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GLAS Special: An overview of Bord Bia’s services for the Horticulture Industry

President Higgins visits the Green Cities Garden at Bord Bia Bloom 2022. Photo Fennell Photography

From Carol Marks, sector manager for horticulture at Bord Bia



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21 July 2022

Bord Bia implements a range of programmes and activities to support the amenity horticulture sector including consumer & trade promotion, business development, market research, and quality programmes. The following is a report on key activities over the last year and a snapshot of services available to the industry.

Back with a bang!

Over 110,000 visitors, including 15,000 children, returned to Bord Bia Bloom, Ireland’s largest gardening, food, and family festival in the Phoenix Park over the June Bank Holiday weekend. Following a three-year break, visitors and exhibitors alike celebrated the return of Ireland’s largest gardening, food, and family festival.

Commenting on the success of this year’s show, Tara McCarthy, Bord Bia’s chief executive said, “The phrase I’ve heard repeated most over the five days at Bord Bia Bloom has been “It’s great to be back”. This has been reflected in the enthusiasm and positivity from visitors, exhibitors, show garden designers, volunteers, and staff throughout the weekend. Not even the reliably unreliable Irish weather could dampen spirits in the Phoenix Park.

“Equally, we’ve welcomed new fans of the festival, many of whom gained a new appreciation for gardening and locally produced food over the past three years. This was another theme of the weekend – the multitude of benefits that gardening, horticulture, and outdoor spaces can bring to our lives, plus the importance of supporting local food and drink producers. We’re already looking forward to Bord Bia Bloom 2023 and the opportunity to once again showcase the best of Irish horticulture, food and drink to the Irish public.”

Spirit of sustainability

In keeping with the spirit of sustainability and waste reduction at Bord Bia Bloom, many elements of the show gardens were relocated after the show:

  • The Enable Ireland Respite Garden will be recreated at the charity’s Rathmore House Respite Centre in Arklow, County Wicklow and will be used as a template for other centres.
  • All elements of Woodie’s Seomra Eile garden were reused with the plants distributed to primary schools in the Laois area.
  • The plants and shrubs from Aldi’s Sustainable For-est Garden went to Barnardos locations around Dublin.
  • All planting and hard elements from The Shared Spaces Family Garden and The Nature Enthusiast’s Garden were donated to the mental health charity Flourish in County Sligo.
  • St Michael’s House Special School in Baldoyle had their pick of plants from the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre’s Beauty & The Beast The Musical Garden.
  • Elements of the Green Cities Europe Garden were donated to Tidy Towns Meath.
  • The heart sculpture from the Croí – The Cardiovascular Garden went the charity’s headquarters in Galway.
  • The Hit Pause, The Caragh Nurseries Garden will be reinterpreted at Barretstown children’s charity, in County Kildare, to include the planting, the water feature and the sculpture.
  • Elements of Peter McVerry Trust’s Pathways to Home garden will be recreated at one of the charity’s homeless services in Kildare.
  • The Sightsavers Gairdín na Gcéadfaí (Sensory Garden) went to the Central Remedial Clinic’s office in Clontarf, Dublin, an organisation dedicated to the achievements, wellbeing and health of people with physical disabilities.

Bloom 2022 by the numbers

  • Over 110,000 visitors, including 15,000 children attended the festival.
  • The prestigious judging panel comprised of 15 Irish and international horticultural experts, who awarded more than 78 awards to show garden designers, amateur postcard garden designers; nurseries and floral artists.
  • Three new garden designers struck gold for the first time at Bord Bia Bloom.
  • There were over 1,200 potato plants in the Eat Well Garden.
  • Over 10,000 Irish plants were sold in the Quality Mark Plant Village.
  • This year’s show featured 19 show gardens, nine postcard gardens and 17 nursery displays, over 80 food and drink producers and 130 retailers.
  • Almost 17,000 people availed of Bord Bia’s free Shuttle Bus to and from Bord Bia Bloom.
  • More than 5,000 plants were left for safe keeping in the Plant Créche while their owners explored the festival.
  • A total of 3,800 people worked onsite over the five days, including 100 Bord Bia staff volunteers.
  • It took 14 days to clear the Bord Bia Bloom site.

Amplifying the horticulture content

In keeping with our Horticulture Marketing Strategy 2019 – 2021, and the Bloom strategy to place horticulture at the core of Bloom, the Horticulture team undertook a number of initiatives this year to build and amplify the horticulture content at the show. The objective was to activate additional and stronger horticulture (and industry linked) content and activity across the show site.

Easy Steps to Dream Gardens

Working with Bloom award winning garden designers, Irish plant nurseries and Irish garden retailers, Easy Steps to Dream Gardens, an initiative designed to help the public to plant their own show garden at home was launched for Virtual Bloom 2021, providing a virtual activity to celebrate and highlight the event in its second virtual incarnation.

All award-winning Bloom garden designers were canvassed resulting in 16 design submissions, shortlisted to seven. Nursery growers were invited to submit their availability lists across the season for consideration by the designers for inclusion in their plans, while garden centres were canvassed and invited to participate to promote the initiative with Point of Sale in their premises.

This project was developed with support across three internal teams, and multi specialist external agencies, requiring coordination and liaison across design, web, digital, print and communications.

A specialist agency was engaged to create a suite of three-dimensional images and videos for each of the seven gardens, a second agency assisted with developing the downloadable PDF’s for each garden design pack including full details / garden plan / planting plan and plant lists. This element was also utilised to develop a trade information pack with details of all gardens and plant list which and sent out to nurseries as well as to 103 garden centres with their POS.

Dedicated and engaging Point of Sale was creatively displayed in 103 garden centres nationwide, while a full support package was developed for participating garden designers, nurseries and garden centres including a suite of social media assets, along with suggested content plan and distributed to all. This achieved excellent engagement from stakeholders across all areas of horticulture – garden designers/nurseries/garden centres with many sharing and posting the information on their own media platforms thus amplifying the campaign.

To build on this, and to encourage the public to engage with their gardens at home, as well as to demonstrate how the designs work in reality and how they suit the average sized garden, Bord Bia brought two of the Dream Gardens to life at Bloom 2022.  The Nature Enthusiast’s Garden by Jane McCorkell, and The Shared Spaces Family Garden by Nicola Haines.

This campaign has proven a huge success with both the industry and the public, resulting in more than 19,383 visits to the Dream Gardens section of the website alone and over 18,500 downloads of the garden designs and planting plans in the 12 months from June 2021 to June 2022.

Excellent media coverage was achieved in national and regional press (both trade and consumer) during 2021 and again in 2022, including two double page spreads in the Business Post and Sunday Times, The Irish Examiner and the Irish Times Business Pages, Irish Independent and the main body of the Irish Times, while a large number of national and regional radio interviews also took place, alongside a live interview with the two featured designers on RTE’s Bloom Special broadcast on 2 June.

Green Cities at Bloom

Bord Bia sponsored a large Green Cities garden at the 2022 Bloom Show as part of the three-year EU co-funded ‘Green Cities for a Sustainable Europe’ campaign. The garden was a visual representation of the type of green landscaping it would be ideal to include as part of all the new construction projects around Ireland, using Irish grown plants. It was manned throughout the show, to answer queries from the public, to explain the rationale behind the garden, and to emphasize the environmental, health biodiversity and economic benefits of green spaces in cities, as well the importance of using local plants.

The garden, designed by James Purdy, and installed by Silverstream Landscapes, generated significant interest from the public, due to its flowing lines and naturalistic look.

The garden partnered with Dublin and Limerick City Councils, who used the opportunity to showcase their own green initiatives. The garden was well received by the public, and achieved substantial coverage in the press, in online media and in video media. Further regional coverage is expected in the coming weeks. Several useful contacts have also been made with the county councils, including those who would have liked to take part, but were unable to due to staffing issues.

The Quality Mark Plant Village

The Quality Mark Plant Village at Bloom retuned to the same spot at the front of the Bloom Bistro and close to the entrance to the show gardens. The Quality Mark Plant Village is a show case for some of the best plants available from nurseries who are members the Bord Bia Quality Scheme. Learnings from the 2019 show fed into the design of the Village, and as well as plants, expert advice was on hand for the public to ensure they made the best of their plants.

The Village was enormously busy, especially on the first two days which are most popular with serious gardeners, where long queues could be seen to get into the village. The village stocked plants that were used in the pots situated around the show to decorate it, which provided a natural flow of customers. The Village was run in conjunction with the Kildare Growers and Arboretum and supported by Bord Bia.

Dates for 2023

Plans and preparations are already underway for Bord Bia Bloom 2023 which will take place from 1 to 5 June. Many show garden designers, sponsors and exhibitors have already signed up. Don’t miss your opportunity to be part of the event, contact us to express your interest.

Let’s Grow Gardening Promotion

Let’s Grow is the overarching umbrella for all gardening promotion, and while the Dream Gardens took centre stage to amplify our focus on plant sales, there has been a dedicated social media campaign under the Let’s Grow banner with an emphasis on video and animated carousels of ‘how to tips’ being distributed to the near 20,000 Facebook following, and a focus on getting people into garden centres and buying Irish plants.

To enhance the impact, Bord Bia substantially increased the funding for plants in the new season of Supergarden, ensuring that plants were a bigger focus of the gardens, highlighting the Quality Mark on plants, as well as a large investment in the plant village at Bloom, renamed the Quality Mark Plant village.

The Thinking House @ Bord Bia

The hub of Bord Bia’s Insight and Innovation services, The Thinking House, is the repository of all Bord Bia research, and is where insight and innovation activities are centred.

Bord Bia carries out a measure of the gardening market every two years. The Value of the Garden Market study 2021 was undertaken by Ipsos MRBI. This complements recent reports held by Bord Bia, the behaviour and understanding study on gardening completed in 2020 and our latest study on The Health Benefits of Gardening which will be presented to industry in the coming weeks. A summary of all reports are held on the Bord Bia website or can be studied by visiting the Library at The Thinking House by appointment.

Bord Bia’s Insight and Innovation services are open to all Irish producers, and a number of nurseries have utilised its brand development programme over recent years. Visit the Bord Bia stand today to get a flavour of what Thinking House has on offer.

The Bord Bia Value of the Garden Market Study 2020 & 2021

Bord Bia has engaged Ipsos MRBI to track consumer activity and spend in the amenity market every two years since 2001. The objective of the survey is to provide Bord Bia with a tool to measure and track consumer spend, channel of purchase and motivation for purchase across a range of amenity products.

The study was underway in 2020 when Covid-19 brought the world to a standstill, however after an initial pause, the gardening sector saw unprecedented levels of growth, and the market measure for 2020 reached its highest level ever at a record €1.2 billion in value.

To track how the market would perform once restrictions might be eased, we carried out the study again in 2021, which showed further growth and a continuing interest in gardening by the public, with spending reaching further growth to €1.5 billion.

 Market summary

Covid dominated life in Ireland and around the word in 2021, as it had done in 2020.  Ireland was in a full lockdown until May 2021, though essential retail could remain open during this time.  The economy gradually opened up during the summer, with foreign travel becoming possible.  The arrival of Omicrom led to further restrictions being imposed from the end of October 2021 through to the end of the year.

However, 2021 was another record-breaking year for the gardening market.  Consumers spent €1.5 billion on garden related products and services, eclipsing the previous high reported back during the Celtic tiger.

Consumers continued to focus their energies and their ‘Covid savings’ on their gardens and outdoor spaces this year. Whereas in 2020, spend on outdoor and flowering plants increased by half compared with pre-pandemic measures, this year, the greatest lift in spend was for landscaping services (+63% vs 2020).  However, all categories measured recorded the highest spend figures since measurement began 20 years ago.

The DIY channel, which had suffered a loss of share in 2020 as a result of being closed during the March – May lockdown in 2020, saw its share of spend in the market restored to pre-pandemic levels.  While share of spend through physical garden centres contracted in 2021, overall spend through this channel is still significantly higher than previous years.

Online purchasing, which expanded in 2020 due to Covid, has continued to remain relevant in 2021.  Online spend accounted for 9% of the market, compared with a 3% share in 2018.  Some products are particularly suited to online purchasing, such as furniture, sheds/structures, trees, bulbs/flower seeds and herbs/fruit and veg for planting.  Furthermore, online purchasing does not simply include dedicated online websites, but also the websites of garden centres, DIY stores and so on.  The convenience of being able to buy bulky items online and have them delivered is a consumer benefit not fully realised before the pandemic.

‘Plant parents’ is a term coined to reflect the popularity of indoor potted plants in recent years.  Traditionally a purchase favoured by a somewhat older demographic, the results of this study show a significant increase in purchasing of indoor plants by younger people.  Indeed, the average past week incidence of purchasing among 15 to 24-year-olds has risen from 5% to 9% between 2018 and 2021.

Spend on indoor plants increased by 38% since 2020, bringing the market value to €51 million.

Investment in garden products also increased, with marked improvements evident for all products.

Commissioning of landscaping services dramatically increased in 2021, in particular for the once off services such as design or full garden makeover. While garden maintenance accounts for two thirds of all services commissioned, spend on garden design and makeovers accounts for almost half of the market value.

This study, along with our other research will be presented to the industry in early September at a special Industry Day event – date to be announced nearer the time.

Marketing assistance for horticulture companies

Bord Bia provides financial support to Irish food, drink, and horticulture companies through our Marketing Assistance and Step Change programmes. A total of 47 horticulture companies availed of MAP grants in 2020, many of whom were unable to use it due to Covid-19 restrictions. Those who could not utilise the grant in 2020 had the option to carry it over into 2021, while those who did could apply for a grant in 2021. An additional 16 companies submitted applications in 2021, eight amenity and eight edible horticulture businesses and were granted a total of 88,000 euro in MAP funds.

The call for applications takes place in December of each year. Details will be available on the Bord Bia website closer to the time. Contact us should you wish to receive an alert email directly.

Business and Trade Development

Bord Bia continues to provide amenity businesses support through trade promotion events and business development activities which include supplier, product and brand development activities. Support is provided in the export market through mentoring and the facilitation of buyer introductions.

Amenity export programme

The programme, which is underpinned through mentoring support, is targeted at amenity horticulture business owners, who wish to build on existing export sales or enter export markets for the first time.

The value of amenity exports increased to €19.7 million, with nursery stock the biggest sector worth €8 million followed by foliage at €6 million, the fastest growing sector.

Brexit regulations affected sales to the UK to some extent at the start of 2021, but demand was strong and exporters had a good season overall. 2022 has started well, although demand is not as strong as it has been for the previous two years.

A number of nurseries are seeing the benefits of Lean programmes, to accurately calculate costs, and organise their businesses efficiently.

We are here to help

Contact Carol Marks or Michal Slawski (Export Development) via email on: or For access to reports and studies contact our Library and Information on:

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