That’s just the household spend on flowers and plants and does not include expenditure by the commercial sector on new housing estates, public parks, golf courses, sports fields, roads, roundabouts and other such developments.
The fact Irish consumers bought outdoor plants and flowers for their gardens on 6.5 million occasions in the year up to April 2006 is a further indication of the phenomenal growth in the garden sector.
When the industry as a whole is taken into account, it is estimated Irish consumers now spend €2.5bn a year on horticultural products, more than they fork out annually on combined meat and dairy purchases.
The contribution of the amenity garden part of the industry to the boom is due in part to the increase in home ownership. And it will be celebrated in style tomorrow when President Mary McAleese officially opens Bloom 2007 in the Phoenix Park, Dublin.
Organised by Bord Bia, the showcase, open to the public from Friday to Monday, is billed as the biggest and most spectacular gardening event ever to be staged in Ireland.
Over 50,000 people are expected to visit the 70-acre site which the Office of Public Works has made available just next door to Áras an Uachtaráin.
Ireland’s top designers have created over 30 show gardens for an event that will also showcase the best of Irish food through a large outdoor food market and speciality food pavilion.
Bloom will also provide gardening enthusiasts and those with more ambitious design plans plenty of ideas.
Bord Bia stresses that adequate daily consumption of fruit and vegetables is essential for good health and that these are grown by the horticulturist, while highlighting the positive health effects of trees and plants on human health and stress.
“The role of horticulture in beautifying the environment and in developing and maintaining golf and other sports facilities, while evident, may not often be fully appreciated,” it said.
Underlining the accepted wisdom that gardening is indeed good for people, US findings link plants and social, environmental and mental health.
It has also noted the actual selling price of a home with “excellent” landscaping (as rated by a landscape professional) was 12% to 15% higher than one with “fair” or “poor” landscaping.
Bloom also takes place as the Heritage Council of Ireland is conducting a campaign to raise awareness of the decline in the country’s biodiversity and the loss of their natural habitats such as boglands, natural grasslands, hedgerows and sand dunes.
Gardens make up a huge amount of Irish land mass. They comprise 25% of the total area of Dublin city alone and provide food and shelter for a huge number of birds, butterflies and other important wildlife.
Growing native trees, shrubs and flowers or planting old-fashioned traditional garden plants, from herbs to scented flowers, provide more food and shelter than the newer hybrid and exotic breeds.
The Heritage Council believes that everyone could play a part by planting native and traditional plants and using less moss peat, insecticide and other garden chemicals in their gardens and public spaces.
Climate change, different agricultural practices and building development are the major contributors to Ireland’s declining biodiversity and the increasing numbers of native wildlife and plants that are endangered or facing extinction.
Bloom, therefore, has an important contribution to make on economic, social, environmental and biodiversity grounds. That is to be welcomed. The surprise is an event of this scale has not been held here before now.