Bloom the hottest ticket for garden lovers

Visitor numbers over the weekend expected to easily surpass the 100,000 mark

Three for joy: triplets Sophie, Katie and Elizabeth Ní Mhaolain (13), from Baltray in Co Louth, at the 10th Bloom festival yesterday in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.  Photograph: Peter Houlihan

Three for joy: triplets Sophie, Katie and Elizabeth Ní Mhaolain (13), from Baltray in Co Louth, at the 10th Bloom festival yesterday in Dublin’s Phoenix Park. Photograph: Peter Houlihan

 

Near-record temperatures brought record crowds for the first day of this year’s Bloom.

More than 18,000 visitors attended the event at Dublin’s Phoenix Park where temperatures were hitting 23 degrees.

Now in its 10th year, Bloom has survived all the vicissitudes of the Irish weather including a mini-tornado which closed the festival last year.

A cloudless sky with good weather promised for the rest of the weekend is good news for the organisers with advance ticket sales up by 36 per cent. It is expected that visitor numbers will easily surpass the 100,000 mark.

“When the weather’s like this, what other country would you want to be in,” said RTÉ presenter Marty Morrissey.

What is good for the festival, though, is not so good for the delicate plants in the show gardens.

Fiann Ó Nualláin, the designer of the 1916-themed garden, was out with the hose yesterday evening.

Watering

“I’ve done all 10 Blooms,” he said, “and this is probably the hottest Bloom on record. Normally you will wait until 9pm or 10pm at night or you water them earlier in the morning.

“Some of the show gardens with tender plants and those that are shade bearing are flopping a bit.”

President Michael D Higgins once again made the shortest trip of his presidency to open the show.

He empathised with a group of Syrian refugees who visited Goal’s “Damascus Courtyard – War and Peace”.

Khalid Mokadan lost his wife 20 days ago in a refugee camp in Lebanon to kidney failure. The couple and their four children were due to fly to Ireland days later.

“We don’t usually meet presidents back home. He came to us and shook our hands and we said thank you. We really appreciated the welcome we received in Ireland.”

In his speech Mr Higgins spoke of how the Goal garden “speaks evocatively of the responsibilities of our shared humanity, our human rights obligations and how such obligations must never be weakened by narrow and short-term self interest, xenophobia or even apathy.”

Among the visitors today will be Taoiseach Enda Kenny and 125 Irish food buyers. There will also be food buyers from Harrods and Selfridges in London and six from the Middle East.

SIX MUST-SEE DISPLAYS

JUNGLE FEVER
Liat and Oliver Schurmann’s The Legend of Tarzan garden is a gold medal winner – timely given the release next month of the movie of the same name.

The garden is one of the most popular attractions, not least because of the bronzed male model Pavol Bonik (pictured) undressed as Tarzan .

It is supposed to reflect an African jungle with a dense canopy of foliage and a water feature. If you look closely enough you can see tiny gorillas in the foliage.

DARKNESS TO LIGHT
Mental health is a very topical issue, especially given proposed Government cutbacks in the sector.

Padraic Woods features a tunnel which marks the transition from darkness into light.

A seesaw reflects the mood swings we all experience.

The planting in the shaded area features spikes and thorns.

The ones at the front give a sense of life and colour.

LOSS OF INNOCENCE
The Goal Damascus Courtyard – War and Peace is another topical garden which President Michael D Higgins visited.

It conveys the peace and tranquillity of a Damascus courtyard shattered by civil war.

Bullet casings and children’s toys are scattered across the courtyard path, reflecting the loss of innocence caused by the Syrian conflict.

CANTER TO THE BANTER
Irish Times blogger Jim Carroll is the man in situ at the Banter Tent in the food area of Bloom.

Over the course of the weekend, Carroll will discuss all things food and horticulture. Those dropping in will include Happy Pear twins David and Stephen Flynn, chef Catherine Fulvio and social justice campaigner Peter McVerry.

SAY IT WITH WEEDS
The unique selling point of fifth generation farmers Gordon and Sharon Greene from Birr, Co Offaly has led to the most counterintuitive stand.

Instead of cultivating their farm, they have let it grow wild and reaped the harvest. This includes gorse, meadowsweet, honeysuckle and elderflower.

“We are going back to the recipes Irish people had 100 years ago. I’m the only woman who has brought weeds to the biggest garden festival in Ireland,” says Sharon.

FEED THE WORLD
How to feed the ever expanding population of the world without wrecking the planet is one of the chief challenges of the future.

Bord Bia’s Origin Green is a futuristic pavilion which aims to show how Ireland intends to reduce its agriculture carbon footprint by 16 per cent in the next year yet still improve food production.

It hosts daily talks on all things related to food.