Northern Ireland

Diarmuid Gavin: Celebrity garden designer and companies paid £1.7m by local council for structures to celebrate jubilee and coronation

The gardens in Hazelbank Park and Antrim Castle were constructed to mark Queen Elizabeth’s 70 years on the throne and her son Charles’s accession

King Charles III visit to Northern Ireland – Day 1
King Charles and Queen Camilla opened the coronation garden in Newtownabbey (Mark Marlow/PA)

Celebrity garden designer Diarmuid Gavin and linked companies were paid more than £1.7 million by a Northern Ireland council, largely for projects to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s jubilee and then the coronation of King Charles.

Payments were made to design and construct the Coronation Garden in Hazelbank Park and the Platinum Jubilee in Antrim Castle Gardens.

The Coronation Garden, opened by King Charles and Queen Camilla last May, was widely reported to have cost £1.1m. However, the £1.1m was agreed by the council prior to its constructions for capital improvements of the entire park.

The Coronation Garden has been designed by award-winning gardener Diarmuid Gavin
The Coronation Garden was designed by award-winning gardener Diarmuid Gavin.

At its opening, the council described the structure as “magnificent....boasting bubbles, spinning trees, music and a Strictly-style glitter ball”.

It was put together in under three months and “bears expensive metal centrepieces which read ‘King Charles and Queen Camilla’”, the council added.

Details of the payments to Mr Gavin and his companies emerged following a Freedom of Information request. In response the council said: “£1,711,825 + VAT has been paid to Diarmuid Gavin or companies with which he is affiliated over the last five years”.

In a statement, the council said it “appointed garden designer and construction project manager Diarmuid Gavin to work on a number of projects”.

“The payment of £1.7m includes the design and construction (labour and materials) of both the Platinum Jubilee Garden in Antrim Castle Gardens and the Coronation Garden in Hazelbank Park,” a spokesperson said.

The royal couple with the garden's designer
King Charles and Queen Camilla with garden designer Diarmuid Gavin (Mark Marlow/PA)

“This includes costs for contractors and sub-contractors employed by Mr Gavin to deliver these projects.

“The costs are inclusive of all design, project management, labour and materials associated with the build and landscaping works, plus the supply and planting of specialist plants and trees.”

There were also costs associated with “site preparation and the removal and relocation of the existing garden, mechanical works, electrical gates for both sites, and operational support during and after the construction of both gardens”.

Mr Gavin, who was contacted for comment, also received fees for his ambassador role with Garden Show Ireland from 2022 to 2024.

The Coronation Garden has been designed by award-winning gardener Diarmuid Gavin
The Coronation Garden has been designed by award-winning gardener Diarmuid Gavin.

The signage originally only had Charles’ name and the date of his coronation, May 6, but Mr Gavin wanted to change the lettering to include Camilla.

In an interview ahead of last June’s Garden Show Ireland, Mr Gavin told how he wrote to King Charles before beginning the changing the lettering.

“I requested his go-ahead for the lettering to be used,” said Mr Gavin. “We were putting this up in metal and on a set of gates, so we needed to know.”

Mr Gavin took the decision to change the sign before receiving approval from Windsor Palace, which “luckily for me” gave the go-ahead the following day.

When it was announced in late 2022 the construction of the coronation garden by the the unionist-controlled council, Mayor Stephen Ross said: “The council is extremely proud to be creating something truly magnificent to mark the momentous occasion of the Coronation of His Majesty King Charles III, the first coronation to take place in over 70 years.”