TV personality Diarmuid Gavin talks to Simone O’Kane about his life-long passion for gardening

IDEAL gardens are equally as important as ideal homes, especially if you’re in competition with ambitious designers and celebrities who are passionate about their field of expertise.

That’s why Diarmuid Gavin says the competition is on between himself and six other celebrities when, for the first time in its 106-year history, the iconic Ideal Home Show comes to Manchester.

But his real passion is judging at the Ideal Home Show’s Young Gardener of the Year annual competition, in association with the Prince’s Foundation of which Diarmuid is an ambassador.

“I have been involved for a couple of years and it’s very rewarding,” says the Irish TV personality. “One of the main things that I love is working with young gardeners to give them lectures and it’s hugely important when there’s a connection between kids and gardening. When they come along to the show I tell them about the importance of growing in the garden, it’s important that they have the basic knowledge as well as the creatives.”

The competition celebrates young ‘green’ talent and sees six of the UK’s leading horticultural colleges go head-to-head to create a show-stopping sustainable garden to be visited by thousands of visitors.

Diarmuid says: “I am totally behind the Prince’s Foundation’s mission to give everyone the chance to garden — whether in a window box or a two-acre field. I’ll be helping them give communities ideas and inspiration on how to get more from the growing space they have. I have done a lot of gardens and it’s great to catch people’s imagination whenever you can.”

Diarmuid, who studied at the College of Amenity Horticulture in Glasnevin, Dublin, went on to establish his own school of garden design and is best-known for his quirky designs.

In 2011 his sky garden pod won gold at the Chelsea Flower Show but caused a lot of controversy between the taxpayer and Cork City Council over his €2.3m spending for the project.

It is now the stunning centrepiece in Fitzgerald Park in Cork.

He says: “A garden to me growing up was in a suburban area with a lawn and a cherry tree. As I grew up I was keen to get away from that. I wanted to create something that I saw on Star Wars or a video. I wanted to bring indoor living outdoors. The sky garden pod was well worth the time and investment.

“To me it’s all about show gardening, it’s something to make people smile or even get them angry. It was influenced from my time watching Willy Wonka at the end when they go up into thje sky in the Wonkavator.

Says Diarmuid: “That was certainly one of my fondest achievements. Growing up Valerie Singleton, John Noakes and Peter Purves were what I loved about Blue Peter the most. People like those have always fascinated me — including gardener Percy Thrower who created the Blue Peter garden. Looking back it’s strange, I was so unaware of how gardening on television would also become a huge part of my life.”

This year in Manchester, there are seven dedicated show areas, from interiors with Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen and DIY with TV architect George Clarke.

For the foodies there’s MasterChef’s Gregg Wallace, Melinda Messenger will host the Ideal Woman department and  Money-saving expert Martin Lewis will also be making a special appearance.

Diarmuid added: “It’s a fantastic show and there’s so much going on. Rec-ently, the father-of-one was asked to make the Blue Peter shield out of plants at the new BBC base at Salford’s Media City.

For his hard work and dedication he received a Blue Peter badge, leaving him elated.

  •  Ideal Home Show, June 6-8 at Event City, Manchester. Tickets www.idealhomeshow