It’s the world championship of gardening and Ireland has just won gold.

Ireland’s top garden designer, Paul Martin, constructed his Garden of Mindful Living on the Main Avenue at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea and yesterday morning received the coveted Chelsea Gold Medal.

As Martin is quick to point out, this is a team effort and many from the world of Irish horticulture are involved; a number of the prize-winning plants were grown in Schram Plants, Co Kildare, and the stone came from McMonagle Stone in Donegal.

To achieve this standard requires attention to detail at the highest level, and Martin’s design is a contemporary urban garden incorporating clean lines and smart details such as Corten walls, subtle grey-splashed limestone, and large sliding shutters that open to reveal the city beyond.

Large multi-stemmed trees provide dappled shade over a planting scheme of soft greens and yellow geums and primulas which work well next to subtle, nearly unseen rills of water which escape through blocks of limestone.

“Plenty of different greens have been used as this has a proven calming effect on children with ADHD,” said Martin.

Gill Puxley and Caroline Poppe looking through a sculpture by David Harber at the flower show.
Gill Puxley and Caroline Poppe looking through a sculpture by David Harber at the flower show.

Inspired by a love of Far Eastern travel and yoga, this Garden of Mindful Living illustrates the importance of having an escape, a refuge in which to take time out from the hustle and bustle. It is intended to be a contemplative space where one can relax and take time out to restore one’s life balance.

Garden art at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
Garden art at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Martin’s garden is one of only six which achieved the gold medal standard.

Well-known British designer Andy Sturgeon also achieved gold, as well as the Best in Show award, for The Telegraph Garden. This was designed to represent a “captured landscape” and illustrates how a garden can exist within a larger, wilder setting.

For once, Ireland had more than one entrant on the Main Avenue. Possibly the most sought after and high-profile space in the show was given to Diarmuid Gavin for his Harrod’s British Eccentrics Garden, which earned him a Silver Gilt standard.

The Harrods British Eccentrics Garden designed by Diarmuid Gavin, which earned him a Silver Gilt standard.
The Harrods British Eccentrics Garden designed by Diarmuid Gavin, which earned him a Silver Gilt standard.

At first glance, his garden is deceptively traditional and genteel, with an octagonal folly and sunken Italianate pond as its centrepieces. However, every 15 minutes, the garden is transformed into an outlandish, mechanical flight of fancy with whole flowerbeds rising from the ground.

Box balls bob up and down; bay trees twirl; foliage is trimmed by mechanical shears; and a set of patio furniture emerges through a trapdoor from its subterranean storage.

The folly will also undergo a complete change of appearance during the two-and-a-half-minute routine.

While a Silver Gilt standard in itself is some achievement, it’s doubtful if it will find a home anywhere near Fitzgerald Park in Cork City this time around, unlike his previous gold-winning Chelsea entrant The Sky Garden.

The logistics of creating a show garden such as this in a relatively short space of time need to be seen to be believed. Everything is open to scrutiny and the standards demanded are what makes this show the world’s best — even the plant leaves and flowers need to be cleaned prior to being shown.

Martin’s garden was sponsored by Vestra Wealth UK which uses Chelsea Flower Show to showcase its services; many of its clients will have been entertained in Martin’s garden on Monday night at the £850 (€1,115) per person pre-show soiree. As with anything at this level, it’s big business and a garden like this will come with a price tag of over €200,000.

No squabble over unsightly shed

Peter Dowdall, Gardening Correspondent

The garden shed in the Harrods British Eccentrics Garden designed by Diarmuid Gavin.
The garden shed in the Harrods British Eccentrics Garden designed by Diarmuid Gavin.

How many people have to suffer the annoyance of unpleasant or unsightly eyesores in a neighbour’s garden? A falling down fence, or an unsightly garden shed? And who would have thought that two garden designers at the Chelsea Flower Show would have the same issue.

Diarmuid Gavin’s Harrod’s British Eccentrics Garden adjoins Sam Ovens’ Cloudy Bay Garden. Two more different gardens it would be hard to picture. Sam’s is a simple but powerful garden with no boundaries which allows you to enjoy a sense of freedom within the garden.

At its centre is a reflective pool and deck.

The planting is comprised mostly of greens and makes use of texture and foliage effect - it’s prairie planting.

Diarmuid’s garden, on the other hand, is all about colour and fun. Plants suddenly start moving and whole beds travel on a carousel around an octogonal folly.

And like any good neighbours, there is an immaculate yew hedge between the two gardens.

However this hedge does not run the whole length of the garden and backing on to Sam’s Cloudy Bay Garden is a rusty ‘Inventor’s Shed’, technically in Diarmuid Gavin’s garden but visually appearing to be in Sam’s space.

Deciding at the last minute that the intended location of the shed was too close to the folly in his garden, Diarmuid moved it to its new home on the boundary. At pains to point out that there is no ill feeling, and that Diarmuid has proven to be a great neighbour, Sam Ovens nevertheless says that because the style of his garden means no boundaries, the offending shed can’t be screened.

One is a celebrity garden designer and the other is a 27-year-old Cornish man making his Chelsea debut this year - and stuck in the middle of them both is a hedge and an unsightly shed, all the ingredients for a classic suburban squabble.


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