Monthly Archives: June 2012

Dublin’s Bloom In The Park

Pete and I were recently invited to Dublin by Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board, to attend Bloom 2012.

A bustling gardening and food show held in Dublin’s enormous Phoenix Park, Bloom is now in its 6th year and we quickly understood why it’s become so popular.

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My biggest criticism of RHS Chelsea, which I attended last year, was that the visitor numbers were so high that it was extremely hard to see anything. The crowds at each show garden were so deep that it routinely took 20 minutes or longer to slowly work one’s way to the front in order to be able to actually see the garden before guilt about the crowd behind resulted in shuffling away again a few moments later.

At Bloom, there were plenty of happy visitors but no unpleasant crowds and we were able to really admire the varied show gardens. These were beautiful and varied from a traditional front garden with a bicycle outside (complete with strawberry plants in the handlebar basket) to the modern white garden room with bubble swing to the unusual small garden with red metal plant sculptures to a wildlife meadow with a purple salmon stream to a modern urban landscape with graffiti tunnel and an eagle made from recycled drinks cans.

Another highlight was the enormous walled kitchen garden with vegetable beds in absolutely immaculate condition, not a weed in sight. Around the edges were displays of vintage gardening equipment. I found the planting and upkeep of this area inspirational.

For those wanting to indulge in some retail therapy, there was a vast selection of relevant stalls, both outdoors and in the large marquee tent, selling everything from seeds and seedlings to ride-on lawnmowers to wrought iron trellises and much more.

Bloom1

The other side of Bloom was the Bord Bia food village, showcasing the best of Irish produce. Everything from smoked fish to fresh pies and quiches to dried seaweed to artisan cheeses to cakes to packaged snacks to cakes and biscuits to juices and beers… the selection was huge and I enjoyed chatting to many of the stall holders. That’s me, above, with the man from Sam’s Potatoes!

Had the show been nearer home, I’d have purchased a tonne to bring home. As it was, I contented myself with a packet of strawberry, mango and sencha tea from Kingfisher Tea. Can’t wait to break into that!

 

The show also had a number of other attractions for visitors including an entertainments stage featuring an eclectic range of musical acts, a cookery theatre with demonstrations from famous chefs, activities for younger children and a humanitarian and environmental zone where you could learn more about bee keeping, the tree council, bird watching and wildlife.

Bloom was an absolute delight to visit and I’d definitely recommend planning your trip to Dublin to coincide with Bloom in future years.

 

A London Gardener was a guest of Bord Bia and Bloom In The Park.

Hops Away!

hop

This year I decided to buy a hop plant; I’ve been brewing more and more beer at home (if you’re interested, I ramble about it over on Pete Drinks) and after the success of growing wheat and making my own bread from the ground up, I love the idea of doing the same with beer.

Beer requires two primary ingredients – hops, and barley. Of the two, hops are by far the easiest to process; you just grow them, pick the flowers, dry them out and add them to the beer. Barley will be more complicated as it needs to be malted before use, so that will be a project for next year.

The hop plant arrived in the spring as just a root and some short twigs, along with a handy guide telling me not to expect too much for the first year as the plant got established. It took a while to get going, but once it did, it went absolutely crazy.

Hops grow as long vines – very long indeed; this one (a Bramling Cross) can grow 20 feet in a good year, apparently. Even though this is the first year, it looks like the hop is determined to break that record already – it’s clambered to the top of the second stake I’ve given it, and is now starting to grow down the length of the garden.

It’s hard to overstate how fast this thing grows – the main vine puts on well over an inch a day. If I spend more than a couple of hours out in the garden, I swear I can see it’s grown during that time. The shoot in the picture above – the second vine to put in an appearance – is maybe six inches long and wasn’t even visible a week before that. In the few days it’s been since I took that picture, it’s doubled in length.

They’re incredible things to watch grow. Now I just have to hope I get some flowers off it!