The weather may not have been on the Royal Horticultural Society’s side for the preview opening of the annual Chelsea Flower Show yesterday, grey clouds loomed over West London, but the attendees including the Queen and Prince Harry were in high spirits.
The Royals were there to view the 15 show gardens, including the Forget-Me-Not garden designed by Jinny Blom, in aid of Prince Harry’s charity Sentebale (which helps orphans in the African country of Lesotho, which the prince founded after spending some of his gap year there).
The impressive array of gardens and exhibits playing home to plants from around the world took two weeks to build with expert teams working 14-hour days. Greenhouses and refrigerators enticed flowers into bloom just in time for the doors to open. The Chelsea Flower Show is expected to see 150,000 visitors from its official opening today until the doors close on another year on Saturday.
Other guests yesterday included ELLE cover star Lily Allen, Joanna Lumley and Victoria Pendleton. While Jamie Oliver, never far from some kind of kitchen accouterments, could be found in one garden making pizzas.
But it wasn’t just the celebrities and Royals causing a frisson of excitement yesterday, because for the first time in its 100 year history Gnomes were allowed in. The little fellows, including a Prince William gnome and a very pregnant Kate gnome, came from far and wide to descend on gardens throughout the show. Also miniature gnomes decorated by stars (pictured) such as Sir Elton John, Lily Allen, Dame Helen Mirren, Rob Brydon and Davina McCall, will be auctioned on eBay to raise money for the RHS Campaign for School Gardening to encourage children to get green fingered. Brydon, who painted his gnome with blue and red stripes, quipped, 'I’m taking gnome art in a new direction. The establishment aren’t happy, but I didn’t play by the rules. I’m the Damien Hirst of the gnome art world.'