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Ornamental Horticulture

Bloom At Home

The cancellation of Bloom this year has left a big gap in the promotion of both professional garden design and amateur gardening. In recognition of Bloom’s popularity across the country, and to further support the horticulture sector, the Bloom team came together to create the #bloomathome campaign. The campaign culminates Sunday (31st May) with a schedule of digital media content which will include President Higgins in his garden, panel discussions with Bloom gold medal winning garden designers, show garden judge Paul Maher, Neven Maguire and Donal Skehan cooking at home and public competitions for best gardens, flower displays and nature-friendly gardening.

 

Overview

Ornamental horticulture production is made up mainly of family run businesses producing trees, plants, bulbs, flowers and foliage, mainly for sale in the domestic market. In Ireland, production varies between in the ground or containers, as field crops or in greenhouses. As a perishable product, ornamental horticulture requires ongoing husbandry and maintenance (including watering, feeding, crop protection and environmental controls).

The ornamental sector employs over 1,300 people with most enterprises based in the East, South East and South of the Country. The ornamental sector grew rapidly during the Celtic tiger years, driven by a building boom and strong consumer spend which was then impacted  negatively by the financial crash in 2008. The value of the plant segment of the retail gardening market contracted (from €326m in 2007 to €201m  by 2012) as did the value of the commercial landscaping market which is a key outlet for plant sales.

 

Since then as the economy slowly recovered and the construction sector re-booted the ornamental sector has benefited which is visible through additional output and increased investment in growing structures, packing facilities and increased mechanisation  across the sector. COVID-19 will have serious economic consequences but at least in the short term with less travel and people spending more time at home (and in their gardens) will result in increased spending on gardening activity which will benefit the sector.        

 

Early stage of development

In an EU context Ireland’s ornamental sector is considered modest in scale and relatively young where we are now seeing a second generation of skilled entrants coming into the sector. While Ireland does not have the scale, access to cheaper inputs and local mass markets as other international players it has a number of opportunities to develop and grow further.

             

While COVID-19 may continue to cast a shadow over all business in the short term there will be some opportunities.  The sector is well positioned to take advantage in such areas as import substitution of certain lines that can be grown locally plus  plant innovation and development of new varieties (both for ornamental and food ingredients use with associated health benefits). The high plant health status of Ireland driven by our Island status and export opportunities to the UK/EU supported by relationships developed over many years in key market channels. Sustainability and enhancing the environment will continue to be a key focus and this sector can provide and facilitate many of the solutions as the EU ambition for land use in its Farm to Fork strategy has a strong ambition for more plant based land use.

 

Impact of COVID-19

With the sudden closure of many of the main market channels such as garden centres and DIYs in mid-March due to COVID-19 restrictions, and the closure of key channels in export markets, this sector of horticulture, with a highly seasonal and perishable product, was impacted more seriously than some of the other horticulture sectors.

 

The main gardening sales season is between March and May when the majority of plant sales are made. These are the three months which make or break the sales season for plant producers. While the timing of this crisis from a plant sales perspective could not have been worse, the good weather combined with people staying at home and more focused on their gardens did result in a demand for product selling online for delivery and through other open retail outlets. With the welcome reopening of garden centres and DIYs on May 18th it is hoped that there will be a later and extended gardening season this year which will benefit the whole sector.                  

 

Market value of ornamental horticulture

The ultimate destination for the crop is mainly the Irish market, with the main retail sales channels being garden centres, DIY stores, CoOp garden centres and supermarkets. The retail value of the total gardening market in Ireland in 2018 was €795m (of which €282m was spent on plant/flower sales). The other main channel for the products are County Councils/Local Authorities and commercial landscaping projects with an estimated value in 2019 of €250 Million. Export channels are to the UK, and to a lesser degree to Europe. In 2019 the total value of exports reached €18.5 million.

 

“Let’s Get Growing”

On May 17th Bord Bia launched a major gardening promotional campaign to encourage people to get growing in their gardens with local plants and experience the benefits of gardening from a health and well bring perspective. The campaign which will run for four weeks into the middle of June and includes TV, radio and online activity. In addition, a GroMór gardening campaign (supported by garden centres, industry, and Bord Bia) was launched in April and will run across the summer. The campaign aims to show that with the right advice, gardening can be enjoyable and very rewarding. 

 

Dates for your diary:

SuperGarden, RTÉ 1, Thursday 8pm

Bloom at Home, Facebook Live, 11am, Sunday 31st May