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Bloom's a real grower as crowds jump 50pc

PRESIDENTS come and go -- but the cabbage will be everlasting.

President Mary McAleese was the guest of honour at the last day of Bloom in the Phoenix Park -- and she didn't walk away empty handed.

She was guided through some of the award-winning gardens on display in the 70-acre site and paused to talk to Trevor Sargent, former leader of the Green Party.

Mr Sargent was at the Grow It Yourself (GIY) stand, which encourages people to plant their own vegetables, and he presented Mrs McAleese with an "everlasting cabbage".

"She's a keen grower and she grows a lot of her own vegetables," explained Mr Sargent afterwards.

"After being in Norway with her previously I realised that every head of state likes to serve at the state dinner what they grow in their own garden.

"It's a perennial way of growing cabbage and you can cut a few leaves off it at a time. It's actually sweeter than normal cabbage."

Jack Harte (22), from New Ross, Co Wexford, won the People's Choice prize for his garden, 'An Adventure with Thumbelina'. Inspired by the children's tale, it was one of the smallest on display.

"The whole Thumbelina idea is about being small in a big world," he said.

"It's my first time at the show and I'm just out of college. I finished studying landscape architecture at UCD just a few weeks ago and I'm getting ready to do a Masters in business."

But in between he has managed to set up Jack of Hartes Design and he hopes the prize will help him build his new business.

Gary Graham, show manager with Bloom, said he had been "blown away" by the success of the exhibition which saw 90,000 people attend over the five days -- a rise of 50pc on last year.

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"People have been selling out of their produce and have had to make trips back to their premises to stock up," he said.

He said the show doesn't make a profit for its organisers Bord Bia but rather is about "getting people excited about plants".

Now they must restore the park to the way it was.

"It'll take us 10 days to two weeks to take everything down and leave it as we got it," he said.

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