Chelsea Flower Show: Love story of Irish winner made into film

Mary Reynolds
Image caption Irish gardener Mary Reynolds won a gold medal in the world's most famous garden show in 2002 and her story has been made into a film

The wild passions of an Irish gardener who became the youngest woman to win a gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show are the focus for a new film.

Mary Reynolds' first love might well be nature but there is also a fair bit of romance in Dare to be Wild.

Mary's story of becoming the toast of Chelsea is the classic tale of a feisty underdog.

In 2002, she blagged a place in the world's most famous garden show, only to walk away with a medal.

Image caption The garden Mary Reynolds designed in 2002 won a gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show
Image caption She became the youngest woman to win a gold medal at Chelsea

"I kind of lied my way into the Chelsea Flower Show, pretending I had money when I didn't," she told the BBC.

"Then instead of chasing the money I chased a very handsome man to Ethiopia and back.

"It is a crazy story."

'Best sex'

Film director Vivienne deCourcy first heard the tale when she employed Mary to design a garden for her.

It inspired her to write the screenplay and she went on to direct the film which is released in cinemas throughout the UK this weekend.

Image caption Film director Vivienne deCourcy wrote the screenplay after hearing the story from her garden designer, Mary

"Nature is the star almost more than gardening," Vivienne told the BBC.

"And the idea behind the film is that people will invite wild nature - as distinct from manufactured nature - back into their own gardens.

"People cry at the movie and grown men come out saying: 'I remember places like this when I was a child.'"

Image caption The film encourages gardeners to make a home for wildlife

She referred to Mary's pursuit of the man who helped her build the award-winning garden.

"She said it was the best sex of her life," said Ms deCourcy.

Mary briefly denied ever making such a statement, but then got side-tracked talking about Tom Hughes who plays the love interest in the film.

"Whenever he was on set, I did make him hug me much more than he wanted to," she laughed.

Environmental message

Emma Greenwell plays Mary in the movie opposite Tom Hughes as Christy Collard, the re-forestation expert who was the key figure in building the prize-winning wild garden sanctuary.

The real-life Mary said watching the romantic drama play out on screen was "very strange".

She is in her own words now somewhat 'disconnected' from the story written about her experiences of almost 15 years ago.

Image caption Mary Reynolds was filmed with celebrity gardener Charlie Dimmock (left) after her 2002 win at Chelsea

However there is a clear bond between the woman who inspired the story and the woman who wrote it.

Vivienne and Mary laughed and joked together when I met them in a garden in Dublin that had been created by the Irish designer.

Image caption The two friends were interviewed in a Dublin garden designed by Mary

But beyond their friendship there is a joint desire to see the environmental message of the film hit home.

Pink tutus

Vivienne kept on pushing for people to grow clover lawns to help bees.

And Mary, who has written a design book called The Garden Awakening, continually spoke out against modern landscaping - comparing it to dressing children in pink tutus but then punishing them for moving.

"People travel the world to visit places that are beautiful," she said.

"And then their gardens are colourful or bright or controlled but they are not beautiful.

"Gardeners have to remember that it is not about what they want, but about what the land wants."

Dare to be Wild is showing in cinemas across the UK and Ireland.