Rose garden’s blooming great 50th anniversary

Birthday girl Joanna Bloomer enjoys the flowers at Rose Week in Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park in south Belfast
Birthday girl Joanna Bloomer enjoys the flowers at Rose Week in Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park in south Belfast

Belfast is blooming as it celebrates the 50th anniversary of its rose garden.

The internationally-renowned garden is located in Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park, which was handed to the people of Belfast in 1959 by Lady Dixon. On Thursday, it resembled something of an eden, scattered with vibrant floral patches.

The rose garden was initiated back in 1964 by Craig Wallace, now president of the Rose Society of Northern Ireland, along with rose hybridizer, Sam McGredy.

Eleven years later, Rose Week was established – and has become a real highlight of the local horticultural calendar, with thousands of people making their way to south Belfast every year to admire the blooms.

Mr Wallace told how the idea behind Rose Week “was to bring people into the park and get them involved”.

”It has grown over the years, and is one of the great family events,” he said.

Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon on Thursday unveiled a plaque commemorating the garden’s 50th anniversary.

“This is my first Rose Week as Lord Mayor, and it’s been wonderful,” she said.

The SDLP councillor revealed how she used to regularly visit the park as a child, and that it holds “a special place in her heart”.

On this year’s visitor numbers, Ms Mallon said: “We have had thousands and thousands already” – adding that “the sunshine has taken Rose Week to a whole new level”.

Arthur Dixon, honorary secretary of the Rose Society, said: “It’s one of the best weeks that I can remember.

“We are hopeful that by the end of the week 100,000 people will have come through the park.”

Community park manager, Steven Quinn, said that the park houses “a million blooms at one time”, and “this week’s hot weather has accelerated growth”.

International judges from as far away as New Zealand and the US cast their expert eyes over 27 competition roses each battling for honours. The winners – announced at a dinner at City Hall on Thursday night – came from Northern Ireland, Germany, England and the Republic.

Rose Week continues until Sunday, offering a host of family entertainment with music, dance, street entertainers and a special 40-metre ziplining opportunity across the garden on the last day. Most activities run between 1-5pm each day.