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Diarmuid Gavin's Chelsea garden

Posted: Friday 25 May 2012
by Kate Bradbury

A giant pyramid at the end of Main Avenue, Diarmuid’s creation is less show garden, more adventure playground.


Diamuid Gavin's show garden

My task at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show was to sniff my way around, identifying scented plants and features that would tie in nicely with our special scented issue.

There were some fragrant hyacinths at the Bloms stand and some nice roses from Peter Beales and Harkness. I got my usual ‘Chelsea cough’ walking around the Great Pavilion. And then I visited Diarmuid Gavin’s garden.

A giant pyramid at the end of Main Avenue, Diarmuid’s creation is less show garden, more adventure playground. It’s set on seven floors of rickety scaffolding (which, I learned at the top floor, sways in the wind). It has a washing machine, shower and bath; a viewing platform with binoculars so you can look out to London. Trees burst through the floor like they’ve been there for a hundred years, while climbing roses appear to dangle precariously from each terrace.

The garden has different themes – from formal and elegant on the ground and first floors, to plain silly by the time you get to the knitted scaffolding poles. There’s a greenhouse, a shed, raised vegetable beds and pots of herbs that visitors can touch and feel and smell.

To get up, there’s a choice of ladders or a lift, and the best way to get down is to take the (very fast) flume. Oh and the ‘entrance’ is blocked by a swing. Forget scent, Diarmuid’s garden appeals to all the senses: it’s a sensory sensation.

It was so refreshing to be in the garden, rather than at the back of a three-person-deep queue to get a glimpse of it. I felt that I was part of it, somehow. It wasn’t as polished or beautiful as the other show gardens (my favourite was Joe Swift’s), but Diarmuid’s was like nothing else. It was magical. It was fun.

There’s a serious side to the garden as well. It proves how – with a little imagination – we can bring a bit of the Good Life to our urban existances. Some of us might live in high rise blocks of flats, but it doesn't mean we can't grow plants, fruit and veg, even trees. We can compost. And, in the process, we can have fun.



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happymarion 25/05/2012 at 16:59

My sentiments exactly. So many people say to me as they marvel at the size of my garden "Do you do it all yourself" as if it were a chore. I assure them it does not seem like work because I enjoy every minute of it. Another way to make most use of a tiny plot is to grow smaller plants. It does not take many square metres to grow hundreds of species of alpines. The square foot way of growing vegetables is also a solution. Or invade the house like I have. Very seldom does the conservatory get any other use than growing plants, or the window-sill all round the bungalow. Perhaps if developers cannot provide a big garden in a new development they should consider having deep windowsills.

donutsmrs 25/05/2012 at 20:23

I loved Diarmuid Gavin's garden it was so different. I agree with happymarion about making the most of a small plot, my garden isn't very big yet I've got so much packed into it. I've grown Lilac trees and Silver Birch in pots and use smaller plants. My gardening overflows onto the kitchen window sills, so like Diarmuid's garden every space can be used. Well done Diarmuid it was just brilliant.

kaycurtis 25/05/2012 at 22:18

I loved Joe Swifts garden and really pleased that he got gold, now going on to the tower garden it gives you an idea what can be achieved with planting on blocks of flats to hide the hidiuose things from view.

Tim Burr 27/05/2012 at 11:35

I was amazed by how big Mr Gavin's "garden" was - the pics on the TV didn't do it justice. It was enormous. And it also highlighted what can be done with a bit of imagination, some compost and some plants, in pots and containers, 100 foot off the ground. I often think how little imagination some of us Brits have when it comes to high rise living, wheras on the continent, if you walk or drive past a high rise block of flats or apartments, practically every balcony has a pot of something growing in it, even if its just a geranium. If only some of all these new modern city developments that have become so predominant in all our city's and towns took inspiration from Mr Gavin's garden, the world would be a much greener and pleasant place. Perhaps the developers of city apartment blocks should be made to install window boxes and provide at least on plant, a a bag of compost to all new residents to get them going.