It’s a Blooming Sad Story!

I enjoyed my day at Bloom this year, a very pleasant day, some very good gardens, some nice plants purchased to bring home, met and chatted with friends but there were also reasons to grumble – perhaps gardeners are a grumbling lot!

Some gardeners/horticulturalists of my acquaintance, amateur and professional, have expressed a disappointment with Bloom 2018. There were fewer gardens, fewer nurseries, less plants, less gardening – such that the name “Bloom”, many feel, has now become a misnomer.

“A Different Outlook” by Oliver and Liat Schurmann one of the most imaginative and innovative gardens at the festival. 

Each year, in advance of the Bloom festival, all promotional material seems to exclusively feature gardens and flowers yet the attendee on visiting might consider him/herself a victim of false and misleading information for areas of gardening interest are far outnumbered by other areas, food-related stands high among them. There were eight large gardens; six medium; four small and one Feature Garden along with the winning garden from the Super Garden competition run by RTE in association with Bloom, Woodies and Cuprinol. I enjoyed most of the gardens though disappointed that there were less than in previous years. It may be called “Bloom” but gardens and gardening do not seem to get sufficient nor hoped for prominence and visiting gardeners were disappointed by the drop in the number of participating plant nurseries and the lack of gardening events – talks/demonstrations – at the festival.

The Sustainable Seafood Garden by Andrew Christopher Dunne


Fruit Juice Matters Garden by Kevin Dennis 
“Lock Keeper’s View” by Darren Joyce – for a new designer and builder, an excellent garden. 

However, despite gardeners’ disappointment, Bloom is a success with an attendance in the region of 120,000 this year. It may simply be a case that a purely gardening festival is not commercially viable here in Ireland. Our gardening community is small and the organisers of such events must appeal to as wide as possible an attendance to ensure financial success. It is something we see reflected in garden/lifestyle centres all around the country. There are fewer and fewer and fewer which deal solely in plants and the restaurant/coffee shop is often times a bigger source of income that the plants and Bloom is, perhaps, the biggest example of this trend. Nonetheless, it is a disappointment that a festival which declares itself a garden festival seems to be allowing the gardening side of the festival to diminish year on year.

“Mamma Mia – Here  We Go Again” by Tunde Szentesi with a resident, who is I am sure a perfect gentleman but who illustrates one of my bugbears regarding some of the gardens – I really want to see the gardens without people in them. At least this man simply sat quietly. 
The “Deep Play” garden by Niall Maxwell and Marina Andreeva, a beautiful garden. The viewing, for me, would have been more enjoyable without the young lady. 



17 thoughts on “It’s a Blooming Sad Story!

  1. Of course, gardeners complain about the lack of emphasis on gardening and gardens but, as you so rightly point out, it wouldn’t be sustainable without the food element. People cannot go anywhere these days unless there is food and/or drink involved…hence the obesity problem…but you can expound on that another time!

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  2. Paddy, I liked the last garden best. The silver birches are simple and beautiful without the addition of people or gimmicks. Interesting to see how gardens are trending, though.Was this held in Ireland?

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  3. Do you think the horrible spring weather knocked out some would-be participants? I’m hoping to attend next year, so I’m also hoping a swing away from garden displays toward more commercial exhibits isn’t permanent. Like you, I prefer plants and peace, so I can learn even if I can’t carry plants home with me.

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    1. Quite the opposite, I think. We had a most miserable spring and, I believe, the nurseries wanted and needed a good event to bring in much needed income. I believe the fault does not lie with the nurseries


  4. Agree entirely with your comments perhaps the cost of staging a stand at Bloom may have a bearing on the matter, but that appears to be the way the event is going.

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    1. One nursery mentioned to me that the cost of having a stand at Bloom was prohibitive for smaller nurseries and it had deterred some from attending. It is a pity if it excludes participants by raising costs to such an extent.


      1. I think that is the same at Garden Show Ireland in Antrim. You would have to sell a lot of plants to make it worthwhile. We used to have a stand when it was in Hillsborough to promote Hillsborough Hort but it became prohibitive. W e weren’t actually selling plants and still had to pay a lot.

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  5. As an exhibitor (I ‘did’ the display for Springmount Garden Centre in the Floral Marquee, and worked, selling to the public, on all 5 days) I have to agree with your general comments. Unfortunately it is a self-fulfilling prophecy because if the show becomes less of a flower show then those that attend will not be interested in gardening and therefore not buy plants, and then it does not become financially possible for nurseries to attend. The problem is not restricted to Bloom and has been a problem with UK shows which have maintained or grown their popularity by diversifying, to the detriment of the horticultural content. I have to blow out own trumpet and say that we have changed our display every year to try to entertain and inform visitors and each year we have had a favourable response, and Gold.

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    1. Congratulations on the excellent display for Springmount Garden Centre and for your well deserved Gold Medal. And, also, a big “Thanks” to you and the other nurseries who have persevered in attending in increasingly adverse financial conditions. It is terribly unfortunate – to those interested in gardening – that Bloom is becoming less and less a gardening event. We can only live in hope that the organisers return to the idea of supporting Irish horticulture in its various guises – nurseries, designers, contractors, suppliers etc. The name is Bloom but it is quickly becoming a gardening festival in name only.

      Many thanks for your response.


  6. I have never been to Bloom but am saddened to read the direction in which it is going. I hope a solution can be found to steer it back towards its origins … Irish gardening and gardeners have their own wonderful style which deserves to be showcased and promoted. It is an expensive business having stands and creating show gardens … a pity that even the best things in life boil down to finance!

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  7. I went to Bloom once, in 2016. I love plants and was sorely disappointed as I couldn’t see the gardens because of the crowds and some of the gardens that I did see were gimmicky, minimalist, barren zones that a bee wouldn’t stop by in. I don’t think I’ll risk it again and I was talking to a fellow plant lover recently who was horrified at the thought of Bloom… loves plants… not keen on crowds of people.

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    1. The fact there were crowds of people at the gardens indicates that there is a big interest in them which I think is the reason the organisers of Bloom should ensure that the gardening aspects of Bloom are developed and not allowed to go further into decline.


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