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Billy Alexander scoops second gold medal at RHS Chelsea Flower show

Billy Alexander of Kells Bay Gardens in Cahersiveen, Co. Kerry

Kerry horticulturist’s “most ambitious plan to date” has transformed green into gold with exotic ferns



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1 June 2023

Ireland’s master gardener Billy Alexander of Kells Bay Gardens in Cahersiveen Co. Kerry received a prestigious gold medal at RHS Chelsea Flower Show last month.

This is the third gold medal that 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. 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.

Building on his previous success, 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.

“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,” said Alexander.

“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.”

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