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Brian Burke is a judge on RTÉ One’s Supergarden and has won numerous awards at Dublin’s garden festival Bloom. He talks to Rude Health magazine about how getting into the garden can help to develop healthy habits in people of all ages

The last couple of years have been strange – when people were not able to go away during the summer months they relied on the outdoors, whether local parks or gardens, more than ever. And yet Dublin’s garden festival Bloom wasn’t able to go ahead due to restrictions.

“It was very strange not to have Bloom for the last two years, and now it’s really exciting to have it back over the June bank holiday in the Phoenix Park,” says Brian Burke. “I will be building a show garden for Woodies.”

Now in its 16th year, Bloom is one of Ireland’s largest showcases celebrating the best of Irish horticulture, food and drink. It spans over 70 acres in the Phoenix Park and in 2019 showcased 22 show gardens, 14 postcard gardens, some 50 floral and botanical art displays, 160 retailers, over 100 food and drink producers and more than 100 live talks, demonstrations and family friendly activities.

Brian is also a judge on RTÉ One’s Supergarden which airs from 21 April for five weeks, then on 2 June for the opening of Bloom. “We have five amateur gardeners who are allocated a family each and an area in which to build a garden. Their job is to design and build a garden to suit the requirements of their family. I am on the judging panel, vet the designs early in the process and then judge the final gardens. The winner gets to rebuild their garden at Bloom.

“I am also involved in Woodies Budding Gardeners, a competition that aims to get school children involved in gardening. Through school children are set three tasks – to grow tubers, lettuce and a micro meadow of wildflowers. They can enter photographs and we look for evidence that they were creative and had fun.

“Children have a lot of structure in their lives where they are expected to perform, even in after-school activities. Gardening is a chance for them to be outside, to get away from distractions, it’s a simple shared experience.

Gardening is a healthy hobby, whether it’s digging or getting muddy. Children also learn about the importance of wildlife, soil and how things grow. It develops the nurturing side of children without being competitive.

“I grow vegetables with my own family. I have five children and the youngest and I would spend weekends and evenings growing raised planters with herbs, beetroot, lettuce, radish, spring onions and carrots. My advice to parents who want to get their children interested in gardening is to start small and build it up.”

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