'Best in show' Billy blooms

Kells Bay owner strikes gold again

Tadhg Evans

Just a week and a half on from winning a Silver Gilt Medal at the Chelsea Flower Show, Kells Bay House and Gardens owner Billy Alexander has followed up with a second consecutive 'Best in Show' award at the Phoenix Park 'Bloom' show, Ireland's equivalent of the Chelsea spectacular.

The south Kerry-based horticulturalist, born in Dublin, brought his Chelsea exhibit, the Staycity Wilde Aparthotels-sponsored 'Wilde Atlantic Garden', to Dublin following his Silver Gilt win.

Ahead of the Chelsea show, Mr Alexander explained to The Kerryman that the exhibit showcased a wealth of materials from Kells Bay, including the site's iconic tree ferns, as he wished to promote his plants to a worldwide audience.

While there, he met the most famous Irish figure in his line of work, Diarmuid Gavin, and introduced his stand to Queen Elizabeth II.

This was Mr Alexander's 11th appearance at Bloom, and he has never left the Dublin show without gold or silver gilt recognition from judges.

Last year, he won 'Best in Show' for a 20-square-metre exhibit, another showcase of his south Kerry ferns.

He recently explained that Kells Bay's location in a v-shaped valley, combined with acid-rich soil and a mild climate, makes it conducive to plants more likely to be found in places such as South America, New Zealand, and Indochina. The 44-acre site is also home to a 120-foot rope-bridge, Ireland's longest, and the location has gone from strength to strength since he and his wife Penn moved to Kerry in 2006. The house and gardens were originally developed by the Blennerhasset family in the 1800s.

"I am absolutely delighted with the result at Chelsea and I couldn't be happier to win this gold medal and'"Best in Show' award", Mr Alexander said while reflecting on the past fortnight. "This year has been absolutely fantastic.

"We were thrilled to be chosen once more to exhibit at Bloom this year. I never thought I would win gold and this is a great honour to members and volunteers who helped me pull together and make this garden happen.

"The main theme behind our garden is to show the magnificence and beauty of ferns from around the globe, all of which grow happily in Kells Bay.

"The exhibit revolves around the exotic, natural environment of the fern and their role in the evolution of plants."