Ireland's growing love for gardening

Wearing gloves when out in public has become more prevalent and so has pulling them on in the garden during lockdown, writes Ray Ryan
Ireland's growing love for gardening

Wearing gloves when out in public has become more prevalent and so has pulling them on in the garden during lockdown, writes Ray Ryan

ALL SMILES: Planting and tending to flowers can be great for someone’s mental health.
ALL SMILES: Planting and tending to flowers can be great for someone’s mental health.

THE droves of people who headed for garden centres when they reopened two weeks ago, after being closed to the public for two months due to the Covid-19 restrictions, should not have surprised anyone.

That’s because there is an inherited green-fingered gene in the Irish, a fact reflected in research conducted by Red C for Bord Bia in 2017.

It revealed that more than 1.3m people from almost 1m households were gardening on a regular basis.

They were mainly female (69%), and four in ten were over the age of 55. Some 75% of all the adults believed gardening was good for mental health.

Almost all (98%) adults who gardened regularly knew this to be the case. Three in four considered digging to be a “pain”; yet 95% believed it kept them fit and active.

With 63% of the population living in urban areas, the survey concluded that gardening within a limited space was set to become ever-more important. This trend was particularly prevalent in Dublin, where 25% of inhabitants had no garden.

Around 340,000 adults (19% of gardeners) in Ireland grew vegetables regularly at home. Over four in ten (43%) were interested in growing their own.

The research also predicted that the next generation of gardeners will be younger, more eco-aware, and GYO (grow your own) advocates, with a desire for easily maintained, compact gardens.

Bloom, the celebrated five-day flower, food, and family festival, organised by Bord Bia and first held in 2007, has always highlighted the economic and societal benefits of gardening.

It is primarily a showcase for garden plants, design and construction, as well as for horticulture and gardening as a hobby.

With a format similar to the Chelsea and Hampton Court flower shows in London, it has attracted attendances of up to 120,000 people over the June bank holiday weekend in recent years.

Last year, it featured 22 show gardens, 14 postcard gardens, over 100 Irish food and drink producers, 25 plant nurseries, and 100 retailers.

Over 10,000 Irish plants were bought at the gathering, which has also become a high-profile shop window for organic Irish food and beverages.

The 2020 event was to have been held over the past five days in a 70-acre site made available in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, but like so many other festivals it was called off due to the Covid-19 restrictions.

Bord Bia, however, brought a flavour of the country’s largest gardening and lifestyle festival into people’s homes at the weekend with ‘Bloom at Home’ featuring a series of online events

Tara McCarthy, chief executive, said it was a chance to celebrate the start of summer with the festival’s many fans and participants

“For the past 13 years, Bloom has become a platform for Bord Bia to highlight the joys of gardening and indigenous horticulture and promote the best of Irish artisan food and drink, while also raising awareness around important issues such as climate change and sustainability.

“These topics are as vital as ever as we navigate the current crisis in our own homes and communities,” she said.

Bloom show manager Gary Graham said Covid-19 has brought many challenges but it has also given some people more time to experience the joy of gardening at what is the most exciting time of year for growing and planting.

“When temperatures are on the up and frosty nights are rare, there is so much to do whatever your location, budget, or skill set. A gardening project is a great way to fill your time at home and get your creative juices flowing.

“Try building a bug hotel and rewilding an area for wildlife, or plant some pollinators and make some space for birds. We’re encouraging everyone, no matter what space they have available, to get out there and give it a go,” he said.

Bord Bia’s decision to cancel Bloom 2020 followed consultation with the relevant authorities and in light of the threat posed to public health by Covid-19.

It said the health and safety of visitors, exhibitors, and staff was its number one priority. An event of Bloom’s scale requires many months of preparation involving a range of multi-disciplinary teamwork.

“This decision will be disappointing news for many and Bord Bia would like to pay tribute to the growers, designers, contractors, exhibitors, and sponsors who have worked so hard on this year’s event.

“We know that gardening can be of benefit to people’s mental and physical well-being during this difficult time.

“Bord Bia will be here as a resource with tips on planting and gardening at home for everyone, from the complete novice to the many loyal Bloom attendees who feed their passion for gardening at the festival each year.”

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