Crowds flock to Bloom's winning gardens on first day of festival
As the sun shone down, the first day of the festival had something for everyone
Flower power was back with a bang as Bloom 2016 celebrated its 10th birthday at the Phoenix Park yesterday.
Backyard gardeners, foodies and sun-seekers from across the country flocked to the capital for the first day of the festival of all things green.
President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina didn't have too far to travel to help launch Bord Bia's biggest-ever Bloom.
Speaking at the event, he described climate change as "the challenge of our generation", and called for a "new respect" for nature.
He said: "I love coming to Bloom every year because it offers visitors and people from all parts of Ireland, and particularly the people from the cities, opportunities to remember that while there are significant decisions being taken at conference tables around the world, each and every one of us in our daily lives in decisions . . . can significantly contribute to the creation of a cleaner, safer, better, more inclusive and sustainable world."
As temperatures soared to 20C, a record 18,000 people yesterday slathered on the SPF to join in the floral festivities.
Show-stopping gardens, music stages and food stands were just some of the attractions dotted throughout the 70-acre site.
For two-year-old Rachel Graham, however, it was all about the Marie Keating Foundation's bright pink 'Garden of Hope'.
The toddler travelled from Wexford with her mother and grandmother, among other family members, for the ultimate trip to the park.
Mum Cathriona said: "We're just up for the day. We all do a bit of gardening and try to get up most years. It's a good family day out."
Competitors too were finally able to relax after the judging panel, led by garden designer Andrew Wilson, completed its rounds.
A total of 57 gold, silver and bronze medals were doled out to garden designers and nurseries from all over Ireland, including first-timer James Purdy from Belfast, who wowed with his 'Podscape Garden', and Boyne Garden Centre based in Slane, Co Meath.
Scooping top prize in the hotly contested large garden category for his Chilean-inspired 'Santa Rita Living la Vida 120 Garden', Dubliner Alan Rudden told the Irish Independent he was "absolutely chuffed".
He explained: "The idea was to try and bring a flavour of Chile and Santa Rita back to the Phoenix Park by using tropical plants, but still being sensible and using a lot of stuff that you'd see in Ireland like lavender, thyme, all that sort of stuff.
"I knew we had done the best we could and I knew the construction was strong, [but] you just never know.
"A lot of the big plants we would have sourced from Italy.
"You don't actually know until the truck opens what kind of condition it's going to be in, so we're delighted everything's worked out OK."
After swapping her calculator for a watering can last year, everything was also coming up roses for Sofi Dosa, who took a silver medal in the medium garden category.
The former banker - who, at 21, is also this year's youngest winner - said: "It's called 'Blurred Lines' because it's all parallel lines.
"Everything is from Ireland - the limestone is from Kilkenny, all the plants are from Wicklow, the wood is from Wicklow.
"It's my first garden that I've ever designed. This time last year I was working in the financial sector."
Sofi, who is from Hungary, added: "I always had an interest in being outdoors but I never really thought about [switching careers] until last year.
"At the moment, I'm in first year in college doing Landscape Design in Blackrock [Further Education Institute]. I was asked in college if I wanted to enter Bloom and I said, 'Why not?'. Now I'm here."
Featuring more than 200 retailers and 50 of Ireland's top nurseries, other wannabe Diarmuid Gavins are sure to pick up plenty of inspiring ideas for their own outdoor space at the event, which runs until Monday.
However, there's also public debates, live music, cookery demonstrations and fashion shows for those who are more into culture than horticulture.
Bord Bia's Bloom manager Gary Graham said: "It looks like we're going to have great weather, and now really what I'm interested in is making sure people get in comfortably and safely, and we're all over it.
"We've got extra ticket booths, we've got stacks of bottles of water, so if anyone is queuing they're not standing in the sunshine for more than a couple of minutes, and we're making sure that there are no bottlenecks.
"My advice to people is to come early, wear comfortable shoes and stay hydrated at any of our free water points."
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Lisa Lambe, Rozanna Purcell, Neven Maguire and Catherine Fulvio will all attend the festival in the coming days.
Gold, Best in Category - Large:
Santa Rita Living la Vida 120 Garden, sponsored by Santa Rita, designed by Alan Rudden
Gold, Best in Category - Medium:
Podscape Garden, sponsored by Glenisk, designed by James Purdy (pictured)
Gold, Best in Category - Small:
The Designer's Back Yard, sponsored by Mount Venus Nursery and Valentia Slate, designed by Oliver and Liat Schurmann
Gold, Best in Category - Concept:
UCD Evolution of Land Plants Garden, sponsored by UCD, designed by Dr Caroline Elliott-Kingston and Nicola Haines
Gold, Best in Show - Nursery Display:
Boyne Garden Centre, Slane, Co Meath