Thursday, June 2

At Bloom 2016, Phoenix Park, Dublin.

Ah, Bloom :-). 

This must be the most amazing festival hosted within Ireland!


It is a festival that truly shows how Ireland is today.
Its a festival of Ireland's Pride.
Look this is what we do!


Ireland is a land of good growing, despite rocky soils, wetlands, acid soils in some places, perhaps too much lime in others. Ireland is now a land of gardens, farms, growing good food, all with care, as nature plans it. Wonderful blooming and harvests without flooding with chemicals and genetics, and add to all of that, the world famous Irish hospitality.

This is Bloom Festival that happens through early June Bank Holiday, and set up very professionally by Bord Bia. This was Bloom 2016, from Thursday 2nd June through to and including Monday 6th June. It was the 10th Bloom Festival.


It was also a festival in warm sunshine, this year.

Only an hour of rain, during the early afternoon of Monday ...


But the people at Bloom were there to enjoy it, no matter the weather, and some incredible creativity happened then. Of course, lack of rain was a watering challenge for the show gardens eager to keep their gardens as pristine as they could.

I am going to present my review of Bloom 2016 over three blog post articles.

The Joy Of Getting To Bloom

With this post I will share my overall experience of Bloom 2016. Tomorrow's post will be my review of the Show Gardens, and the third post in my Bloom trilogy will be of our time, myself and Claire Roche, with the Tao Of Now garden, one of the show gardens of the festival.


So, I will start with my arrival at Bloom 2016  on Thursday 2nd June. This was my first time at Bloom, I regret to say. Each year I have become committed to some other activity or event that has prevented me being there. But from now on, my diary will be clear for this weekend in future years.

I did not use a car to get Bloom 2016 on the Thursday and thought the public transport would see me right as Dublin public transport is usually excellent.

I was travelling from Blackrock to Phoenix Park. The combination of Dart, Luas, Bloom Shuttle should have worked a dream to get me to Bloom 2016 in under an hour. Alas, lots went wrong with that plan and it took me nearly 4 hours by public transport, but that would be another blog post to explain what happened.

Getting there aside, when I arrived at the Bloom 2016 Festival main gate, I could instantly tell there was extreme efficiency here ... and extreme courtesy from security and other festival staff too.

I quickly received my exhibitor's pass arm band, and was off to the Tao Of Now garden to perform there almost right away.

First Impressions Of Bloom 2016

Walking from the main gate to the Tao Of Now show garden filled me with awe as I was struck by the immense size of the festival. To me, on arrival, it looked bigger and busier than a Disney Park!


After my first performance at the Tao Of Now show garden, I had some free time to enjoy my first look at the stunning Show Gardens.

One thing I learned during my days at Bloom is that the best time to really take in the Show Gardens is between 3 pm and 6 pm, and on the Thursday and Friday. Each day, the bulk of visiting people seemed to be there between Noon and 3 pm. The busy days were Saturday, Sunday, and Monday with seemingly twice as many people each day compared to Thursday and Friday.

Getting a position to truly see and absorb a Show Garden, especially take decent pics, was quite a challenge between Noon and 3, especially when looking at the small gardens.


However, being at Bloom 2016 from Noon until 3 pm is all of the time many people had to spare. This was because many people had set off from their homes in the early morning from all over Ireland. They travelled to Dublin on trains and buses, caught the shuttle buses to Bloom 2016, then needed to travel back home that evening. Arrival for most people was noon, and then they needed to leave 3 pm to be able to catch their homebound train or bus.

So, if you can, do invest in staying overnight in Dublin and truly experience Bloom.

I discovered I needed at least 5 hours to take in, enjoy, and learn about the 24 Show Gardens, and that includes the vast and jaw dropping OPW managed walled garden too. I will write a separate blog post review of these through my next post.

It was through Thursday and late Saturday afternoon that I managed to take in these Show Gardens, though the OPW garden I explored on the Monday.


The first thing that puzzled me was how anyone can just come to Bloom for 2 or 3 hours through just one afternoon. For me, that is just too rushed and so much would be missed.

For Bloom, I strongly advise giving yourself a good small break that includes one or two nights accommodation, and truly take in this magnificent festival. Bloom is now my favourite festival in Ireland.

Before I introduce more of Bloom, I must applaud how the management and designers of Bloom put an amazing amount of thought on how to create the best, most comfortable, most service intended experience for all who visit. The details they attended to and the planning was awesome !!!

My only discomfort was shuttle bus on Thursday, but I gather that was sorted out quickly. I arrived by car from Friday onwards and the car parking management is the best I have seen at any festival. The efficiency and communications enabled cars to be quickly parked orderly and conveniently very quickly and with extreme help and courtesy. There was none of the shouting and power slinging that I have experienced at most other festivals.

Then the people at the ticket gates were also very helpful and courteous,yet moving people in and out of the festival very quickly.


Inside the Bloom festival site, the toilets were plentiful, well placed and incredibly well maintained and clean at all times. Baby changing places were abundant and spacious. There were several hand wash and hand hygiene places around the festival. One of my favourite facilities was the water bottle refilling stations and the water did taste like filtered water.

I must also add that food served all over the festival was mainly of high quality at very fair prices. A family could get by with good food quite easily.

The walking to get around was also mainly spacious and well paved. There were many wheelchairs and strollers within the festival grounds and they seem to travel around effortlessly.

Provisions for children were also stunning everywhere. I barely saw an unhappy child. There was so much to see and do for them.

What's At A Bloom Festival?

So onto more about the festival. As I said, I will talk about the Show Gardens through my next post, but as a teaser will reveal that I was awed by the wild flower meadow and pond area of the 'Across Boundaries' garden which served several ideas that I will use at home at Carrowcrory.


I was also awed and deeply moved by the creation by the UCD students of the 'Evolution Of Land, Plants, and Gardens' garden. But more about them in next post.

Food, Glorious Food

Yes, this is Bord Bia hosted, so there has to be an amazing food fair here :-).

Like the Show Gardens, I discovered that the Food Village needed a few hours to take in. I used my time off during Friday and Sunday afternoons to explore the vast Food Village, which was truly a dream Farmer's Market.

On one side of the Village, it was mainly fresh foods like meats, fish, veggies, and herbs.

We did enjoy the fish sausages bought at one stand. They were not salty like other fish sausage brands I have tried before ...


Mushrooms were lovely too ...


The other side was a market of small business cottage food crafts like jams, chutneys, snacks, honey, herbal oils and lotions, and breads.


Lots of free samples too. You would not leave this side hungry :-)


On the food crafts side there was a big bar area that featured a stunning choice of local craft beers, ciders, gins and whiskeys.


In the centre of all of this were catering stands. The Happy Pear vegetarian and vegan stand had a constant line. It was extremely popular. We bought salads from there and their oat cookies are the best cookies I have ever tasted! Their vegan and veggie sandwiches were also very popular.

There was an entertainment stage in the centre of the Food Village, but I did not hang around long enough to take that in to see what was on.

There was also this fun challenge enjoyed by many children ...


Also, I was not sure of the big veggie garden in the polytunnels end.


Was that all display? I did not see anyone buying anything other than potatoes.


Plants To Buy?

So after Show Gardens and Food Village, what else?

Ah, plants! People buy plants at a garden festival, don't they?

Viewing that area I messed up completely. The Floral Pavilion was the main area, but it was Monday afternoon when I eventually got there. Alas, they had already had their almost giveaway sale, so I saw very little. Same too for the herbaceous plants and bulbs area. Again, this proved to me that you really need a couple or days or so at Bloom to take it all in.

I did win at the herb stand though. A lovely selection of healthy herb plants along with a couple of sturdy tote baga, all for a tenner. :-)


One thing that struck me and surprised me was that there were no tree plant vendors or orchard plant vendors? I would have expected Future Forests and similar to be there?

Next to the Floral Pavilion was a sort of Ideal Home Show complete with a fashion catwalk pumping out familiar pumping funky catwalk music. I did not stay in that area more than a few minutes.

Outside was the Craft Village. A real mix of stuff there. I loved the basketry vendor best and his prices were amazing. I bought a basket for apples for our Apple rituals within the Tree Labyrinth at home at Carrowcrory.

Nice bird boxes too :-)



This area also included robotic lawn mowers and artificial lawns.


A man selling artificial lawns amused me as he was talking about them like a farmer may describe a prize winning bountiful crop. He was very proud of his artificial lawns that you could buy imitating all kinds of different grasses at different lengths.


Between the Craft Village and Food Village was a line of wonderful conservation organisations. The wonderful Native Woodland Trust were there.


They were giving away pine tree plants and inviting people to sow Alder seeds and take them home to sprout and plant.


Beekeeping Association was there too.

Provisions for children were superb!


There was lots for children to see and do within the Show Gardens, but additionally there were terrific playgrounds, a maze they loved zooming around,


There was a children's farm area, shows, games, and there was a beautiful shaded woodland area with lots of private picnic tables where families could go for their 'teddy bears picnics'.

RTE were there with a big entertainment stage in the middle with an incredible variety programme of music, songs, poets, demonstrators and soothing music.


Some people sat there and relaxed for hours. I only stopped for a session by the Lyric Quartet.

Food to eat there! 

Well, lots of people at Bloom, so lots of long lines of people eager to get food. Each day we took to an area called BBQ Bliss where the food variety was excellent and shaded sitting was always fairly easy to get. It was in an area that fewer people seemed to visit.


Within BBQ Bliss there was a seafood stand, Dorans Of Howth, who run their own trawler and market. They served lovely paella and seafood salad skewers. There was a Pakistan food stand with four excellent items on their menu. Two were chicken dishes, one a BBQ medley, and a delicious Vegetarian Boat. Incredibly fast service there serving quality food.


Add to that a burger stand serving huge organic meat burgers, and another stand serving all kinds of lamb and apple items, and superb potato wedges. All catered food was sold at very fair prices and with great service.

Nearby was a stand serving sweet Irish strawberries and cream,
 always a perfect dessert :-)

Have I forgotten anything? 

I bet I have.

Again, I applaud Bord Bia for hosting and serving an amazing colourful, happy, festival designed to serve everyone with incredible comfort, superb hospitality and service, and very fair pricing.

What I loved was that everything was about local food, crafts and creativity. There was no multi national corporate presence. No Guinness, Jameson, Sky News, Coca Cola, Kellogs etc. One exception was perhaps Toyota who were there with their range of green cars. I did find their inclusion a bit strange ... but if it helped more people to afford green cars, why not?

Everyone at the Bloom festival seemed to be very, very happy.


No louts, trouble makers or attention seekers. This was a festival of gardeners, foodies and people who truly love life.

This was a festival that truly showed what Ireland is about now!

This review is part of a trilogy of reviews, 
here are the links to the other two reviews

click here for my review of the Show Gardens
click here for my review of the Tao Of Now garden