."
Emma told the Irish Independent Bloom was "so much fun", and all the girls were in agreement that their favourite garden was the Yi Garden, or Friendship Garden.
In its tenth year, the festival has grown year-on-year and could rival its UK counterpart, the Chelsea Flower Show, according to Bloom show manager Gary Graham.
"I had some friends from the RHS that used to run the Chelsea Flower Show visit and they had a walk around and were really impressed," he said.
"They reckon, looking at the standard of gardens, some were every bit as good as what you would see in Chelsea. I was really happy to hear that, it really is the benchmark.
"We had more people come on a first day than we ever had and from what I can see, everyone is enjoying it.
"It's a special year and we want it to be a special show that people remember."
Mr Graham said there will be in the region of 100,000 visitors to the festival over the weekend.
"There are a lot of hardcore gardeners, a lot of hardcore foodies and people who come to the Bloom show every year that don't want to miss it.
"Of course though, when you get this sunshine you get people who maybe haven't tried it before. We will definitely get new visitors because of it."
An estimated 500,000 people nationwide will attend festivals, sports events and attractions this weekend, including the Forbidden Fruit Festival in Dublin and Listowel Writers Week in Kerry.
Revellers have been urged to take proper precautions against the sun and heat, as temperatures are likely to reach as high as 25 degrees, with a high sunburn index. Met Éireann confirmed that the best of the weekend sunshine will occur today, particularly across Munster and Connacht. Clouds will interrupt the sunshine in Leinster and Ulster, but it will still prove a fine day with temperatures of up to 24 degrees.
However, Sunday will see showers and possible thunder showers in some places, mostly in Leinster and Ulster.
Most showers will clear relatively quickly, with the sunshine expected to continue into next week.
The HSE has advised people to enjoy the sun responsibly by using protective lotions, wearing hats and monitoring children very carefully for exposure to the sun.
Irish Water Safety and the Irish Coastguard also urged people to take extreme care when swimming.
Meanwhile, food safety officials have asked the public to be careful when using barbeques.