38 surreylive.news NEWS & MAIL WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 2020 With Diarmuid Gavin All it takes is one seed I T’S 13 years since we made the big move from London to Wicklow in Ireland. Our daughter Eppie was just two and the house we chose was a new-build nestled in an idyllic location at the foot of the Sugarloaf peak but only 35 minutes to the airport. Our garden consisted of a third of an acre of builder-laid sloped lawn looking to a field beyond. I’d find out soon enough that the ground was a challenge to dig. But for the first few years I did very little... designing my own garden proved to be an unexpected challenge. I knew what I wanted – to tame the slope by the introduction of terraces, and grow lush green architectural plants, especially the ancient Dicksonia Antarctica. I wanted some fruit trees, an area for vegetables and a couple of terraces. But I also wanted to live up to the principles of design I’d always believed in. The house was a big bland box, with small windows to the rear where there was a great view of trees, fields and the mountains. I needed a way to burst through the pebbledash and open the house up to the garden. I wanted to wander from rooms upstairs to a wide balcony or veranda under the cover of an overhanging roof, and use the upstairs space as an outdoor room. However, for a few years I had to be practical and realise that there were other priorities. We needed swings and a trampoline, and open space for exuberant puppies. The realities of the plot were also sinking in. The building of the house had led to severe compaction of the soil. A meagre amount of topsoil had been spread, and when I did begin to dig I unearthed a small quarry load of shale and boulders. The idea of creating my dream garden was fading. But spurred on by the discovery of nine 200-year-old cast iron columns in a city architectural salvage yard I began to dream again. Made in Bristol in 1895 and used to support part of a city centre hospital, they could now support the framework for a second level terrace and roof... meaning I could have a wide second-level veranda. This notion had been inspired by travel, especially trips to New Zealand, South Africa, Florida’s Key West and Venice Beach in California. Outdoor living has been key to architectural development in these countries and I believe it should also be in ours. A eureka moment came in Charleston, South Carolina. I was filming at a colonial ranch where movie The Notebook had been made, and in the city I hired a bicycle and came across the area’s iconic “single” houses – long, narrow homes with piazzas that stretch down the entire side. This distinctive house style was shaped by the city’s hot and humid GONE TO POT: Diarmuid’s patio, built for last month’s TV show Gardening Together, is clad with daisy patterned encaustic cement tiles Diarmuid tells us how his garden grew... even though he quite often hit the rocks summers and the homes are oriented specifically to take advantage of cooling breezes. Wicklow offered a more pleasant climate with less need for cooling air, but the protection of a protruding roof would make a useful umbrella from our regular rain which arrives as gentle droplets or torrential downpours. A covered veranda would also allow an unusual view over the garden and would let me indulge my love for tree ferns, as viewed from above. There were missteps. My first deadline was to have the veranda up and the garden tamed in time for Eppie’s holy communion party. I was garden gallivanting abroad and the contractor I hired to install lawns, terraces and ponds proved to be a disaster. While the garden looked good, underneath the newly laid turf the soil had been once again been heavily compacted with machinery, sand had been used rather than topsoil as a bed for the lawns, and the ponds leaked! I would then spend years undoing the damage. Just five years ago I began to get PAUSE: Diarmuid catches his breath OVERFLOW: Flowering wisteria and Diarmuid’s favourite tree ferns serious about the plot and started planting in earnest. Saturdays were spent in garden centres and nurseries. My penchant was always for trees first – we’ve squeezed in about 60 and then broad-leaved architectural species such as cannas, musa, cordyline and ornamental gingers. Suddenly it seemed we had the beginnings of a jungle! Renowned gardener Helen Dillon came for Sunday lunch and brought a beautiful Magnolia ‘Leonard Messel’ which has pride of place in the collection, and I found a gorgeous tetrapanax at Architectural Plants. Other leftover plants from projects were fitted in, such as the conical bay trees which had once revolved at the Chelsea Flower Show. They now form evergreen pillars in this Wicklow plot! There’s even a monkey puzzle and a sequoia so, in a few years, decisions will have to be made about what stays. That’s the fun of planting a garden. I also began to watch the light at different times of the day, to appreciate back-lit foliage. The real revelation was Geranium palmatum happily self-seeding under the tree ferns and producing a haze of pink froth from late April through to mid July. We pinched ourselves... we were developing a garden we loved. There were garden arguments. I wanted less lawn and more plants so the grass was gradually consumed. And I’d no sooner start on a project when I’d dream up another. These projects were becoming like painting the Forth Bridge, it was such an involved or time-consuming PRINTED AND DISTRIBUTED BY PRESSREADER PressReader.com +1 604 278 4604 . 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