Carnivores and royal roses

2011-05-27 00:00

VERTICAL gardens, carnivorous plants, English roses and Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II launched the United Kingdom summer social season­ at a preview for the Chelsea Flower Show this week.

The tallest garden and the biggest to have been built at Chelsea were among 17 exhibits along the main avenue­ of a gardening show which heralds the start of an English social season that includes Ascot, Wimbledon, Henley Royal Regatta and the Glyndebourne Opera Festival.

Celebrity gardener Diarmuid Gavin’s audacious gold medal- winning­ Irish Sky Garden was the largest garden yet built at Chelsea and includes a hanging garden winched 25 metres in the air.

Next door another gold medallist was a six-storey vertical allotment which showed a unique way to use cramped urban space and, at nine metres, was the tallest garden featured at Chelsea.

Star power was at full luminosity for the media preview ahead of Tuesday’s opening to the public.

Besides the queen, actresses Gwyneth Paltrow and Vanessa Redgrave, model Jerry Hall, socialite Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, shoe designer Jimmy Choo and Carry On star Barbara Windsor wandered through the exhibits.

Prince Albert of Monaco was the highlight of the gold medal-winning design from his principality, while British actress Helen Mirren posed with “Helen” a carnivorous plant that was launched at the show. She and comedian Bill Bailey each had a flesh-eating plant named after them.

The lingering afterglow of this year’s royal wedding lived on with the launch of an English Musk hybrid rose and a sweetpea both named William­ and Catherine, after Prince William and Catherine Middleton, who married in April.

There was little sign of austerity Britain at the event.

Sparkling wine flowed, scantily clad models posed in the foliage, enticing pools sparkled in the sunshine and a steel band created a jaunty atmosphere.

After a long, harsh winter followed by a record heat wave, the most appropriate show garden was perhaps the Australian effort, presented by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne.

Botanist and planting celebrity Roger Elliot told Reuters how the team used only native species and authentic­ outback sand and mudstone to capture Australia’s diverse climate and terrain.

“The story of the garden is the journey of water across the country,” he said.

Inside the main pavilion, exhibitors presiding over tens of thousands of individual blooms kept an eye on the gaggle of judges as they made the rounds.

Exhibitor Chris Blom’s fifth-generation family gardening business goes back 151 years, has been present at Chelsea since 1948 and has won 60 gold medals.

Blom — whose Dutch grandfather survived detention by the Gestapo during World War 2 by sharing his passion for tulips with a like-minded interrogator — has been going to Chelsea since he was eight.

The Chelsea Flower Show, which is organised by the Royal Horticultural Society (www.rhs.org.uk) runs until tomorrow. — Reuters.

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