Prince Harry's award-Winning Chelsea Show Garden in Memory of Princess Diana
Jinny Blom's Sentebale Show Garden
Prince Harry has chosen the centenary of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show at the Royal Hospital for the Chelsea Pensioners to join the distinguished list of award winning exhibitors with his own Show Garden designed in memory of his mother Princess Diana and to promote his charity Sentebale. He launched this Lesotho-based charity when he was 19 to help vulnerable children of Africa who have suffered parental loss as well as terrible poverty. He commissioned renowned landscape gardener Jinny Blom to design his garden. She won coveted Gold for Prince Charles's Show Garden in 2002 and has collected a Silver-Gilt award this year for Harry with her Sentebale forget-me-not Show Garden.
The Royal Horticultural Society's annual Chelsea Flower Show is Britain's gardening highlight of the year, as well as the launch of the London social season which this year celebrates the Queen's 60th anniversary of Her Coronation in Westminster Abbey on 2 June.
Over 700 growers and gardening specialists from all over the world showoff their talents in garden landscaping, or introduce their latest hybrids and plant varieties in a landscape of tranquil pools, waterfalls and alpine gardens. It is big business also for charities like Prince Harry's Sentebale and regular visitor Ringo Starr's Water Aid which benefit from the worldwide publicity and exposure generated by the Chelsea Flower Show.
Thanks to blanket daily reporting from the BBC, the Chelsea Show goes from strength to strength and some 170,000 visitors, headed by the green-fingered Royal Family, visit the show each year. Prince Harry's award-winning Show Garden will be one of this year's highlights.
Surprisingly enough, although the Chelsea Flower Show remains the world's most prestigious, it is no longer the largest of the RHS London Shows. The July Hampton Court Flower Show & Rose Festival now holds that position. Tickets are bookable online now and early booking is recommended.
Like Joanna Lumley (in clip above), I am always amazed at the remarkable botanical wizardry of exhibitors who manage to coax all the seasons into one week of floral magic for our admiration. New Year's snowdrops, spring narcissi and crocuses, iris and fragrant summer roses bloom side by side with autumn chrysanthemums to mock nature's seasons.
Britain is in bloom now, albeit tardily after the coldest winter for 50 years, and London has its lilac. Newly planted lobelia begin to burgeon blue in floral window boxes on the smart frontages of Regency Belgravia, Victorian Mews properties and the gastro-pubs of Mayfair, Chelsea, Kensington and Notting Hill.
London is at its most joyfully beautiful in May and June. The Royal Parks, originally set apart as hunting preserves of Henry VIII, (when he wasn't bedding and beheading the ladies of his court), are havens of peace and beauty at any time of year. Right now they are looking particularly colorful.
Those Londoners who are fortunate enough to call the West End "Home" enjoy a morning's walk to work through the redesigned Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park or St. James's Park, or take lunchtime break there and to watch the antics of tame squirrels and birds that will eat from your hand.
The Chelsea Royal Hospital and its gardens bordering the tranquil stretch of the Thames opposite Battersea Park and its Buddhist temple has been a royal army retirement home for the red coated Chelsea Pensioners for the past 350 yearsIt was built for King Charles II between 1681-1691 by Sir Christopher Wren, architect of St. Paul's Cathedral and Greenwich Palace. The airy Great Hall is well worth a visit at another time when you are in London.
The Chelsea Flower Show is an auspicious start to the Queen's Coronation anniversary celebrations running through June and july. The Coronation Festival at Buckingham Palace from 11 - 14 July is a 'must see' date for visitors. Tickets are £30 and bookable online.