Compact gardens that are easily maintained will be the desire of the next generation of growers in Ireland.
New research released by Bord Bia ahead of the Bloom festival, which opens in Dublin on Thursday and runs until Bank Holiday Monday, shows that future gardeners will be younger, more eco-aware, enthusiastic advocates of the grow your own movement.
Bloom was launched by Bord Bia in 2007 primarily as a promotional vehicle for horticulture; providing a showcase for plants, garden design, construction and gardening as a hobby.
Held on a 70-acre Office of Public Works site in the Phoenix Park, it features numerous highly creative gardens and plant displays which are used to inspire and excite the public.
It will feature more than 25 show gardens, entice people to sample some of Ireland’s finest food and drink products from over 100 producers and enjoy music, fashion, lively debate, and gardening talks in a series of five live stages.
Other highlights will include floral and nursery displays, a plant village, a botanical art exhibition, a wide range of Irish craft, a ‘Budding Bloomers’ area for children, cookery demonstrations with some of Ireland’s finest celebrity chefs, and fun activities for all the family.
Gardening, however, is at the core of the event which reflects a huge public interest. More than 1.3m Irish people from almost 1m households now garden on a regular basis. There will be much to interest those who visit Bloom.
The show gardens capture a range of societal issues that resonate on a global scale. These include children’s health, disability, mental health, and the need for a more tolerant and peaceful world.
Global fall-out from the rise of fake news, the need for a safe-haven for dementia sufferers, and making Ireland the best country in the world to be a dog are among the diverse themes. A range of other floral delights will include 13 small postcard gardens created by amateurs.
Show manager Gary Graham said the event will celebrate excellence in the horticulture and food industry with a range of medals given to garden designers, nurseries, floral artists, botanical artists, and other exhibitors.
“The festival has developed and grown into something which not only makes for a great day out, but also offers a platform to learn a wide range of practical information on everything from gardening, to growing fruit and vegetables, cooking, culture and politics,” he said.
Chefs, commentators, and health experts are due to participate in over 80 live talks, debates, workshops and cookery demonstrations at the event, which attracted more than 100,000 visitors last year.
Topics for discussion will include school lunches, food provided in direct provision centres, food in a digital age, the rise and fall of clean eating, the growing take -away culture, and a booming interest in gut health.
Some 200 Irish and international trade buyers with a combined purchasing power of over €10b will attend. And the produce of 64 of Ireland’s best smaller, local and organic producers will be showcased.
Olympic rowing heroes Paul and Gary O’Donovan will visit Bloom on Friday to kick-start Bord Bia’s 2017 Eggs Campaign.
Bloom will also include 33 new food and drink exhibitors, feature the full range of Bord Bia quality assured fresh food, and become the launchpad for many innovative products.
Celebrate Strawberry Week, co-funded by Bord Bia and producers, is inspired by the Strawberry Beds Road on the banks of the river Liffey, where the fruit has grown since 1750.
Bord Bia’s survey, carried out by Red C, revealed that regular gardeners, are mainly female (69%), and four in 10 are over the age of 55.
Some 75% of all adults believe gardening is good for mental health, while almost all (98%) adults who garden regularly know that this is the case.
Three in four regular gardeners consider digging to be a “pain”, yet 95% believe that it keeps them fit and active.
But with 63% of the Irish population living in urban areas, gardening within a limited space is set to become ever-more important. This trend is particularly prevalent in Dublin where 25% of inhabitants have no garden.
The need for easier maintenance options are driven by busy lifestyles, as 44% say time is the main barrier to gardening — particularly among the young and free audience (71%). Aspiring and novice’ gardeners are even more attuned to their ‘green’ responsibilities. Composting is expected, rainwater harvesting an obvious choice and local sourcing and native planting makes sense.
Bees too are a consideration in their plans and so is companion planting for natural pest control. Some 52% of gardeners say that supporting wildlife and birds is an important reason for them to be involved in gardening.
Some 340,000 adults (19% of gardeners) in Ireland grow vegetables regularly at home. Over four in 10 adults (43%) express an interest in GY0.
Easy-to-maintain gardens would encourage 75% of people to garden more and 59% say that if they could do it in a small space it would encourage them to garden more. The gardener of the future will further embrace new technology as a source of inspiration, advice and garden management. Online retailing, still in its infancy in the world of gardeners, is likely to develop more in the future.
Fiona Muldoon, chief executive, FBD Insurance, official partner of Bloom for the next three years, said it recognised a strong brand fit with the event and its visitors.
Bord Bia chief executive Tara McCarthy said Bloom will reflect many of the key themes and trends identified in its ‘Gardening in Ireland’ report.
“Visitors can expect to enjoy a great day out while also having an opportunity to learn from, and engage with, Ireland’s top horticulturists and food producers,” she said.