Bloom 2019: Burst of sunshine as Bloom festival gets a bright start
There were personal reasons why President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina found one garden at Bloom to be a particularly moving experience. The Trócaire 'Stolen Lands' exhibit was a deeply poignant reminder of their close friend Sally O'Neill, the Irish human rights activist who died tragically last month in a car crash in Guatemala.
She had worked tirelessly for Trócaire for more than 37 years and Mr Higgins travelled with her to El Salvador in 1982 to investigate reports of a massacre, of which they uncovered evidence that made international headlines.
With a small wooden hut, scorched earth and palm trees with plastic riot security shields propped up at the base, the Trócaire Bloom garden, by Barry Kavanagh, highlights the plight of vulnerable communities driven off their own land by unscrupulous palm oil corporations.
Read more here: Bloom 2019: Higgins makes rallying call on climate
The other half of the garden featured a 19th-century Irish plot with a small cottage, drawing parallels between the evictions in this country at that time and modern-day Guatemala.
As the President and his wife toured the garden, haunting guitar music was played by Guatemalan musician Fernando Lopez, who now lives in Co Kildare. Afterwards, Mr Higgins was moved as Fernando presented him with a book of Guatamalan poetry.
Trócaire workers Ciarán Gallagher and Lauren Lennon explained that the charity has been helpful in fighting the legal battles to help people in Guatamala to get back home.
"People have been very receptive and they really get in when the see the parallels with our own country," explained Lauren.
On a day when much of the country was rain-sodden, Bloom seemed to have its own micro-climate with blazing sunshine. The crowds milled around, soaking up the atmosphere of the gardens and the food stalls.
Amongst them was Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, who revealed that his own style of gardening was "lots of wild flowers".
He was checking out the UCD garden, which demonstrated the history of the Irish diet in plants, with willow, nettles and brambles depicting the time of the early settlers, to the manicured lawns and pedestals showing imports like pomegranates and avocados.
A greedy magpie spotted an opportunity and swooped on a bunch of grapes from the medieval trading period.
The garden was created by UCD landscape architecture students Hannah Johnston, Niamh Conlan and John McCord.
"It's had a great reaction," said Hannah, adding that one woman had come up and said that she remembered her brother coming home from America with peppers, which they saw for the first time in the 1960s.
Over at the postcard gardens, the women of the Longford branch of the Irish Countrywomen's Association had created an edible garden on the theme of 'From (garden) fork to fork' which was awarded Best in Show.
Their cosy little nook included a knitted chicken sitting on eggs in a basket and a table with a pot of tea and a homemade rhubarb tart centre stage.
"That's a fresh tart," said Ursula Burke - explaining that the one the previous day had got "pretty wet" thanks to the rain. "It was great fun to do," said Angela McKeon, adding that the ICA may look at creating a bigger garden for the community at a later stage now that they have had the experience of exhibiting at Bloom.
Soaking up the sun were Kloe Wood and Adam Carveth, from Cork and who moved home from London 18 months ago. Kloe specialises in creating edible gardens while Adam is the head gardener at the renowned Bantry House.
They came to Bloom for the first time to take a look - with hopes of submitting an entry of their own next year.
"We've seen great things here," said Kloe, adding that they loved the amount of wildlife-friendly gardens on show.
From a brown paper bag, she pulled out an exciting discovery she had made at Bloom.
"It's a miniature banana plant that you can grow in Ireland," she enthused.
"But only in a glass house," warned Adam.