Gavin strikes gold at Chelsea with controversial sky garden

GARDENING purists said it wasn’t gardening, and as with gnomes at Chelsea, it shouldn’t be allowed. Others warned it would be grounded by blustery winds.

But Diarmuid Gavin’s Irish Sky Garden proved them all wrong, scooping a gold award at the Chelsea Flower Show yesterday and remaining in situ.

The first “flying garden”, sponsored by Cork City Council and Fáilte Ireland, drew large crowds on press days and on members’ day.

So the 16-metre long pink pod (it looked more like an eye than a pod) may have had a touch of Avatar about it, but the ground planting beneath was a masterly stroke of design, structure and movement.

The largest of the outdoor gardens, it consisted of topiarised arrangements, yew balls, and cushion pines, tastefully inter-planted with ornamental grasses, bamboo and hosta, of the Lily family.

Between all these, were 30 circular metal pools reflecting on the ground what was happening in the sky.

Media and visitors unable to gain access to the pod could chart its progress by looking into those pools, which had been dyed black.

And overlooking all these were species of Carpinus betulam, many with striped standard stems, which were clipped into cone shapes.

The whole scene smacked of Ireland and Irishness as the box was frothing in fresh foliage, the yew brilliant in it’s new spiky dress whilst the grasses created a movement like bog mist.

The garden was breathtaking.

Gavin described going up in the pod, named the Wonkavatar, and inspired by the sci-fi epic Avatar, as a magical experience.

He added: “Chelsea’s all about showing off. You should have a bit of fun, and my pink Wonkavatar garden is a bit of fun.”

The pod will be dismantled after the show and shipped to Cork in its entirety. Where Cork City Council intend to site it is as yet unknown.

The overall best show garden award at this year’s show went to The Daily Telegraph’s sunken garden with its traditional and modern materials such as Cotswold stone, sculpted columns and water pipes amid the planting.

Leeds City Council’s Hesco garden, which brought the tallest trees ever into the show to frame a working water mill that highlighted the importance of water to the city’s industrial heritage also won a gold award.

Laurent-Perrier’s entry with planting inspired by rose champagne, the B&Q garden dominated by a glass tower block structure to highlight growing your own in urban spaces, and gardens from Monaco, Melbourne and Malaysia also got top awards.

Yesterday, the Irish Sky Garden’s designer Diarmuid Gavin defended the inclusion of the 16m-long hanging garden pod, which is raised and lowered 25m on an enormous crane, as being in the spirit of the Chelsea Flower Show.


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