Ireland’s master gardener Billy Alexander scoops second gold medal at Chelsea

Setting the gold standard! Ireland’s master gardener Billy Alexander scoops second gold medal at RHS Chelsea Flower show for magnificent fern collection.

#RHSChelsea  @kellsbaygardens

Spirits in London are high this morning as medals were awarded to the horticultural displays that wowed judges at the esteemed RHS Chelsea Flower Show which opens today. Ireland’s Master Gardener Billy Alexander of Kells Bay Gardens in Cahersiveen Co. Kerry was one of those who wowed the judges enough to receive a prestigious gold medal at the show. This is the third gold medal that Billy Alexander has been awarded by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) for his rare and exotic fern displays, scooping golds at the 2021 Hampton Court, and Chelsea Flower shows respectively.  Kells Bay Gardens is home to one of the largest private collections of exotic tree ferns which grow naturally in the tranquil microclimate at Kells Bay Gardens overlooking the Dingle Peninsula.

The inspiration for this year’s display came from the Irish landscape, and in particular the wild surrounds of Co. Kerry. The design simulates a Kerry bog, and along with a myriad of fern varieties, native sphagnum moss features amidst small peaty bog pools. Offsetting this, are large ancient rocks typical of the Iveragh peninsula landscape in Co. Kerry.

Chelsea Flower Show

The Chelsea Flower Show is co-ordinated by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), the UK’s leading gardening charity and takes place from Tuesday 23rd – Saturday 27th May 2023. The flagship horticultural event is often cited as the best opportunity to see cutting-edge design and planting schemes along with beautiful displays from leading horticulturists and designers based in the UK and internationally.

Speaking about the award, Billy Alexander said, “I am overjoyed to get the news today of receiving another gold medal, it is a great honour. Over the last year, I have spent time travelling to South East Asia and South America to source new specimens to add to my collection, and planning how I could bring my vision to life. I continue to be inspired by the local environment, and at Kells Bay we are so fortunate to live in such an idyllic place where these ferns can also thrive. While there are considerable hurdles involved in showcasing at respected shows like the Chelsea Flower Show, around finance, logistics and maintaining a high quality of plant health it is worth every obstacle in moments like this. We are thrilled with where our exhibit is placed within the show, in a central position, and we hope to wow our many visitors over the next few days.”

Ferns worth their weight in gold

Building on his previous success, Billy Alexander pitched his “most ambitious plan to date” to the organisers of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and they agreed to showcase his prized ferns in prime position, with Billy’s display located on the main thoroughfare at (Stand 31) in the Great Pavilion. An increase in the number of ferns and the complexity of the planting scheme meant that Billy had to be particularly skilful and agile in the transportation and planting of his rare and valuable tree ferns.

Kells Bay Gardens

Kells Bay Gardens are situated beside one of Ireland’s most spectacular settings, overlooking Dingle Bay. The gardens are known locally as the ‘Jewel on the Ring’ and stretch to just over seventeen hectares, which contain a collection of sub-tropical plants. The centrepiece of the gardens is the extensive tree fern collection, many of which date back to the mid-19th century after being brought over from Australia. The plants have adapted well due to the idyllic microclimate offered in the sunny south-west of Ireland.

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