Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland's garden experts are Chelsea showstoppers

Irish celebrity gardener Diarmuid Gavin has designed the Harrods British Eccentrics Garden
Image caption Irish celebrity gardener Diarmuid Gavin has designed the Harrods British Eccentrics Garden

When it comes to horticultural excellence, there is arguably no greater show on earth than the Chelsea Flower Show.

The 2016 show promises colour, creativity and craftsmanship.

But some of the gardens would not have been complete without the involvement of experts from Northern Ireland.

Irish celebrity gardener Diarmuid Gavin has designed the Harrods British Eccentrics Garden.

Image caption The Modern Slavery Garden features a rose bred in Newtownards by Dickson Nurseries

It pays homage to English cartoonist William Heath Robinson and features complicated mechanics which make Bay trees spin at set intervals - and other shrubs bob up and down.

These unconventional elements are set among borders teaming with colourful perennials.

"The Northern Ireland help was absolutely invaluable," said Diarmuid Gavin.

"We went to Wilson's Yard outside Belfast to source the stone that I wanted.

"One of the really big parts of this garden is the inventor's shed, and Charlie Mallon from Cookstown in County Tyrone is this incredible blacksmith and he has made so many things for so many gardens.

Image caption Celebrity gardener Diarmuid Gavin with BBC News NI's David Maxwell

"The guy is an absolute genius and he made what I think is the star attraction of our garden."

Another of the show gardens is called the Modern Slavery Garden.

It is designed to mark the passing of the Modern Slavery Act in 2015.

It features bright front doors and colourful planting which represent the ordinary streets where we all live. But behind the doors, in the centre of the garden, it is dark and featureless.

This hints at the hidden reality of people being kept in captivity and forced to work.

Among the planting for this garden is a new rose. It was bred in Newtownards by Dickson Nurseries and is called the 'Modern Slavery' rose. Garden designer Juliet Sargeant says it was the perfect rose for her first Chelsea show garden.

"Dickson Nurseries suggested naming this rose for the garden. It has beautiful apricot tones but what I actually love most about it is this really shiny mid-green foliage. It is a lovely, lovely plant."

Inside the Great Pavilion are more local connections.

Fabulous Brazilian carnival headdresses are made entirely out of flowers - two of them by young florists from Northern Ireland.

One is Natalie Straney who is studying at Greenmount College.

She brought the fresh flowers all the way from home.

Image caption Natalie Straney who is studying at Greenmount brought fresh flowers from Northern Ireland

"We had to leave it as late as possible to put it all together - we just put the display together yesterday," she said.

"It's just very overwhelming to be at Chelsea, but it's an amazing experience."

Over the next few days, tens of thousands will walk through the Chelsea showgrounds admiring the very best in garden design and craftsmanship.

On this world stage, it seems Northern Ireland is punching above its weight.