MISERABLE Irish summer weather is being blamed for a drop-off in visitor numbers to this year's Bloom gardening festival.
Almost 80,000 people descended on Dublin's Phoenix Park for the five-day festival which drew to a close yesterday. This was 10,000 down on last year's record-breaking attendance of 90,000.
Persistent heavy rain combined with cool temperatures on Sunday saw a dramatic decline in visitor numbers. On what is traditionally one of the busiest days of the event, just 8,500 people attended, compared with 20,000 on the same day last year.
However, organisers said there was always the possibility last year's numbers would not be replicated given that 2011 saw a 50pc jump in visitors.
A spokeswoman said they would have needed five days of scorching good weather to get 90,000 through the gates again and pointed out that they still out-performed 2009 and 2010 when 60,000 people attended.
Additional hard surface parking was put in place to cope with the muddy conditions and free shuttle buses ran between Heuston Station and the site, but many decided to forgo the event altogether.
Nevertheless, those who attended the final day of the festival yesterday enjoyed glorious sunshine and temperatures in the mid-to-high teens.
Speaking at the conclusion of the event, Gary Graham, Bord Bia's Bloom show manager, said he was happy with how the event went and was already planning for next year.
"This year the horticultural industry has been severely tested by poor weather conditions and difficult economic circumstances yet we have managed to achieve 27 stunning show gardens and over 40 magnificent horticultural displays which proves the strength of Bloom and its importance to business.
"We are delighted with the success of this year's show and plans are already under way for Bloom 2013, which will be one of the signature events for 'The Gathering Ireland 2013'," he said.