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

President Higgins formally opened the annual 'Bloom' show in Dublin's Phoenix Park

From Carol Marks, sector manager for horticulture at Bord Bia



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19 July 2023

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.

Business was Bloomin’

The Phoenix Park, Dublin was a-buzz over the June Bank Holiday weekend as over 100,000 visitors attended Bord Bia Bloom 2023. Business was booming, and spirits were high!

Speaking on the final day of the 2023 festival, Jim O’Toole, Bord Bia’s chief executive said the public appetite for Bloom remains strong. “We have had a very successful show this year, with positive feedback from attendees across the five days and in its 17th year, Bloom remains a firm favourite with the Irish public.”

“In addition to creating an enjoyable visitor experience, Bloom provides an important commercial opportunity for Bord Bia’s client companies. We work with Ireland’s leading garden designers, nurseries and horticulture businesses, and more than 100 food and drink producers, who are at Bloom to showcase their work, products and services. Their focus is not just to impress the public onsite, but also fill their order books for the year ahead.

“This event has become an integral part of the summer calendar for consumers and businesses alike, and that is something Bord Bia is very proud of.”

Ella Cimerman visits The Marie Keating Foundation ‘Catching Cancer Early’ garden

Business was Bloomin’

Consumers were keen to spend at Bloom and many exhibitors reported strong sales and a need to restock over the weekend.

Jack Cunnane of Western Plant Nurseries in Skreen, Co. Sligo exhibited in the outdoor Nursery Village and won a gold medal for their display.  “We’ve been participating at Bord Bia Bloom for eight or nine years now, and this has been our best yet in terms of sales. We sold more in the first three days than we have in the average five days compared to previous years. We’re low on stock now, but that’s a good sign – we don’t want to bring it home!”

Meanwhile, Phytaphix, an award-winning functional food company based in Dundalk, was new to Bloom this year. Phytaphix founder Dr Conor Kerley said: “This was our first time at Bord Bia Bloom and the response has been nothing short of phenomenal. Bloom is the biggest event we have ever exhibited at, and it has been such a great opportunity to meet thousands of people face to face. We launched our new product ‘Energy Phix’ here on Thursday and were sold out by Thursday evening! I wasn’t planning to be at the event every day, but the adrenaline of meeting people is fantastic, and I haven’t missed a minute. It’s been an amazing experience for a relatively new brand, and we’re already looking forward to next year.”

Bord Bia Bloom 2023 by numbers: 

Bord Bia released some of the event facts and figures from the five day festival:

  • This year’s show featured 22 show and feature gardens, nine postcard gardens, nursery displays, and over 100 food and drink producers
  • 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; plant nurseries and floral artists
  • Five new garden designers exhibited for the first time at Bord Bia Bloom
  • 760 exhibitors featured across all areas across the show
  • Over 30,000 people availed of Bord Bia’s free Shuttle Bus to and from Bord Bia Bloom across its five days
  • Over 250 retail and foodservice buyers met with 100 plus Irish food and drink companies at the Bord Bia trade breakfast on Friday morning
  • 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


In keeping with previous years, and the renewed focus on sustainability and waste reduction at Bord Bia Bloom, many elements of the show and feature gardens will be relocated after the event including:

  • The Rise Garden, designed by Eugene Higgins in collaboration with the young people at Oberstown, relocated to Oberstown premises to kickstart its new horticulture programme for young people detained to learn and develop new skills
  • The Coastal Garden – Easy Steps to Dream Gardens designed by James Purdy, sponsored by Bord Bia was donated to the ‘What Darragh Did’ charity in Newcastle, Co. Dublin, and enjoyed at its community centre
  • Green Cities Europe Parklet designed by Daibhí MacDomhnaill, sponsored by EU Green Cities on behalf of the Irish Hardy Nursery Stock Association (IHNSA), was relocated within Dublin city centre to support its message of ‘greening’ urban spaces
  • Elements of the Marie Keating Foundation Catching Cancer Early Garden designed by Robert Moore and sponsored Astra Zeneca and MSD, was rehomed in a cancer service centre in Co. Kerry linked with the charity
  • Planting from the First 5 Garden of Wonder and Discovery, designed by Oliver and Liat Schurmann, sponsored by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, was move to Creative Kids Childcare centre, Walkinstown, Dublin 12 who helped in the design of the garden
  • A Breathing Space for Fingal, designed by Jane McCorkell, sponsored by Fingal County Council, was rehomed in local parks across the Fingal area.
  • Finally, planting from The Raising Amazing Garden by Tusla Fostering, was used to create four sensory gardens at Tusla Fostering residential homes

Designer Eugene Higgins in the Rise Garden sponsored by Oberstown Children Detention Campus

Award winners

An imaginative woodland garden for children under the age of five was chosen as the best large garden at Bord Bia Bloom 2023. Following a rigorous two-day judging process by a panel of independent expert judges, Oliver and Liat Schurmann were awarded a gold medal and best in category for their ‘First 5 Garden of Wonder and Discovery’ in association with the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.

A total of 36 medals (17 gold, 8 silver-gilt, 6 silver and 5 bronze) were awarded to show garden designers (seven gold medals) and plant nurseries (10 gold medals) ahead of the five-day festival opening to the public.

Oliver and Liat Schurmann, who own and operate Mount Venus Nursery in the foothills of the Dublin Mountains, are highly experienced garden designers, having appeared 14 times at Bord Bia Bloom including the very first event in 2007. Their winning garden presents a natural, secluded woodland that allows children to play safely in an atmosphere that promotes imaginative play and discovery.

The garden features winding paths, a gentle stream, and bridges under a canopy of arching willow structures, beech, and hornbeam trees. Sticks, twigs, willow canes, stones and sand are laid out throughout the garden and invite visiting children to be creative and experimental.

The best in category medium garden was awarded to Nicola Haines, Blackrock, Co. Dublin for her urban sustainable front garden, Citroën Power of One, while the best overall small garden went to Kathryn Feeley, also from Blackrock, Co. Dublin for The Forest Balcony. Both gardens creatively showcase how to create valuable green spaces and infrastructure in a densely populated urban site or small space.

Skill and Craftsmanship

Jim O’Toole, Bord Bia chief executive, congratulated the awards winners: “The medals awarded this morning is testament to the skill and craftsmanship of the Irish horticulture community and we are incredibly proud to showcase this talent. As we prepare to open the doors to Bloom 2023, I’d like to thank and acknowledge all those involved whose sheer dedication has helped Bord Bia to deliver what we believe will be a unique and truly uplifting experience for this year’s visitors.”

The judging panels for Bord Bia Bloom included 14 Irish and international horticultural experts judging Postcard gardens, nursery displays, and botanical and floral art.

June Curtin (right) and a friend from Snámhaí Sásta (left), The Coastal Garden by Bord Bia’s Easy Steps to Dream Gardens

Speaking about this year’s show gardens, chief judge, Andrew Wilson said: “There’s a special polish in the gardens this year and as judges, we noticed a general uplift in quality. There is some really interesting planting, concepts and ideas throughout the show garden area, and I think this year’s show offers something for everybody.”

Nursery and Floral Pavilion Awards

A total of 10 gold medals were awarded to nurseries exhibiting at this year’s event. The judges presented the Best in Show Nursery Award to Pat Keville from for an impressive display of indoor plants in the Nursery Village at Bord Bia Bloom.

Floral Art

In the AOIFA Floral Art competition, Adrienne Flood from Sutton Floral Art Group, Donabate received Best in Show for her entry in the ‘Immediate Impact’ class; Nicola Lynch-Morrin from Narraghmore, Co. Kildare received the Best in Category floral art award for her work entitled ‘Every fragile beauty…’; and Siobhan Larkin from Raheny, Dublin received the best in category botanical for her work entitled ‘Wild carrot’.

Postcard Gardens

Hermes Trismegistus School of Self Knowledge from Galway City were awarded Best in Show for their amateur Postcard Garden display, called ‘Look Within’. These small, but perfectly formed gardening showcases featured exhibits telling the stories of charities and community groups.

Trade Breakfast at Bloom

Bord Bia celebrated ten years of connecting Ireland’s most prominent retail and foodservice buyers with Irish food, drink, and horticulture producers at its annual Trade Breakfast at Bloom.

As Bord Bia Bloom opened for its second day, more than 250 buyers from Ireland’s leading retail and foodservice companies attended the trade breakfast to meet with the more than 100 food and drink companies exhibiting at this year’s festival.

“Each year before Bloom opens to the public, Bord Bia arranges a series of introductions between buyers and producers,” said Bord Bia CEO Jim O’Toole. “Since it was first introduced in 2013, the Trade Breakfast has become one of the highlights of Bloom and we are delighted and encouraged to have such a high calibre of buyers here, plus over 100 Irish companies in attendance this year, the highest number to date.

Children reading in the First 5 Garden of Wonder and Discovery by Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth

“We know that now, more than ever, the commitment to sourcing from Ireland is top of mind. These trade buyers have high potential purchasing power, so for Irish food, drink and horticulture companies the Trade Breakfast provides an invaluable opportunity to do business.”

Cultivating Talent

As the winner of Bord Bia’s new Cultivating Talent initiative, which aims to support emerging talent within Irish horticulture, Joseph Eustace was given the opportunity to design and deliver a prestigious show garden at Bord Bia Bloom 2023.

At 21, Eustace from Newbridge, Co. Kildare is one of the youngest ever designers to bring a show garden to Bord Bia Bloom. He is a third-year student of Landscape Architecture at University College Dublin, and is currently completing an Erasmus year in Freising, Germany. Growing up, Eustace was always interested in nature and his father, Ken, is a landscape designer which influenced his decision to pursue a career in horticulture.

Joe Eustace (left), One of the youngest ever show garden designers at Bloom at his garden ‘The Next Step’

Eustace’s garden ‘The Next Step’ is a concept garden that depicts our journey through life. Like life itself, unpredictability is at the core of this garden design, and this is highlighted with a number of undulating paths, focal points and destination points within the landscape. It was Eustace’s vison that visitors may struggle to find what the correct next step is, to move around the garden, however there is no one path. Sustainably sourced planting used in the design was recycled into future projects following the festival, along with all steel and glassworks.

The new Cultivating Talent programme offers financial support and 1:1 mentoring from an experienced garden designer to a first-time Bloom designer to encourage a pipeline of new talent into the industry.

Dates for 2023

Plans and preparations are already underway for Bord Bia Bloom 2024 which will take place from 30 May to 3 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.

Marketing assistance for horticulture companies

Bord Bia provides financial support to Irish food, drink, and horticulture companies. Its Marketing Assistance Programme (MAP) Grant helps Irish food, drink and horticulture producers enhance their performance and gain a foothold in new markets by providing financial support for a range of marketing activities.

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

Horticulture and cereals exports in 2022 exceeded €300 million, Bord Bia’s Export Performance and Prospects report 2022/23 revealed, which is an increase of €8 million on 2021’s figure.

Amenity exports grew again in 2022, after increased levels of sales in 2020 and 2021. Exports of bulbs and flowers totalled €2.3 million, while foliage and nursery stock both reached €7 million.

Plant sales are softening, but foliage sales are increasing. There is still a greater interest in gardening and the export opportunity still exists in the UK, the main market for Irish produce, because they are not self-sufficient in plant production. Exports to all markets were worth €20 million in 2022, an increase over 2021.

In the amenity sector, sales to Northern Ireland saw an increase in 2022. Northern Ireland garden centres have traditionally relied on British nurseries for their supplies, but the new Brexit arrangements mean that sales to Northern Ireland for British nurseries involves extra paperwork and logistical issues. There are opportunities in Northern Ireland for Irish nurseries across the board, including niche suppliers.

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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