Interview: Diarmuid Gavin…

Posted on: 28 January 2011 by Rhian Mainwaring

The man that made gardening cool is back!

Diarmuid GavinDiarmuid took some time out  from his busy schedule to have a chat with us about the Ideal Home Show, being green and why he's building a three storey follie in his garden.

What is your involvement with the Ideal Home Show?

“I’m the Garden Ambassador for the Ideal Home Show and it’s the first year I’ve been given the honour. I’ve worked with the team before and they’re a great bunch so I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in. I’ll be doing some lecturing, which will be happening over St Patrick's Day, I think they planned that to keep me out of trouble…”

You're picking the young designer of the year, are you excited?

“It’s a real honour, we’re working with the Prince’s Trust this year, so the royal connection is back and it’s a new and exciting initiative. It’s quite a difficult time now for new garden designers emerging in to the market - people aren't as free spending as they might have been in the past and so it is a tougher time to get a new business off the ground. Therefore, anything that can give young and ambitious designers some help along the way, I am all for.”

What will gardening trends be in 2011?

“These last few years have all been about sustainability and looking after the landscape, and I’m glad to say that trend is here to stay. We all have an obligation to the environment, which we neglected in the 1990's and now those resources are becoming limited. Ways of farming these days are poisonous; we’re pouring nitrates and pesticides onto the landscape which means that often our gardens are the last refuge for wildlife. But we’ve learnt. Both gardening and cookery trends have complimented the grow-your-own society and the concept of organic foods. Nature's boss again, so composting is becoming popular as are crafts.

It’s not about building a concrete structure anymore, but using reclaimed materials, cocooning your house and investing in the land, but most importantly enjoying it with others, your garden is the most amazing teaching aid for your kids.”

What should we be doing in our gardens in miserable January?

“it’s a time for dreaming. It’s a time for being indoors with all your seed catalogues deciding what will happen in March in your garden. It’s also a good time for pruning large trees with diseased limbs or shaving shrubs as long as there’s no frost. But really it’s a time for reflection on what you want your garden to resemble this coming year”

Does size matter?

"No, absolutely not, you only need a tiny plot for a great garden in fact a window sill will do. Some free draining compost in some terracotta pots is all you need for a great garden. Herbs are great and mediterranean plants are really hardy so they’re perfect for windows. The great thing about living where we do is you can create a little wildlife haven on your window sill. Just keep it simple and remember to think about the site, the soil and the aspect and you can’t go wrong, from spring on everything wants to grow, everything wants to hop out of the ground.”

What inspires you?

"I take about 1000 photographs a week I’m terrible for that, whether it’s of architecture or a wire hanging from a ceiling in the second fix of a house, in fact anything that has great lines or shapes. Films also inspire me, I’d like to do a garden at the Chelsea flower show inspired by Avatar, those floating islands are buzzing around in my head. But I’m lucky because I get to travel a lot, meeting new people and seeing new things is such a luxury it’s the best part of my job.

I used Honey I Shrunk the Kids as inspiration for a hospital garden in Dublin we recently designed. It was a tiny plot probably about 2 metres by 6, which more than 125,000 children use every year and it was the only outdoor space they had. It was a real challenge but it ended up feeling really magical and kept the kids safe, which was really really great, that’s the best garden I’ve been involved in."

What are your favourite gardens to visit in the UK?

"There are afew, The garden of cosmic speculation in Scotland, designed by Charles Jenks is an amazing contemporary space, Christopher Lloyd's at Dexter House is more traditional and for something completely different Derek Jarman's Prospect Cottage in Dungeness next to a nuclear power station.

What's your own garden like?

At the moment it’s a complete mess, full of 100 year old cast iron colums, piles of limestone and machinery. We’ve been in a state of redevelopment for the past three months so it’s very much a place to steer clear of. I’m building a three storey follie, which was meant to be a drinking den but those plans have been changed now. It’ll be a mini house, with kitchen and bathroom, dining room, a study for me, which looks out over a field of horses and a conical attic room for the kids. I think it’s the kind of place we’ll all gravitate towards. It’s basically a very elaborate doghouse.”

Do you get involved in the contruction on big projects?

“I can’t put a nail in straight, but I can dig a hole and that’s about it”

Why did you become a gardener?

“I was a total dreamer growing up and was quite a solitary kid, I was always in my own little world and sent out to look after the garden, so it started from there. I loved the idea of blowing up the suburban garden and turning conventional gardening on its head, I wanted to outrage my parents and neighbours and I’ve been trying to do that ever since.”

A lot of people garden to relax, what do you do to de-stress?

“After doing 71 Degrees North with the likes of Gavin Henson, I got home looked in the mirror and then signed up to the gym. So I’m a fully fledged gym bunny now. I also head up Sugar Loaf mountain with the dogs, I love walking and it's great to feel healthier.”

Ideal Home ShowWhat's not to love? Dairmuid was fun, friendly and oh so charming - might be something to do with that purring Irish accent of his. If you want to hear it for yourself head down to the Ideal Home Show between the 11th and 27th March to meet Diarmuid and the team, or enter our competition for tickets!

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