The sun beamed from a clear blue sky when President Michael D Higgins and his wife, Sabina, visited Bloom in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.
The park’s most famous residents were there to officially open the five-day event organised by Bord Bia, now in its seventh year.
The couple were very much taken with the native willow used by Gerard Mullen for his award-winning design inspired by a wetland wild habitat near the Comeragh Mountains in Co Waterford.
Mr Mullen, a horticulturist from Waterford, won the overall large garden category award for his entry called Waterford Harvest – Venture into the Wild.
He succeeded in incorporating rustic old tones and crumbling structure with clean, minimal architectural design style.
Mr Mullen, who won two previous gold medals at Bloom, said the President and his wife chatted with him about the willow that they had planted in Áras an Uachtaráin.
“We were chatting about how it is a really fast growing tree that grows naturally wild in the Comeragh Mountains. It is not a plant for every garden,” he said.
“They also told me that they had discovered an old cobblestone pathway and were quite interested in the stone wall I have incorporated in the garden.
“The President is a very keen gardener — his wife too. They know their plants and seem to be really enjoying their garden at the Áras.”
Both the President and his wife spent more than two hours visiting Bloom, which is taking place within a 70-acre site in the Park.
The event, now in its seventh year, attracted more than 80,000 visitors last year and, if the weather keeps up, visitors could top the 100,000 mark.
Wondering what all the fuss was about, Sean Cribbin, 6, from Trim, Co Meath, wanted to know why “that man” was allowed to walk in the show gardens.
“He’s the President,” said his mother, Bláithín Cribbin, who also had her daughter, Anna May, 4, with her.
“We come here every year. It’s a great family day out,” she said.
Among the visitors were Kathleen and Sean Twomey from Rathcormac, Co Cork. “We came here last year for the first time and just loved it so here we are again,” said Kathleen.