Northern Ireland’s rose growers have had to battle the elements this year, coping with torrential rain and plummeting temperatures.
But the experts say nature has a way of catching up, and if the weather stays stable we could be in line for a major flush of growth later this week as Belfast’s Rose Week reaches its climax.
More than a million blooms were already filling the air with perfume at Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park yesterday on the first day of the annual rose festival.
Thousands of visitors poured through the gates to enjoy the summery sounds, scents and sights of the extravaganza.
Trevor McMechan of the Northern Ireland Rose Society said it has been a “pretty horrendous” year to date for rose enthusiasts.
“We turned out to have a very, very late spring, then some brilliant weather, and then we went into another winter period.
“It’s been tough — for the first winter ever I lost two rose bushes because of adverse weather conditions,” he said.
“But nature has a way of compensating and now it’s catching up. Dixon Park is ablaze this week with more than a million blooms.
“Everything was late and now nature will try and accelerate to catch up.”
Belfast City Council’s community park manager Stephen Quinn said the mild winter was good for roses — but then the spring brought chillier temperatures than is normal for the time of year.
“We had some really, really good weather which brought everything up to date again.
“We had a lot of blooms early, but the very heavy rain has affected some of them,” he said.
“Luckily we’ve had some sunshine for the last four or five days and a good flush of growth is coming through now.
“By the end of the week, it should be even better.
“Roses can cope with most conditions — they just keep going. They go through cycles, it really just depends. If they all come out at the same time as the good weather, then they go over and you may get another flush.
“I think there is a good flush on the way this week if the weather holds out.”
Rose Week organiser Alice Blennerhassett says the event offers a full programme of activities for everyone — from younger to older visitors.
There is children’s entertainment, with bouncy castles and Punch and Judy.
There are also t’ai chi classes in the Rose Garden, outdoor fitness classes and competitions.
Children can take part in RSPB workshops — making model dragonflies and learning about gardening for wildlife. The programme also features crazy golf, street entertainers and music in the afternoons.
Every evening from 7.30-8.30pm will feature a band performance, and on Saturday and Sunday afternoon the park will host the summer rose and flower show along with craft stalls.
A Titanic-themed display garden has been erected in one of the marquees.
Visitors to Rose Week are encouraged to use environmentally friendly modes of transport to access Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park, including walking, cycling or public transport.
Translink will have shuttle buses running from the city centre during the event.