Cork gardener on Chelsea Flower Show gold-medal winning team

Cork gardener on Chelsea Flower Show gold-medal winning team

Valerie Keating Bond, from Cork, (front), with landscape designers Adam Hunt and Lulu Urquhart, in their Rewilding Britain garden which won the top award at the Chelsea Flower Show. Picture: Tammy Marlar

A top Irish gardener has spoken of her delight at being part of the team whose rewilding garden design, inspired by nature’s eco-engineers, the beaver, has won gold at the prestigious RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Valerie Keating Bond, from Cork, worked with the team headed by landscape designers Adam Hunt and Lulu Urquhart, to build their Rewilding Britain garden, which was also named best in show. It is the second year in a row that first-time designers have taken the show's top prize.

“It felt like I was in a Salvadore Dali painting when it was announced – it just felt so surreal. But my heart was so full of pride for the whole team,” Valerie said.

“We were all insanely passionate and we were worried for a while that we were focused too much on the detail but in the end it all came together and we didn’t lose any points on the garden, which is phenomenal.” 

The garden design aims to show people how nature can re-establish itself with the help of a keystone species like the beaver.

The garden features a pool with a very real-looking beaver lodge and dam and streams running down through a wetland meadow setting. 

It is planted with swaying willows and scented wildflowers, grasses and marginal plants thronging the edges of the pool and stream.

It was among 39 gardens judged at this year's Chelsea Flower Show. Following a rigorous judging process, RHS judges named it Best in Show.

The winning garden was planted with willows, wildflowers, grasses, and marginal plants. Picture: Tammy Marlar
The winning garden was planted with willows, wildflowers, grasses, and marginal plants. Picture: Tammy Marlar

RHS chair of judges, James Alexander-Sinclair said: “In the end, all the judges were captivated by the skill, endeavour and charm of A Rewilding Britain Landscape – every step is exquisite.”

Valerie said the judges' decision to pick this design as the winner sends a strong message to the world that change is needed and is possible.

“The world just can’t keep functioning the way it is,” she said. “We need to change radically, and to create change we need to change the mindset and this garden shows that rewilding can be trendy, that you can do something different, draw people in with nature, and that with native and naturalistic planting, you can create something beautiful.” 

Meanwhile, Cork County Council has unveiled a pilot programme to support 'the greening of festivals' across the county.

Festival organisers involved in the Youghal Medieval Festival, Clonakilty International Guitar Festival and Timoleague Harvest Festival have signed up for the pilot which, it's hoped, will help organisers reduce waste at the events, and meet sustainability goals.

Cork County Council  launched a pilot programme to support the greening of festivals. The innovative programme will enable waste prevention at festivals throughout Cork  and support festival organisers in meeting sustainable goals. At the first workshop of the Green Festivals Programme are the Mayor of the County of Cork, Cllr Gillian Coughlan along with Rose Carroll  (front right), and Louis Duffy both of Cork County Council. Also included are Ray Blackwell and Kevin McNally of Clonakilty International Guitar Festival and Sean Deasy of Timoleague Harvest Festival. Picture: Brian Lougheed
Cork County Council  launched a pilot programme to support the greening of festivals. The innovative programme will enable waste prevention at festivals throughout Cork  and support festival organisers in meeting sustainable goals. At the first workshop of the Green Festivals Programme are the Mayor of the County of Cork, Cllr Gillian Coughlan along with Rose Carroll  (front right), and Louis Duffy both of Cork County Council. Also included are Ray Blackwell and Kevin McNally of Clonakilty International Guitar Festival and Sean Deasy of Timoleague Harvest Festival. Picture: Brian Lougheed

The programme, which will include training workshops, virtual support sessions and in-person support at each of the festivals, should help them reduce single use plastic, and support the introduction of electronic ticketing and online promotional materials to reduce paper consumption.

The council supports over 60 festivals annually.

County Mayor Gillian Coughlan said this programme will yield positive results for the environment. 

"There is also opportunity for the festivals involved in this pilot programme to share their experiences, grow their support network and develop best practises for more sustainable events long into the future,” she said.

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