The world of showbusiness collides in London this week with the world of gardening in the form of the colourful explosion that is the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Due to attract its usual capacity of more that 150,000, the show officially kicked off yesterday with royal family visitors, including Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles, wandering among the blooms.

Still very much regarded as one of the society events of the year, you can’t help but notice there are substantially fewer showgardens than normal.

Not one Irish designer is represented on the Main Avenue at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea.

Last year, top designer and Dundalk native Paul Martin brought home a gold medal for his Vestra Wealth Garden and Diarmuid Gavin too, had been present, with a garden created for Harrods. But, this year, no presence.

You might be forgiven for wondering how Brexit could have an impact on a flower show but that’s what the reduced number of showgardens is being put down to among exhibitors and the press. Garden designs are submitted the previous July to the RHS and, in 2016, the closing date for submissions for 2017 was three weeks before the Brexit vote. Several of the big-money sponsors were, reportedly, nervous to commit.

Bearing in mind a sponsorship budget for a showgarden could command between £250,000 and £750,000 (€290,000-€870,000), it’s hard to blame sponsors as many are international financial institutions. Uncertainty had been and still is the order of the day as Britain plans its EU exit.

However, this fantastic show is of such a scale it can ride the storm — and it is doing just that. It’s still Chelsea and, for gardeners, that name is awe-inspiring.

TV presenters Mary Berry and Anneka Rice in the Colour Cutting Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Picture: Dan Linehan
TV presenters Mary Berry and Anneka Rice in the Colour Cutting Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Picture: Dan Linehan

Just because the quantity might be lower, the quality certainly isn’t. Darren Hawkes Linklater’s Garden for Maggie has, so far, stolen the show.

Let’s see what the judges decide, with medals being presented today.

The numbers allowed to visit the show have been capped at 157,000 since 1998 but it remains the Oscars of gardening and could easily attract double that if space permitted.

It’s all about the flowers and the gardens but, of course, it is London and also about being spotted.

Celebrities aplenty are only too delighted to mingle and be photographed at the greatest flower show on earth. Rupert Murdoch and wife Jerry Hall enjoyed the sunshine, as did Joanna Lumley, and Nigel Havers with his wife Georgiana Bronfman.

Judi Dench holds an apricot rose named after her as it is launched by Shropshire grower David Austin Roses.
Judi Dench holds an apricot rose named after her as it is launched by Shropshire grower David Austin Roses.

Chris Evans was with Mary Berry at his Taste Garden, which was inspired by the Great British Bake Off matriarch. BBC Radio 2’s Jo Whiley also had her own patch while Judi Dench and Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville were among the notables. Good Morning Britain presenter Charlotte Hawkins got into the theme of it all with a floral-inspired dress and I also enjoyed meeting with BBC Countryfile’s Ellie Harrison.

But all, except the chosen few, had to be off site by 3pm for the arrival of the royal visitors who shared private moments with most of the designers.


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