The Extra Room – A Review!

Armchair gardening is hugely popular. We have regular garden shows, garden festivals, books, newspapers, magazines, television programmes and eternal reruns on YouTube. There certainly is no lack of inspiration for the novices who wishes to create their own green paradise, their own room outside, their own Extra Room and who better to guide them along the way only Diarmuid Gavin.

Diarmuid Gavin is one of the better known of Irish garden designers with many years of television programmes, books and fabulously entertaining, enjoyable and imaginative show and home gardens behind him. Who better to show the way!

The book title, “The Extra Room” echoes the phrase coined by John Brookes, one of Britain’s most influential garden designers. It was he who brought us the term “room outside” and Diarmuid Gavin’s approach here is of the same practical nature, to develop the area outside our houses so that it will become both a practical and aesthetic addition to the home.


He states his purpose as follows: “My aim is for you to take note of what you have, consider what you’d love and show you the steps towards achieving the Eden of your dream. The most important thing is relax, take hour time and enjoy. Gardens are ultimately about cultivation ‘- growing something. The basics are easy and the rewards can be everlasting” He begins by cautioning that the level of media coverage given to gardening may lead to unrealistic expectations and emphasises that “gardening is something you learn slowly and by taking a few wrong turns.” He lists some of his personal favourite gardens, his own inspiration, and outlines various styles which may both influence and inspire the new gardener – cottage garden, contemporary etc but turns quickly to the practical aspects one must deal with when beginning with their garden – storage, play area, eating area etc, another room to the house.

Subsequent chapters bring the reader through the steps in making a plan, choosing material, garden buildings and the selection of plants – and though it is a limited selection which is presented in the book it is a choice selection and each plant deserves its place in his listing and would grace any garden. Another chapter covers lighting, water, pots, the installation of a fire pit and similar interesting “additions” while it is very interesting to read his own account of several gardens of his own design.

Diarmuid has always made gardening entertaining and fun and this enthusiasm and joy in what he does also runs through this very practical book. Though our own garden is now about thirty years old I found much of interest in this book and will be passing it on to my son who is presently starting his own garden.

[The Extra Room, Diarmuid Gavin, Gill, Dublin, 2016, Hardback, 198 pages, ISBN: 978 07171 7254 2, €22.99]

Paddy Tobin

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