Celtic garden wins Chelsea award for Irishwoman

 

Irish garden designer Mary Reynolds has been awarded a gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show in London for her display garden, "Tearmann Sí - A Celtic Sanctuary".

The 28-year-old, Wexford-born designer is the third Irish person to construct a show garden at Chelsea. Previous designers include nurseryman J.J. Costin from Kildare, and Dublin-born TV gardener Diarmuid Gavin - who is presenting highlights from the show for the BBC.

Only three gold medals were awarded this year among the 19 entries in the show garden category.

Mary Reynolds was still seeking sponsorship for her garden a few weeks before Chelsea opened. She eventually secured funding from 14 individuals and organisations, including An Bord Glas, Holiday Inn Dublin, and Future Forests in Bantry, Co Cork.

Her naturalistic creation, which is enclosed by a traditional drystone wall, draws its inspiration from the Wicklow landscape around her home, from the Hill of Tara in Meath, and from elements of Celtic mythology. An inner circle is surrounded by a bluebell-carpeted rath and features four monumental stone thrones and a fire bowl. Native Irish plants are used extensively, including mature hawthorns from west Cork.

The adjoining show garden is a recreation of the English countryside designed by Prince Charles in association with Ginny Blom. It was awarded a silver medal.

Ms Reynolds said: "I'm shattered and thrilled. We worked a few all-nighters getting everything ready." She added of her neighbouring designer: "Prince Charles came into the garden yesterday and sat down with me and had a great chat. He has a great interest in the environment."

The Chelsea show is the world's most distinguished gardening exhibition, with over 600 exhibitors and 170,000 visitors. Established designers and newcomers compete for a chance to construct gardens, while nursery owners vie with one another in their splendid displays. New plants are introduced and gardening trends are set at the event.

Ms Reynolds, who has a degree in Landscape Horticulture from UCD, is relatively unknown, and her Chelsea gold medal will ensure her maximum publicity and opportunities.

A second medal for Ireland was awarded to the Irish Garden Plant Society in the "lifelong learning" category.

Its exhibit on Augustine Henry, an Irish plant hunter who introduced many important garden plants from China, was awarded a silver-gilt medal.

In the floristry section, Lucy Yeates of Kilkenny won her third Chelsea medal in three years, a silver, for a futuristic floral arrangement.