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Gardener Diarmuid Gavin says two 'wonderful' Ukrainian refugees have moved into his home

Top gardener reveals biggest design for Chelsea Flower Show

Diamuid Gavin and his family have taken in a mum and daughter from Ukraine

Eugene Masterson

CELEBRITY gardener Diarmuid Gavin is urging people to follow his example by housing refugees from the Ukraine.

Big-hearted Diarmuid reveals today how he is putting up a mother and daughter from the war-torn country.

His revelation comes in the wake of a recent announcement the Irish Red Cross that over half of offers from Irish people to its agency to take in Ukrainian refuges have been cancelled.

Diarmuid and his wife Justine and their daughter Effie (17) live in a detached house in an estate in Kilmacanogue, Co. Wicklow.

"We would probably be among those cancellations," admits Diarmuid.

"We were registered with them and they were to send somebody out, but in the meantime a friend of mine was running a refugee centre down in Buttevant in Cork and she said she has people looking for places, so we went that way instead. So, we would probably count among those statistics in a way because we were already sorted."

The 58-year-old says a mother and daughter from Ukraine are living with him and his family.

"There are only three of us. The house is big enough and we have the room and they are wonderful people, so it's all a very lovely situation," he says.

"There is just the three of them in the family. It's Marina the mum and Anna the daughter. The father never left. He is in Kyiv and is in the bakery business and he is keeping that going.

"Anna already has a job in Trinity College. Trinity saw her resumé and Trinity immediately hired her. We go on trips with them around Co. Wicklow and they love how natural and beautiful it is here."

Diarmuid is highlighting his charitable gesture in a bid to get others to open their hearts and homes to help stricken refugees.

"I would encourage others to do it. It has only enhanced our lives," he stresses. "The whole thing (war) is a horror, what they are going through and for what? It makes you realise what a great little country we live in and how lucky we are."

He is currently fronting a promotion in association with Innocent drinks to plant 10,000 trees at two locations next month in Ireland as part of a rewilding drive.

"It's great to get behind something like this, the big rewild," he beams. "They have commissioned two lads, who are actually firemen but also rewilders, to plant 10,000 trees in Ireland this year in a few locations and then they are going to have the big hike on the second of July.

Diarmuid Gavin at his home in Kilmacanogue Co, Wicklow. Picture by Steve Humphreys

"People will be invited to go on a hike with Innocent and will go through some woodland areas and there will be experts on hand to show people why rewilding is important, why trees are important, why native trees are important and how our whole ecosystem works, so I'm delighted to work with them on this."

He is sad that Ireland has the lowest coverage of trees for in Europe (11% of land cover compared to an average of 40% in 33 other countries).

"It's unreal. In effect all our trees were taken from us. It's just to encourage people to realise we should be planting more, just to encourage the Government to believe that we should be planting more and we should be planting more native and more broadleaves, a wider spectrum of trees than the quick profit conifers that have been grown," he says.

His wife Justine loves gardening, too.

"When I met her, she was a psychologist and she changed and went to the college I had been to in the botanic gardens and trained as a gardener, so she loves it," he confirms.

Diarmuid at the Innocent Rewild launch with the help of Olivia Leonard (8) from Blackrock, Co. Dublin

Their daughter is not following in their footsteps and it more interested in social justice and equality issues, but they all love living in Co Wicklow.

"It's near Bray, near enough to do the swimming every day during lockdown and near the hills, and still only 35 minutes from the city. So, it's a good place."

He has kept himself busy the past couple of years.

"Lockdown was great, you feel really bad saying that, but it was great as it kept me home," he smiles. "Right up to lockdown I had been traveling all round the world every week and the shock of just being here but being able to spend time with the family and with the garden and being able to change how we work. We did a television series at home, we have a book out - which was written during lockdown and which is out this week."

His collaborator on the book is young Carlow gardener Paul Smyth.

"I met him about four years ago, he was running a nursery, rare and special plants nursery in Wales. I was meant to open a plant and coffee shop in London, and Paul joined me because he was going to work in that and run that for me, and that never ended up opening, but he then moved back to Ireland to create gardens with me. So, we have worked together ever since," he adds.

Diarmuid also announces today that he is planning the biggest-ever garden to be unveiled at the Chelsea Flower Show.

"I didn't go in the Autumn or this year. We have a very large garden on the drawing board, that we are planning to do at Chelsea," he confirms.

"That might be next year, it might be the year afterwards. It's one we have worked on for 11 years and we were ready to do it during lockdown, so when the show didn't go ahead. It will be the biggest project ever seen at Chelsea. It's huge. Its four times as big as any garden that has ever been there, so it will need four times the amount of people. So, I imagine about 300.

"It's very ambitious, very scary, very dramatic. The architects have been really good about it and they really want us to do it, so hopefully it will all come together."

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