Members of Britain’s royal family and celebrities were the first to get a glimpse of this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, which features everything from a train carriage as part of a 550sq m planted-up station to a garden of bizarre gadgetry by Diarmuid Gavin which comes to life every 15 minutes.
Security at the show has been beefed up in the wake of attacks in Brussels and Paris, as Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, her husband Philip the duke of Edinburgh, William and Kate the duke and duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry toured the exhibits.
Great British Bake Off star Mary Berry, who helped fashion chain Zara sell out of a floral bomber jacket when she wore it on the show, shunned foliage for a bright turquoise outfit. The baker happily posed with the new Harkness rose, which has been named after her.
Comedian David Walliams, who was joined by his mother Kathleen, joked he had made a wrong turn on the way to Chelsea’s football stadium as he wandered among the gardens.
Naomie Harris, who plays Miss Moneypenny in the Bond franchise, looked summery in a crisp white suit.
Stars ranging from Judi Dench and Katherine Jenkins to Rod Stewart and Jerry Hall were all enjoying a tour of the show.
Displays at this year’s event include floral arches built to celebrate the queen’s 90th birthday, including one featuring all British-blooms designed by Shane Connolly, florist at the wedding of the duke and duchess of Cambridge.
Among the gardens on display is an acoustic garden inspired by world-leading percussionist Evelyn Glennie, which will play musical notes to visitors, a garden inside a sculpture, and a field of handmade poppies as a tribute to all those who served in wars.
Show gardens at this year’s event include Cleve West’s garden, inspired by the ancient oak woodland on Exmoor National Park where the designer spent his teenage years, and Rosy Hardy’s garden focusing on rare and fragile chalk streams.
Open to the public from today, an estimated 160,000 people will visit the show throughout the week. Last year, visitors consumed 7,720 glasses of Pimm’s; 28,447 cakes, pastries. and cookies; 10,823 glasses of champagne; and 64,144 hot drinks, according to the show’s organisers the Royal Horticultural Society.
Meanwhile, horticultural experts are ramping up a campaign to reverse the trend of paved, greenery-free front gardens, as research shows people have little appetite for putting plants out front.
Just one in 10 people are interested in growing plants in their front gardens, a survey for the Royal Horticultural Society by Ipsos Mori of 2,067 people found.
Of those whose front gardens are either entirely paved or have greenery on less than three quarters of the area, the biggest reason for not growing more was a lack of room for both cars and plants. Other barriers were that gardens were too small generally and people do not have time for gardening.
But the research also showed that almost three quarters of people (73%) thought planted areas along roads and streets would make them feel happier, while more than half thought it would make them feel healthier (57%) and calmer (58%).
The Royal Horticultural Society is launching a new Front Garden Guide to help reverse the trend towards grey, paved front gardens.
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