It was thanks to a last minute complimentary ticket that I was able to attend Bloom yesterday, and after some juggling around and child swapping I set off yesterday morning with two enthusiastic lads to find out what Bloom's all about.
I didn't know what to expect but was keen to find out what's new and happening in the horticultural world. As an enthusiastic organic vegetable gardener (I've been hand weeding the drive this week, how sad is that!) I was therefore delighted to see that the growing trend in vegetable growing is very much in evidence. When we started growing our own it was difficult to find suppliers but I'm delighted that this is changing. There were a lot of exhibitors that I didn't get to see in the three hours we were there but here are a few....
Mr Middleton's Garden Shop www.mrmiddleton.com was the first stand I came across with queues three deep. I only managed to enquire about the biological controls available but they seem to stock them all - Nemaslug (12 million nematodes that can be watered onto slugs outside between March and October), No Ants (again can be watered onto nests) and biological controls for red spider mite, amongst others.
The Organic Centre (www.theorganiccentre.ie) was mobbed (were they giving away freebies??) so although I would have loved to have spoken to them, I kept moving along.
Then I came across a really friendly guy from Irish Organic Weed Killer Ltd. www.owk.ie They're the only manufacturer of 100% natural weed killer in Ireland and claim that it will effectively control annual & perennial weeds, grasses and moss. It temporarily (lasts for 48 hours) reduces the pH of soil making it uninhabitable for weed roots. The Irish Garden magazine will be talking to them next month.
IOFGA (Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association) have recently launched a Grow Organic scheme aimed at schools, allotments and community gardens to help people get growing organically. Annual memberships is €50 which will give you access to the website, tips and factsheets as well as step by step information on getting started. www.iofga.org.
The Federation of Irish Beekeepers were also represented (www.irishbeekeeping.ie), as well as the Tree Council of Ireland (who want people to tell them about any special trees), Bird Watch Ireland and chicken coop manufacturers, raised bed manufacturers and wildlife and biodiversity Groups.
Whilst I was looking around the stands, the lads on entering the Park headed immediately to the entertainment area where Mooge were about to start a two hour set. They boys took their front row seats and were seriously impressed with the band's performance, now feeling that they've experienced their first 'proper' festival (and complaining about hearing problems to boot)! Perhaps next time they'll hang out further back from the stage, and maybe even look at a few plants...
The show gardens were really busy, with long queues leading into the Urban Garden, whose plants were supplied by Pat Fitzgerald, a Kilkenny man who owns http://www.myplant.ie/. Carlow was represented by Diedre Pender with Nemeton, who's design included trees, fire pit and stunning foxgloves. Many of the designs on show included vegetables and/or plants that encourage beneficial insects into their gardens, all of which will help me with my own thoughts and ideas on vegetable gardens.
However, as Hans Wieland from the Organic Centre pointed out on my Facebook page - the spacings of some of the veg weren't great. They were more for effect than practical growing with cabbages and courgettes, crammed in side by side. However, anything that shows that veg can be ornamental in their own right and turns people on to growing can't be a bad thing either. They just need to attend our courses to learn how to do it better!
The above photo was the display by Sophie Grafin von Malzan who's For Free brave design was either loved or hated.
My last mention and thanks goes to Veronica Molloy from Crossogue Preserves (www.crossoguepreserves.com). With my developing crowd phobia I only touched on the outer perimeter of the delicious smelling food displays but came across a gap at Veronica's stall and headed for it. I picked her brain for tips on making strawberry jam (we may have a bumper crop if all the flowers are anything to go by) and after lots of tastings, finally chose three preserves to bring home to Ian in an attempt to make up for not buying him an anniversary present. He was delighted with his Connemara Irish Whiskey & Heather Marmalade, Brandy Marmalade and Irish Coffee Curd and I hope he'll share it at the breakfast table!
So will I go to a garden show again - YES - but only on a weekday when it's quieter and next time I'll be looking forward to checking out the flower displays too. Oh, and I wont be buying snacks from a chocolate van ever again.... €9.50 for two small Pepsi's, two Whisper bars and a Moro! And there was me thinking that Ireland was changing....