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Ian's Chelsea garden gets royal seal of approval from Duchess

By Claire McNeilly

Ian Price - the first garden designer from Northern Ireland to reach the final of the Chelsea Flower Show for 30 years - will find out today if he has landed one of the big prizes.

But, whatever happens, the 39-year-old Mallusk man has already won the hearts and minds of many people, including the Duchess of Cambridge and superstar comedian Peter Kay.

His unique creation, Mind Trap, represents his interpretation of what it's like to suffer debilitating mental health problems. It also aims to serve as an uplifting message to those who have gone through, or are currently experiencing, the demons he has had to deal with in recent years.

The younger members of the royal family have been campaigning to raise awareness about mental health, and Ian later got the opportunity to show Kate around his creation.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) five-day event, self-employed Ian, whose £45,000, 6m x 6m mental health awareness show garden will be on display for the duration, said he doesn't need a medal to confirm that his entry is a success.

"To me, whatever happens, the garden has won because of the reaction I've had to it from the many visitors who've come to the show and members of the public," he said.

"I also got to meet Peter Kay, who opened up to me and said he loved what I'd done and that he understood where I was coming from. That was fantastic.

"Just being here has been such an amazing experience and the reaction to my work has been untrue.

"It really couldn't have gone any better in my opinion."

Ian - who is the only local garden designer at this year's horticultural phenomenon in London and the first from here in three decades to have secured a much sought-after spot - added: "It has been unreal but I couldn't have done it without the help of Conway Landscapes who helped build it and make it right."

The Chelsea show can count the Queen, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince of Wales and celebrities such as Joanna Lumley and Amanda Holden among its regular visitors.

There are 24 gardens confirmed for this year, including nine Show Gardens, nine Artisan Gardens, five Fresh Gardens, the RHS Greening Grey Britain Garden, and more than 100 floral displays.

Two students from Northern Ireland's College of Agriculture Food & Rural Enterprise are also flying the local flag at the world famous flower show, having made it into the final 15.

Eilis Quinn and Clare McAuley, who are both Level 2 Diploma students, crafted hand-tied presentation bouquets to secure their places in the RHS Young Chelsea Florist of the Year.

Speaking to this newspaper before catching a flight this morning, the young florists, who are still working on their showpieces, said they were looking forward to the next few days.

"I'm happy with my idea but I'll only know for sure how it works out in practice when I put the finishing touches to it tomorrow," said 22-year-old Clare.

"I've chosen firey colours but I'm keeping its shape a secret. The aim is that it will be very eye-catching design that will impress the judges."

Whatever happens, though, the Comber woman said she won't be returning home under a cloud because "it's amazing to have the opportunity to go to the Chelsea Flower Show".

Fellow floristry aficionado Eilis, who's 17 years old and from Camlough, said that it would "mean the world" to her to take home the top prize."I have created something very different and fun with pinks and oranges, yellows and purples, using a different range of flowers, and I want to wow the judges with my technique," the teenager added.

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