Inside the Wonkavator with Diarmuid Gavin

One of the massive highlights of Chelsea for me this year was a personal tour round Diarmuid Gavin's show garden - The Irish Sky Garden - in the company of yer man and Victoria. This happened on the Sunday prior to the show whilst he was making his final preparations and adjustments.

Victoria and I were commenting on how large this garden is (it's the largest show garden ever seen at Chelsea) and just how that was needed to make the bright pink garden structure (nicknamed the Wonkavator) seem in proportion to the rest of the garden, when the man himself stopped by to join us.

We were swiftly invited to take a look around, which entailed climbing over quite a few hosepipes and other pieces of equipment as the many pools making up the water feature were still being installed. The curving paths through the yew and box made our walk a pretty calming one and as it was quite breezy at the time, the grasses whispered and sighed around us.

Diarmuid joined us after seeing to a couple of things and invited us onto the Wonkavator. It's lushly planted and stuffed to the gills with blowsy blooms in contrast to the greenery outside. There are also two Lutyens benches (the top of which Diarmuid told us were the inspiration for the Wonkavator's design) and we giggled over them having seat belts.

The benches are inscribed Jack and Terry - in memory of Diarmuid's father and mother-in-law who died recently - and Diarmuid told us he imagines them sitting there having a good old chinwag whilst the Wonkavator slowly rises skywards. Sadly we didn't get to fly, but each time the wind dropped a little, Diarmuid reached for his phone to see if he could get us airborne until seconds later the next gust told him it wasn't to be.

Diarmuid also revealed that he'd submitted a design for a 'sky garden' in his early Chelsea days, but the idea had been turned down by the RHS. With hindsight he thought they were correct to do so as he wasn't ready to make it a reality back then. This year the time is right.

We also commented on the size of the garden and Diarmuid told us he hadn't wanted a site so big. Last minute preparations meant he wasn't enjoying his Chelsea experience when we spoke, but he reassured us that in a couple of days he'd be in love with Chelsea again.

I'm sure he is, because two days later he'd achieved that elusive gold medal and the Wonkavator had lifted off at last :)


  1. You are so lucky to have had a tour of the garden. As a visitor it was difficult to really get a feel for the whole thing which was a shame. The planting was lovely and I am really pleased that it got a gold, it deserved it.

  2. Ooh, feel rather envious of your sky ride! View of the garden must have been special, I thought the planting and design was exceptional. Those dark and light pools in a bed of bobbly rich green.

  3. I'm envious - I love the planting in that garden, bet it looks even better up close. Delighted the Bad Boy of Chelsea got a gold.

  4. From what I could see of Diarmuid's planting (which wasn't a great deal compared with a Wonkavator view) it was really quite lovely. Sadly on the Tuesday he allowed the effect of what little the punters could see, to be spoiled by allowing privileged viewers of his garden to dump handbags and coats on his garden seating spoiling the view and photos! The paying punters deserve better!!!!

  5. Oh how you mix it with the famous! Only teasing, it must have been cool though. I wonder did he say, 'So you're VP, I've been wanting to meet you'. I hope so.

  6. The trouble was that for us plebs on the ground the garden below was virtually invisible. Luckily the BBC coverage helped to give some of us a sky high view but I cannot see how it got a gold medal. Like Thunderbirds with a giant crane instead of wires. The punters did indeed deserve better

  7. ozhene - I agree. It's a garden to walk through rather than observe from the outside.

    Jennifer - sadly no sky ride, but still rather special

    Janet - lots of texture :)

    Arabella - they do!

    Mark - tee hee. I wish ;)

    EG - it'll be interesting to see how the garden is installed back in Cork. It really is a garden to be walked through. It reminds me of a garden in Radstock which is almost impenetrable from the outside, but is delightful to be within.


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