Stars On Show At Chelsea 2008Posted on: 20 May 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves
50connect mingle with the famous faces among the flowers at Chelsea 2008, and you can read our interviews here.
As well as a sneak preview of the gardens, visitors to press day at RHS Chelsea Flower Show get to rub shoulders with a host of household names.
The biggest crowd turned out to see Ringo Starr arrive at 'From Life to Life, A Garden for George', driven by 1996 F1 champ Damon Hill in George Harrison's bright red 1966 Mini, psychedelically painted with mystic symbols.
They were joined by Olivia Harrison, George Harrison's wife who created the garden with Yvonne Innes to represent his journey through life to eternity, as well as Beatles producer George Martin and Jools Holland.
The Queen also visited the garden and chatted to Olivia Harrison. At Fleming's Nurseries & Trailfinders Australian Garden, presented by Melbourne, Victoria, she received a piece of Aboriginal artwork. In the Great Pavilion she met Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding, at the Jamaica Horticultural Society's stand festooned with tropical flowers, foliage and fruits.
Other royals at the show included Prince Philip, Princess Anne, Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex.
Aside from Beatle Ringo Starr, other Liverpool personalities included Anne Robinson, actor Sue Johnston and Phil Redmond, TV producer and scriptwriter.
Sue Johnston and Phil Redmond opened Liverpool County Council's garden, part of the city's European Capital of Culture celebrations.
We chatted to Anne Robinson at the Bupa garden, which has been designed to be appropriate for Alzheimer sufferers, offering a sensory experience.
"It's in a figure of eight, so that if it's being toured by someone with dementia there are no dead ends, it keeps bringing you back. And there are wonderful smells, you don't have to have dementia, it's just gorgeous."
Appearance and scent work together in the garden to give a sense of wellbeing.
"I think it gives a sense of peace. It's very gentle, there's nothing to frighten the horses here. Even the colourful end is quite muted which I love. I don't like a lot of colour in our garden, which is why I am so much in favour of this one. There is plenty of green, very deep reds, purples and lilacs with a touch of white which is perfect."
Gardening celebrities included Diarmuid Gavin, who joined forces with Sir Terence Conran and luxury property developer the Oceânico Group to create a café garden, Kim Wilde and Rachel de Thame, who designed the LK Bennett garden for the fashion house.
Over at 'The Sky At Night' garden, which took its inspiration from stars of the celestial variety, astronomer Sir Patrick Moore was enthusiastic about the purple planted garden featuring porthole walls and a telescope.
"Gardens are a pleasure, I enjoy mine though someone does it for me. I've got a biggish garden myself with an observatory. Anything goes - hydrangea, flowers, trees - as long as they don't get in the way."
Ian McNeice, seen on screen recently in Lewis, Doc Martin and New Tricks, dressed as co-founder of Talbot House Revd Tubby Clayton to give a recital in Leeds City Council's 'The Largest Room In The House', to other actors dressed as First World War soldiers. The garden celebrates the ninetieth anniversary of the end of the Great War and takes its inspiration from the garden at Talbot House at Poperinghe near Ypres in Belgium, where soldiers were able to relax between periods in the trenches.
At the urban gardens, litter-picking Wombles mingled with Melinda Messenger - wearing an eye-catching yellow floral frock - at the Children's Society garden, close to a string quartet at 'Tempest in a Teapot', and 'The Pemberton Greenish Recess', where we spoke to cricketer Mark Ramprakash. The generations of his family use the garden in different ways.
"Cricket takes up so much of my time that if I go out in the garden to be honest it's probably just to laze about and watch my two girls run round. Our garden's pretty much a square patch of lawn with a slide and swing, so I'm not a big one for doing a lot of work in the garden. My parents enjoy it and they're coming to the show later in the week."
Currently playing for Surrey, Mark is donating cricketing memorabilia and equipment to Capital Kids Cricket to encourage more children from urban backgrounds to take up the sport.
"I want to lend my support because if you look at what kids as a whole are getting up to we want to try and promote sport, and obviously cricket, it's important for people to get an interest. It's given me a lot of enjoyment and other things as well, like team spirit and interacting with other people, so that's why we think cricket's a good thing to get into. I've been so lucky to play for a long time. When you get to this stage of your career and haven't long left you just want to enjoy the remaining days."
Inside the Great Pavilion, pink-coated ladies from the National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies (NAFAS) had created one of the most eye-catching stands, demonstrating their skills. They celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2009, and a new rose to mark the occasion, Golden Fanfare, was launched by Rachel de Thame and Christopher Biggins at the Harkness Roses stand. He told 50connect why he loves roses.
"I have roses and I'm thrilled because they're sending me this new NAFAS rose which is beautiful, it's a lovely golden colour, and so I look forward to having that in my garden. I adore roses, I think they are so wonderfully British and very English."
Christopher enjoys spending time in the garden, but doesn't like getting his hands dirty.
"I love sitting in the garden with a glass of champagne. I have a girl who comes to do it. I've got a little London garden with a table, flowers, things crawling all around up the walls and down the fences, and a balcony."
He was enjoying seeing the sights of Chelsea.
"There's so much to buy and look at too, to get ideas. The whole thing is wonderful, it's so quintessentially British. Three weeks ago none of this was here and on Sunday none of this will be here again, it's for one week only - we're mad."
Christopher's favourite gardens included the 'Marshalls Garden That Kids Really Want', and Daylesford Organic's 'Summer Solstice'.
"The children's garden is fantastic. The Cancer Research garden is very good this year, the progress they've made over the years has been fantastic. My friends the Bamfords have a most wonderful Daylesford garden where you can go and try their vegetables which are grown organically."
Due to his renewed popularity after winning jungle reality TV show I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! in 2007, Christopher is having an exciting time.
"It's good because you're not learning, you know all the pitfalls and you're able to cope. You should never give up. 50 is the new 30. You should go on and on until you get to a very old age."
Let's hope the planning permission issues are sorted out in time for Chelsea's own 87th birthday in 2009, so we can enjoy more gardens and celebrity spotting next year.
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