Let the games – and gardening – begin
PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins was one of the star attractions at the opening day of Bloom Festival – and the only thing that upstaged him was the glorious sunshine.
The President was joined by his wife Sabina to officially open the five-day event and picked up some top tips for pruning their roses and nurturing their fruit trees as they toured the exhibits under a cloudless blue sky.
The famous Phoenix Park residents were treated to a dance performance by Tunde Szentesi and Svaja Vaicula at their 'Eco Tango' garden and even tried their hand at horse-shoe throwing, an activity organised by Active Retirement Ireland.
A total of 95 medals, including 25 gold, 22 silver gilt, 28 silver and 20 bronze, have been presented to designers, nurseries and floral artists for their talented efforts.
Still reeling from being crowned the overall winner of Bloom 2013 for his Large Garden 'Waterford Harvest – Venture Into The Wild', Gerard Mullen, from Dungarvan, Co Waterford, was one of the 28 show gardens that the President and his party viewed.
Mr Mullen has returned to Bloom after a four-year hiatus and after three weeks of continual building work, impressed the judges with his clean, minimal architectural design style.
The gold medalist, who was inspired by the wetland wild habitat near the Comeragh Mountains in his home county, told the Irish Independent that he was delighted by the presidential couple's breadth of knowledge about plants.
"They're keen gardeners and the native Willow tree that acts as my backdrop is something they have in their own garden, so they were particularly interested in that.
"They liked the stone wall too, as they said they've only recently discovered one of their own at the Aras so they were keen to see how I've used and implemented it," Mr Mullen said.
The President stopped by the medium garden of Jane McCorkell, 'Love to Grow', as well as the Kerry Group-supported concept garden for Concern, 'Out Of Africa', which is being used to highlight the work of the non-profit organisation in Western Zambia.
The President also insisted on re-visiting Erika Reeves's 'Blossom with Every Breath' exhibit for Cystic Fibrosis, to ensure he had his picture taken surrounded by the wild flowers.
"He came back twice, so we're very lucky. Himself and Sabina seemed to really like our models, which symbolise hope and joy," Ms Reeves told the Irish Independent.
"All of what you will see at Bloom could not have happened without the huge effort of numerous people and organisations," said President Higgins during his address to Bord Bia's Food Village.
"I wish everyone associated with the show every success and I hope along with the organisers that... we will be able to say that this was the best-ever Bloom," Mr Higgins added.
Thousands of ticket holders donned shorts and flip flops to admire the creative approaches to horticulture, ecology and sustainability yesterday.
Over 50 nurseries and floral displays, 25 cookery demonstrations and 200 retail stands are in the show, with a number of postcard gardens constructed by passionate amateurs featuring for the first time.