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.
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.
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.
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
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved