The climate crisis has changed the way I garden

Like many parents across the nation, Diarmuid Gavin is feeling the pressure to do his bit for the environment.

“I have a 17-year-old daughter, she passes judgement on how I live my life,” he says.

Part of his daughter Eppie’s influence has been more meat-free dinners at home and less travel by aeroplane — but it’s also changed the way the Chelsea Flower award-winner gardens. “I don’t use any chemicals, any bleach,” he says, adding that rewilding and embracing the weeds has become a part of his eco-friendly approach.

It makes sense then that he is an ambassador for Innocent’s ‘The Big Rewild’ campaign, which sees the juice brand commit to planting 10,000 native trees in Ireland with partner Grown Forest.

“We have grown up controlling nature but with things like the Innocent Great Rewilding campaign, it’s about educating people about what rewilding means for us all,” he says.

“Because of intensive farming, a lot of wildlife now is concentrated in our gardens, on our windowsills, and we can all create habitats. And we can all change our habits, change what we buy in the shops in terms of chemicals and killers, growth promoters. We don’t need any of it.”

There is a “big inequality” when it comes to who can garden, the 58-year-old says, especially with the country in the depths of a housing crisis. But a recent encounter Gavin had in inner-city Dublin suggests we can all play our part in some small way.

“I was in town recently, in a bit of a rough area, and a homeless guy shouted at me from across the road. He came up to me, he wanted to show me a picture on his phone.

“He was building a garden in a little raised bed, full of pollinating plants. I will go down to meet him again in the next few days to find out what it means to him, but it was amazing.”

  • Diarmuid Gavin will be a guest at Innocent’s free Big Rewild School event on July 2. It starts at 9am at Crone Woods car park on the Wicklow Way, and includes a family-friendly hike. Free tickets available from

What are your healthiest eating habits?

I go through phases and I’m extreme with those phases. My healthiest phases would be a lot of fruit and vegetables and keeping away from any bread or processed foods. But other times, it just collapses.

What are your guiltiest pleasures?

Cheap, nasty chocolate.

What would keep you awake at night?

I rarely sleep. It’s not worry that keeps me awake — I’ve found ways of coping with worry. I make a few mental lists of what was good during the day and just get on with it.

How do you relax?

Doing my own garden. I just get lost in the garden with the magic of it, especially at this time of year. I love digging, planting, watering, planning, all those things. It takes me away from every issue. 

Lockdown was the first time I could stay with my own garden every day and see what was happening in slow motion, and it just got better and better. I also like to relax by walking my dogs, Bowie and Roxie. I go to one of two places — during the day, Powerscourt in Enniskerry, and at night the beach in Greystones.

What is your favourite smell?

Rosemary — it releases an oil which just says gardening to me.

When was the last time you cried?

I cried at An Cailín Ciúin. Everybody in the cinema stayed until the final credits, and all you could hear were sniffles. It’s the most amazing film.

What traits do you least like about yourself?

My lack of self-control when it comes to croissants and bacon butties.

What would cheer your day up?

A happy family — my daughter Eppie and my wife Justine, happy, content and laughing.

Where is your favourite place in the world?

I’ve got to travel a lot. I’ve loved America, the East coast and West coast, I loved Japan. I travelled a lot to Marrakech, it’s so near and yet so biblical.

But my favourite place in the world is Ballinskelligs, Co Kerry.

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