Bloom: Ice-cream, oysters and garden designs vie for attention

President Michael D Higgins praises ‘long-term thinking’ of those planting gardens they will not live to see mature

The ice-cream vans were in full throttle early on Thursday morning, preparing for the opening day of Bloom.

From 10am onwards, visitors stepped off trains and the Luas at Heuston station to queue good-naturedly across Seán Heuston Bridge to Parkgate Street. From there, shuttle buses took them up past Áras an Uachtaráin, where President Michael D Higgins was, presumably, putting the finishing touches to his near half-hour opening address.

At number one in the nursery village, Kilmurray Nursery of Gorey, Co Wexford, was doing a roaring trade in plant sales —the plants being based in environmentally correct “100 per cent peat-free compost”. Paul Woods, whose family run the business, was chuffed having just taken a gold medal for Kilmurray pollinator garden display. “Business is good, tipping away”, he smiled.

Nearby queues for cones began to form at “the Ice-Cream Experience”. Large numbers of schoolchildren were not to be disappointed: “There are loads of ice-cream vans,” noted one youngster.


Much interest was expressed in the Marie Keating Foundation Catching-Cancer-early garden designed by Robert Moore. The garden design consists of a charred boardwalk, representative of the cancer journey, which “floats” through dense seasonal planting. The planting is intended to reflect the beauty, hope, and positivity of the garden, and to be in stark contrast to the charred timber. The boardwalks lead to reflective water bowls, all of which aim to highlight the need for personal reflection and check-ups. The design also secured a gold medal for its creator Robert Moore and sponsors Astra Zeneca and MSD.

Claire McGonnell from Cork and Brigitta Curtin from the Burren Smokehouse in Co Clare were enjoying oysters at the Oyster Bar provided by Ryan O’Leary and Dec McManus of the King Sitric restaurant, in Howth. “ I just love the oysters and they come from just up the road from me, they come from Galway, from some of the most pristine waters in the world,” said Ms Curtin. “They are lovely and fresh tasting,” agreed McGonnell.

Claire Stack from Cork stood out as the only woman among a group women in full Victorian costume bedecked with wide-brimmed hats, flowers and parasols. Were they, perhaps, The Irish Times wondered, employed by Bloom or Bord Bia to promote what is now Ireland’s largest garden event?

“No,” came the reply, almost in unison. “We are here to promote Cork. We are the opposition.” The women it seems were all from Cobh and all members of the Cobh Animation Team, sent to Bloom at the behest of Visit Cork, as something of a fifth column to lure visitors to the county.

In the food village, the President had arrived and was delivering a speech on the now widespread acceptance, by almost everyone, of the biodiversity crisis and climate change. His voice faltered as he spoke of the people of the Horn of Africa who create so little of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, but who are suffering the worst effects of the climate crisis. He criticised those among the “most powerful” who do the least to combat the crisis.

But he also praised “the long-term thinking” of those who planted gardens which they knew they would never live to see mature, as they were planting for future generations. He commended those who did what was in their ability to combat the climate crisis — going on to say “but you know that, you are all gardeners”.

A full list of winners at this year’s Bloom can be viewed at

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist