Bloom in the Park is the most successful and best attended horticultural event in the Irish gardening calendar. Tens of thousands come each year and this, its tenth year, has been blessed with good weather and I expect attendances are likely to set a new record.

The range of attractions is extraordinarily wide in order, no doubt, to appeal to as wide an audience as possible and to attract as great an attendance as possible. This means that there will be something to please everybody but everybody will also find much which is not of interest. How one views this selection may taint how one evaluates the experience. Following previous visits I have decried the amount of space given to areas which were not of interest to me, artisan food products, crafts etc, and what I felt was the proportionately lesser amount of space given to the show gardens. However, on this occasion I simply spent my time with the Floral Pavilion(plant sales!) and the show gardens and merely dipped into the other area for lunch. This left me more pleased with the day.

Paul and Orla Wood’s, Kilmurry Nursery, Gold Medal winner at Bloom 2016

Making a judgement on the success or not of such a show has to go beyond one’s own personal expectations. I go to Bloom in the Park because I want to view interesting gardens, see and purchase new and beautiful plants, have a relaxed and enjoyable day out and, hopefully, meet some friends for a chat and a natter. My judgement of the show – purely taking those areas into consideration – was that I had a most enjoyable day out and that the show was a success for me. Were I to include an assessment of the other areas the success of the day would decline in my opinion – however, such areas will have appealed to others and made their day enjoyable. The organisers, on the other hand, have a different agenda. While they, of course, wish to attract and please the public their primary is to promote the business end of Irish horticulture – the nurseries, garden designers and suppliers of the many accessories which supply our gardening needs. After a long winter and a miserable spring those depending on this business certainly needed a boost and an opportunity to engage with a large volume of the gardening public  and Bloom undoubtedlyly does this for them and so must be considered a success.

Santa Rita Living La Vida 120 Garden by Alan Rudden  (12)
Gold Medal winner in the Large Garden category: Santa Rita Living La Vida 120 Garden designed by Alan Rudden.

As one of the visiting public, one purely interested in the gardening aspects of the show, I could make a few observations. The Floral Pavilion struck me as being a little quieter than in previous years – that there seemed to be just a few less nurseries there. However, this had the advantage – helped by the fact that we arrived very early – of making it easier to browse at leisure, view the plants at ease and make selections and purchases in comfort. As we had driven in – and we did so without bother and the carparks were well organised – we had the convenience of dropping our plants to the car which was far better than lugging them back to the train station in the evening. Overall, though there were some outstanding exceptions – which were recognised by the awards given – the displays in the Floral Pavilion were not outstanding. Perhaps, I am being unreasonable but in the biggest gardening event in the country I expect the best standards to be commonplace. As regards plant selection, this was certainly the year of the pink Ragged Robin, outstanding lupins, foxgloves and delphiniums. Actually, that pink Ragged Robin, Lychnis flos-cuculi ‘Jenny’, seemed to be omnipresent in the show gardens also. Friends who visited on subsequent days reported that the plant selection appeared to be diminishing – good news for the vendors but disappointing for the visitors.

Podscape Garden by James Purdy  (5)
Gold Medal winner in the Medium Garde category: Podscape Garden designed by James Purdy

The show gardens were enjoyable. I felt there was the lack of excellence that Paul Martin and Jane McCorkell have brought in previous years but, thankfully, there was also the lack of garish poor taste seen on some recent occasions so that I felt the overall standard was even and very good and I certainly enjoyed them all. The weather has been especially and unexpectedly hot and the plants in several gardens were showing the strain from lack of watering. It must have been a considerable challenge for the garden designers, builders and those maintaining them. One gripe – something which always irritates me – is when  garden personnel remain in the gardens, walking about or sitting to take a snack or drink as I find it intrudes on the ability of visitors to view the garden and certainly makes photographing the gardens very awkward. It’s a thoughtlessness which is widespread and a distraction.

The Designer's Back Garden by Oliver and Liat Schurmann (3)
Gold Medal winner in the Small Garden category: The Designer’s Back Garden designed by Liat and Oliver Schurmann

And then we had a peep at the floral arrangements and the work of the botanical artists as we waited to hear Gerry Daly speak at 1.30p.m. in the Floral Pavilion. However, the lady speaking before him was onstage and we found it so difficult to hear her that we decided to leave before Gerry appeared. That was a disappointment. However, lunch and a sit down revived us and we headed home – with a stop at Johnstown Garden Centre in search for an elusive hydrangea, which continues to elude us!

Across Boundaries by Barry Kavanagh  (5)
Across Boundaries designed by Barry Kavanagh attracted great attention and admiration as it reproduced a seemingly perfectly natural gardenscape in this showgarden.
Peter Hennessy with Barry Kavanagh  (1)
And, finally: Yes, we did meet some good friends there. Here is Peter Hennessy chatting with Barry Kavanagh, designer of the Across Boundaries shown above.

Paddy Tobin

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