TV gardener wins top prize at Chelsea


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The Independent Online

Joe Swift, the BBC Gardeners' World presenter who was forced to stand down from this year’s coverage of the Chelsea Flower Show after new BBC rules banned anyone involved in designing a show garden, has won a prestigious gold medal for his efforts.

The son of a famously literary Hampstead family, the young Joe might have been forgiven for feeling at something of a disadvantage.

His mother is the writer Margaret Drabble, his father is the actor Clive Swift, who read English Literature at Cambridge and went on to become famous as Richard Bucket in the sitcom Keeping Up Appearances. His brother is an academic.

Joe, on the other hand, was never bookish. A bad bout of glandular fever while in the sixth form scuppered his A level results, and although he went on to do a foundation course in art and design, he dropped out to join a band.

He was 25 by the time he decided to study garden design, with Rosemary Alexander at the English Gardening School. He once described the course, then held at the Chelsea Physic Garden, as "heaven on earth".

One of his first projects was to redesign his mother's garden, a 40ft plot in Hampstead which backs on to the garden of the house where the poet Keats once lived.

Sponsored by the DIY chain Homebase, on behalf of the Teenage Cancer Trust, Swift's first Chelsea garden features a palette of copper, green and white, using rust-coloured irises, libertia and euphorbias. Huge cedarwood screens frame the views of the planting.

Nine golds were awarded to the major show gardens at Chelsea this year.

Best in Show was won by the former Independent columnist Cleve West for the second year running.

Diarmuid Gavin's pyramid, one of the most controversial gardens at this year's Chelsea, won a silver-gilt medal, and an award for the most imaginative garden.