Out and about at the Chelsea Flower Show 2011

From humble beginning, mighty things grow - the first show organised by the Royal Horticultural Society was the Chiswick Fete in 1827, and today the RHS hosts 11 flower shows across the country, attracting more than 500,000 visitors. The annual Chelsea Flower Show is one of the most prestigious (for good reason) and marks the start of a summer of stunning shows to come - think Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, BBC Gardeners' World Live and Flower Show Tatton Park, to name a few.

I had my ACHICA Living About Town hat on yesterday at the Chelsea Flower Show 2011 press day to discover some of this year's garden highlights, develop hayfever and generally mill around gawping at the celebs and pointing: Ringo Starr, Jerry Hall, Piers Morgan, Gwyneth Paltrow in the space of five minutes - I challenge you to play it cool. If you don't get a chance to visit the Chelsea Flower Show this year, do check back on the blog as there will be cool competitions coming up to win tickets to Hampton Court and Tatton Park flower shows, including a year's RHS membership.

Gwyneth Paltrow (top), B&Q celebrity ambassadors Kirsty Allsopp and George Clarke and TV presenter Lorraine Kelly (below) made an appearance at the B&Q garden yesterday morning to launch the impressive creation. Made by award-winning designers and three-time show-garden gold-medal winners, Laurie Chetwood and Patrick Collins, the entirely edible garden stands at nine metres tall and is the highest garden ever constructed at Chelsea Flower Show 2011. The garden message is that everyone can grow their own food, however large or small their outdoor space. From vertical window boxes filled with herbs to habitats for animals, the garden is a sanctuary for wildlife and a 'feast for visitors'. This morning, the garden received a Gold award.

The Irish Sky Garden is also worth a mention - a bit hard to miss designer Diarmuid Gavin hoisted up by a crane in his planted pod or what he calls 'Wonkavator' in the sky. It's inspired by Oscar winning Dublin animator Richie Baneham who created the visual effects work in Avatar. Photinias, bamboos and trees are used in part to lessen the impact of the crane that helps the hanging Eden fly.

I particularly liked the sustainable M&G Garden - a relaxing space and a working plot producing bountiful fruit, herbs, vegetables and flowers. This morning it won a Silver-Gilt Flora award.

Laurent-Perrier Garden by Luciano Giubbilei - Nature & Human Intervention was a sight for sore eyes too (below). Uniting gardening, architecture and art, this garden is an expression of the theme of 'nature and human intervention'. A Gold award was given to the garden this morning.

Ringo Starr took a shine to the Monaco Garden - with a pool, garden and building reflecting the style of Monaco itself...It too won a Gold award this morning.

An Octopus' garden?

Another garden that looked serenely lush was The Cancer Research UK Garden - a garden designed for a couple who have a love of coastal landscape, featuring water, plants that adapt to survive coastal conditions, timber and rock.

On the way to The Great Pavilion I clocked these gorgeous planters from Sparrow & Finch and this mesmerising water feature from Silverland Stone.

Inside The Great Pavilion an awe-inspiring floral display awaited featuring leading nurseries, florists and plant societies from the UK and around the world. Inspiration from the East played a prominent role - Nong Nooch Tropical Botanic Garden - Fantastic Thailand - celebrating Thailand's vibrant culture, flowers and more than 50,000 years of history was a stunner, while Dame Helen Mirren was at the Borneo Exotics floral exhibit to launch the new nepenthes cultivar nepenthes, aka 'Helen', named in honour of the actress. I also came across Raymond Blanc opening a bottle of champagne with a sword (still not quite sure what that was all about, but kept my distance) and Jerry Hall looking fabulous and admiring the floral displays...

The beautiful new Harkness & Co rose, a tribute to the late actress Natasha Richardson, took pride of place in The Great Pavilion. The Natasha Richardson rose has been described as 'a rose gardeners' dream come true' - combining the best qualities in a single rose - perfume with a citrus base, generous in size, pure in colour and elegant in form...

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Emily Peck, Editor

View all posts by Emily Peck, Editor