Entertainment Festivals

Monday 17 June 2019

Bloom 2019: Flower fans rock at ‘Glastonbury for gardeners’

Blooming lovely: Some 115,000 enthusiasts enjoy stunning scenery as €10m spent at this year's event

Show time: Visitors photograph some of the flowers at the Crumlin Childrens Hospital Garden by the Kildare Growers Group, at Bloom. Photo: Frank McGrath
Show time: Visitors photograph some of the flowers at the Crumlin Childrens Hospital Garden by the Kildare Growers Group, at Bloom. Photo: Frank McGrath
Melanie Finn

Melanie Finn

Flower power took centre stage in the Phoenix Park over the June bank holiday weekend as the popularity of Bloom shows no sign of wilting.

This year saw a total of 115,000 gardening enthusiasts make the trek over to the city centre park to check out the stunning show-gardens, sample some nibbles in the Bord Bia food village, and glean new cookery tips from some top chefs.

And as proof of its enduring appeal among families, some 20,000 of this year's visitors were children. Although the on-site crèche was only accepting newly bought plants - with 20,000 people using the facility this year - there were plenty of attractions to keep the little ones entertained.

Described as the gardener's answer to Glastonbury, this year's festival also pulled in some impressive financials.

An estimated €10m was spent over the course of the five days as attendees stocked up on some colourful new plants, and treated themselves to top-end garden furniture and nibbles from the countless food stalls.

Strawberries were obviously the fruit of choice once more, given that three-quarters of a tonne of them were devoured at this year's festival.

Rosa Mae Caball (5), from Skerries, Dublin. Photo: Frank McGrath
Rosa Mae Caball (5), from Skerries, Dublin. Photo: Frank McGrath

The weather was mixed, but it did not stop the crowds from getting their final fix of Bloom either, despite a day that required both a brolly and a pair of sunglasses at hand.

The last day of the festival saw the winner of the People's Choice Award being announced, which went to the 'Memories are Made of This - Dementia: Understand Together' garden.

Designed by Robert Moore, a double Gold medallist at Bloom last year, it was a hark-back to the 1950s and featured gnomes, pink flamingos, haycocks and tea roses as well as a High Nelly bicycle.

Designed for the HSE's Dementia: Understand Together campaign, the green space will continue helping people beyond Bloom too.

Gorden Greene, from Birr, Co Offaly, at the Irish Wild Foragers artisan food stand. Photo: Frank McGrath
Gorden Greene, from Birr, Co Offaly, at the Irish Wild Foragers artisan food stand. Photo: Frank McGrath

After applications from 50 different organisations, St Ita's Community Hospital for the Elderly, in Newcastle West, Co Limerick, was chosen as its new home.

Down in the food village, the Wild Irish Foragers company was doing a roaring trade selling various cordials, preserves and tonics using fresh produce grown at the Millhouse Farm in Shinrone, Co Offaly.

Forager Gordon Greene explained how the company has also grown organically as his wife Sharon used to make them for their five children before branching out to setting up a stall at the local market. Using ancient Irish recipes passed down from family members, he said many of the natural plants like spring nettles and elderberry were reputed to help everything from hayfever to high cholesterol.

Adopting a more contemporary approach to Irish cuisine was celebrity chef Neven Maguire, who was doing his part for the Irish food industry. A dozen Chinese chefs and well-known foodies had been invited to Bloom through Bord Bia's Shanghai office to promote the use of beef in Chinese cuisine, given that €4m of it is exported there every year. They joined him for a live cookery demonstration on the Quality Kitchen stage.

Now in its 13th year, Bord Bia's CEO Tara McCarthy said the event "reflected our changing times and the mood of the nation". She said it highlighted important issues like sustainability and biodiversity - and work has already begun on next year's festival.

Irish Independent

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