Bloom in the Phoenix Park sees ‘strong trade’ with increased gardening numbers following pandemic

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Bloom marks one of its most popular years at the festival, despite the gloomy June weather – with ticket sales expected to exceed expectations.

ome 80% of ticket holders chose to brave the rain today and plant, food and drink traders reported an increase in sales compared to previous years.

Rainy weather has failed to dampen Bord Bia’s Phoenix Park festival 15 years after it opened and two years after the pandemic halted the gathering.

Public hunger for all things horticulture has indeed increased post-Covid – with thousands in attendance today and throughout the weekend.

Billy Alexander, who runs Kells Bay Gardens, runs a fern stall at the festival and the trade was so fast he had to return home to County Kerry on a 12-hour journey to restock on Friday in order to avoid missing today.

“Trading was very strong and I had a decision to make, to restock or not to restock,” Billy, 60, told Independent.ie.

Kells Bay Gardens won a gold medal at the festival and given the action at the stand, with a queue of shoppers, it was perhaps no surprise.

Billy has already won a gold medal at the Royal Chelsea Flower Show 2021 and he was on hand to offer customers advice on how to handle their newly purchased ferns today.

“Ferns are popular because they’re easy to care for and give off a feeling of tranquility and peace,” he said.

“There are thousands of species and they can brighten up a garden or a house.

“It’s definitely dynamic at Bloom this year. The public is eager to buy. Remember that a pandemic had many problems, but one of the benefits was that so many people took up gardening. And this trend seems to be continuing.

Meanwhile, Fiona Falconer, who co-owns Wild About, a multi-award-winning eco-food company, with her husband, Malcolm, was very busy at her stall in the food market today.

Fiona, who started the business 10 years ago after selling the family home in London and leaving behind a successful career as a documentary filmmaker, said she had never been busier at Bloom.

“Trading is fantastic in Bloom this year, it’s very busy,” Fiona said. “People really want our product to be an ethical and sustainable business.

“We have a biodiversity farm in Wexford. We use no chemicals or sprays and work seasonally so the range changes but we specialize in wild native Irish ingredients.

“We are actually Ireland’s first commercial nettle business.”

Fiona said she had traded a successful and busy media life in the UK capital and never looked back. The mother-of-four said ‘happiness’ has become far more important to her in her 40s than a life under pressure.

The businesswoman and farmer believes the Irish public is also starting to see life as it does post-pandemic.

“People think a lot more about eating and drinking what’s good for them, reducing stress and taking care of themselves,” she said.

“An example of this is that my nettle products sell for 10 times more than anything else. Nettles are considered pests, but in fact, they are full of goodness and so natural.”

Fiona, however, admitted that she puts a drop of nettle in her mojitos and margaritas to add a bit of nature to cocktails.

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