Belfast Rose Week: Flower lovers enjoy sights and scents of annual festival
The aptly-named Showmee Sunshine rose was in full bloom as one of the biggest events in the Northern Ireland horticultural calendar got underway in glorious weather yesterday.
The international rose garden at Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park is famous for its annual Rose Week and international rose trials.
The annual flower spectacular showcases one million flowers, attracting thousands of visitors to the near 130-acre south Belfast park, which has been named as one of the best rose gardens in the world.
Elizabeth Smyth (46), a study supervisor from Dundonald, was visiting the attraction with her mother Christina McGookin (69) and her daughter Bethany Smyth (16).
Elizabeth said: "We come every year when we can, when the weather is good, and when we looked up the weather and saw today, we couldn't resist. We parked in the far field so that we could walk through all of the displays and then ended up here, to have our picnic.
"I don't really have a favourite, it's so hard to choose, just because there is so much to look at and different colours to take in. We really enjoy it, there is so much to see, and when the weather is like this, it's a great day out".
One couple who were enjoying the romantic setting of the rose gardens, were 24-year-old Andreia Cardoso, a nurse from Portugal, and 28-year-old Jason Slevin from Belfast. Andreia said: "We actually didn't know that it was Rose Week! We saw that the weather was nice and thought that it would be nice to have a picnic.
"We were pleasantly surprised when we realised, there are lots of different colours and species of flower, I would definitely come back, especially if the weather is like that."
Relaxing with friends in the park and soaking up the sun were 19-year-old student Stephanie Jamieson and her friends.
Stephanie said: "We were thinking last week that we wanted to come to Lady Dixon because a few of them have never seen it, also Darcy is over from Australia, and once we heard that this was on, we thought why not! It's something different to do, especially in Belfast, where there is nothing really to do for our age group, except to go out for a pint or play pool or something. It is nice to just have a walk around and take it all in."
However, there is more to Rose Week than the stunning blooms, with daily events including face painting, bouncy castles, Punch and Judy shows, flower arrangement workshops and much more.
Enjoying the extra activities, 40-year-old Andrea Dunlop, a mum-of-two from Newry, said: "We come every year to Rose Week, and thought that we would make the most of the good weather today. I am here with my two daughters, Ella (8) and Cara (7). I prefer the yellow roses myself, but the girls prefer pink ones, how typical! It is a lovely day out, we have been coming to this since they were babies. A great family day out."
The international display has been attracting visitors from around the globe, from the United States to Asia. Ciara Kelly (41) from Belfast, was at the displays with her friend Mariola, who is from the US, and their children.
"I had heard about it and always wanted to see it, I wouldn't say that gardening is an interest of mine, but the gardens and the roses are absolutely beautiful. We are heading around to do a few of the activities, there seems to be loads going on," Ciara said.
Mariola added "I'm the same, I wouldn't be a big gardener, but this is great and the children are really enjoying themselves."
Visiting from Hong Kong was 30-year-old Vicki Neill, with her five-month-old son Alfie, and her grandmother Norma Neill (84) who lives in Belfast.
Vicki said: "We came today to have a day out with grandma, we were coming to walk around the park. We actually had no idea that it was Rose Week until we showed up.
"It has been a lovely surprise, the roses are gorgeous and nice to look at, all females like roses don't they?
"There are no gardens in Hong Kong, so it is a nice change to see all the greenery."
Rose Week continues until Sunday.