Everything is roses on first day of Bloom festival

More than 100,000 expected to attend the five-day event in Dublin’s Phoenix Park

Now in its ninth year, Bloom is Ireland’s leading horticulture and food festival. This year the festival features work from some of Ireland's best garden designers. Video: Daniel O'Connor

 

Ireland, the best small country in the world in which to be a president. That’s what President Michael D Higgins must have thought after his annual foray to open the Bloom gardening and food festival in Phoenix Park.

People’s eyes lit up as they saw him approach with his wife, Sabina. Holding smartphones aloft they tripped over each other to take his picture. One mother tried frantically to extricate her daughter from a hammock so she could shake his hand.

A group of pupils from Scoil Uí Riada in Kilcock, Co Kildare, were having their lunch on benches when they saw him approaching. “Michael, Michael,” they shouted and ran towards him waving their sandwiches.

The shrubbery surrounding Jane McCorkell’s winning garden, Our Origin is Green, was in danger of collapsing as the crowds leaned in to photograph the President. “He said foxgloves were very popular and Sabina particularly likes a nice blue iris,” the designer said after showing him around her garden.

This was her seventh gold medal at the show and she wasn’t concerned that the President would topple head first into her water feature. “No worries at all. He’s very steady on his feet.”

Gráinne Garvey (11) must be fed up meeting world leaders. Chinese premier Li Keqiang visited her family farm in Mayo earlier this month and then she found herself face to face with Mr Higgins at Bloom.

Who did she like the best? “I can’t decide,” she said, marking her out as a potential recruit to the diplomatic corps.

This is the ninth time Bord Bia has staged Bloom and this year’s event has 25 show gardens, and more than 50 nurseries and florists. If you find yourself in need of a giant sunflower on wheels with a built-in camera for selfies, then Bloom is the place to be.

Lady Gaga is also there, sharing a pen with Beyoncé and Pharrell Williams. The President and his wife stroked Lady Gaga who baa-ed appreciatively as she sat in the arms of Bord Bia’s sheepmeat expert Declan Fennell.

“I asked if he wanted a pet lamb for the Áras and said we could get him one and two more for company,” Mr Fennell said. “He thought they’d be good for keeping the grass down.” The lamb is part of a farmyard at Bloom, a key attraction for the 800 pupils Agri Aware is bringing to the show.

Imagination

Mr Higgins singled out Lorely Forrester’s garden as the one that captured his imagination. It is a tribute to WB Yeats’s The Lake Isle of Innisfree and the President launched into the opening verse: “I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree/And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made”, adding: “This was before planning permission.”

After following Mr Higgins around the 70-acre site, Bord Bia chairman Michael Carey was exhausted. “He has the energy of a 21-year-old,” he said. “I don’t think we needed that referendum last week at all.”