PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins won't have to travel far when he steps out today to officially open the country's biggest garden festival on his doorstep.
Billed as Ireland's largest gardening, food and family festival, Bloom is hoping to match last year's 90,000 visitors to the five-day event which runs from today until bank holiday Monday at the Visitor Centre in the Phoenix Park, Dublin.
"The Chelsea Flower Show is all about horticulture and flowers. Here, we are more interested in families and reluctant gardeners," Bloom show manager Garry Graham said.
Organised by An Bord Bia, the event will feature 27 show gardens; 100 Irish food and drink producers; 40 nurseries; 25 cookery demonstrations; and 160 retailers. Tickets can be bought at the venue and cost €20 for adults with free entry for under-16s.
For one of the 27 show gardens, designers Cillian McDonald, from Killiney, and Luke Byrne, from Cabinteely, dispensed with flowers, shrubs and water features to illustrate their exhibit.
Instead, bales of straw starkly illustrate their display. Entitled 'Departures', it is designed to provoke thought on the current culture of emigration in Ireland and the garden includes a strip of portraits of some of those who have emigrated.
Bloom kicks off a full weekend of events with another 100,000 visitors expected to flood the streets of Dublin on Sunday when the city landscape will be transformed into a racetrack for the Bavaria City Racing spectacular.
Superbikes, supercars and touring cars will feature during the five hours of entertainment with demonstrations from Formula 1 drivers. The F1 cars will then follow a designated track through key city landmarks.