Garden sector rakes in €1.5bn after Covid drives us all outdoors

Ireland’s gardening sector has thrived in recent years thanks to working from home and outdoor socializing during the pandemic.

A new study by Bord Bia shows the horticultural market was worth €1.5 billion last year, a 26 percent increase from 2020 and an 88 percent jump from pre-pandemic levels.

Spending on outdoor furniture increased from €50m in 2018 to €163m in 2021, on barbecues from €26m in 2018 to €56m and on garden accessories from €20m to €50m

Carol Marks, horticulture sector manager at Bord Bia, said gardens are now viewed as an “extended space” of people’s homes and spending habits are following suit.

“Not only do people beautify their outdoor spaces with plants and flowers, our study shows that they also make space for outdoor dining and entertainment,” she said.

Spending on design and renovation projects has increased by 21 percent, while overall demand for outdoor furniture and accessories has increased by 204 percent since 2018.

Spending on outdoor furniture increased by 20 percent between 2020 and 2021, barbecues by 13 percent, garden accessories by 12 percent and tools by 9 percent. Spending on outdoor facilities like sheds has increased by 80 percent since 2018.

Ms Marks said the “Covid effect” has changed people’s attitudes towards nature.

“A lot of people who were working from home were noticing their gardens for the first time,” she said. “They didn’t commute, they could spend their lunch breaks outdoors and realized what they had on their doorstep. Before the pandemic, for much of the year workers left in the morning and came home in the dark – they didn’t really see their outside area in daylight, so it was a big revelation for many.

“The lack of commuting also meant people had more time to invest in their gardens and they realized the benefits it had for their mental and physical well-being. They could relax during their break during the day.”

Conducted by Bord Bia as part of the IPSOS Value of the Garden Market 2022 study, the study measures spend, product source and purchase motivation.

A younger generation is also showing enthusiasm for introducing indoor plants into their living spaces. Spending has increased in all age groups from 18 to over 55. However, purchases by under-35s have seen a notable increase, more than doubling since 2016 – from 4 percent to 9 percent. This increase reflects consumers’ desire to make their space “greener,” particularly in urban homes.

“When it comes to outdoor and flowering plants, bulbs and seeds for planting have increased significantly since 2018, showing that people are trying and testing growing from seed as well,” Ms Marks said. “They want as much knowledge and support as possible.”

The news comes as Bord Bia Bloom is set to return to his home in Dublin’s Phoenix Park from June 2-6 for his 16th year.

Building on the success of its Easy Steps to Dream Gardens initiative, launched last year to meet consumer demand for help planting their gardens, Bord Bia is launching two of the garden designs – the Nature Lover’s Garden and the Family Garden for Shared Spaces – to market the show garden area this year.

Jane McCorkell, a Champion Bloom garden designer who will recreate her award-winning garden at Bloom, said she sees a number of trends among Irish enthusiasts. These include an increase in purchases of electric lawn mowers, retractable roof gazebos, outdoor kitchens and outdoor tiling. Pendant lamps and colorful floral accents are also very popular with the Instagram generation.

Speaking of her personal tips, McCorkell says, “The color combinations of blue and orange can look really striking together. Any flowers or plants that are also bee and butterfly friendly are very popular, so try mixing sage with a little plant called Tequila Sunrise Geum or Alabama Flamer – they have amazing orange colors and fabulous colors alongside purple. People also love the classic blue and white agapanthus alongside white hydrangeas.

“I would even suggest a combination of yellow and maroon. Try a rose called Rosa Port Sunlight alongside a lovely yellow such as Cephalaria gigantea — it looks absolutely wonderful.

“Cirsium is another nice maroon to use and the bees love it.”

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