High winds mean sky's the limit for TV star's Chelsea garden

Matthew Appleby
Sunday 23 October 2011 09:01

There will be quiet smiles of satisfaction among more traditional members of the gardening fraternity at the Chelsea Flower Show after two of the more spectacular gardens fell foul to the stormy weather yesterday.

Fierce gusts meant that the star designer Diarmuid Gavin's centrepiece flying pod could not be lifted by crane as planned, ruining the spectacle of his much-hyped £250,000 Irish Sky Garden. B&Q's neighbouring 9m-high vegetable garden was also listing.

The disaster for Gavin prompted Nigel Dunnett, a fellow flower show designer, to attack the folly of building "attention seeking" gardens up to 25 metres high at the Royal Horticultural Society show. Dunnett, who has built the more conventional ground-level RBC New Wild Garden nearby, said: "These gardens are out of scale. I like to do things on a more human scale and work with the space you're in. That's the problem when these gardens dominate other gardens. It's attention seeking. And maybe that has it's own problems as we're seeing with the wind."

Gavin's garden builder Dermot Kerins said: "If the wind stays like this it won't fly I'm afraid." Gavin's crane is believed to not be allowed to operate if winds gust more than 20mph. They reached 30mph in London yesterday and the Met Office says strong southwesterlies will blow until Thursday. The show runs at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea until 28 May.

Much of Britain was battered by gales that damaged properties and injured people at the weekend. Three children were taken to hospital after an inflatable slide came loose in the wind and toppled over at the West Kent Garden and Leisure Show, in Tonbridge, Kent, yesterday. Four other children were treated at the scene by paramedics. Three yachts competing in a race from Whitby to Scarborough off the Yorkshire coast had to be rescued by coastguards after getting into difficulty in heavy seas. Forecasters said the weather was likely to deteriorate further today. The Meteorological Office in London said last night: "Gusts of up to 60mph are expected widely and very exposed areas may see gusts as high as 80mph."

Meanwhile, B&Q's 9m tower garden, the tallest structure ever built at the show, was also being buffeted by the wind. The garden, which has already had to be reconfigured so it can't be seen behind the BBC viewing platform, where presenter Alan Titchmarsh fronts the corporation's coverage. Titchmarsh works for the DIY/garden centre chain as an advisor and promoter, said on potential conflict of interest issues when presenting the BBC's RHS Chelsea Flower Show coverage despite the presence of a B&Q garden: "I don't have that problem because I'm not going to cover the B&Q garden."

The RHS admitted that after talks with the BBC, B&Q were forced to change its plans for the garden in February. B&Q designer Patrick Collins said: "You have to accept at shows like this changes come along." Show director Stephen Bennett said the garden had to move on BBC advice, but added: "It was only a few feet."

The RHS releases results of judging tomorrow morning.

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