Ruislip & Eastcote & Northwood Gazette
RECALLING WITH FONDNESS WHEN I CROSSED GARDEN PATHS WITH THE QUEEN
ONE of the extraordinary privileges for me of making TV shows and designing gardens for the Chelsea Flower Show has been to achieve a certain prominence. While my designs have quite often been wacky or challenging, I gained an audience and acceptance.
The acceptance took many forms. Mail from people who enjoyed what I did, requests for photographs and later selfies but also invitations to places or to meet people I could never have dreamed of when I entered this wonderful profession.
At the very top of the pile was Her Majesty the Queen, the great figurehead of Great Britain. I had the privilege of meeting her on about five or six occasions, mainly at the Chelsea Flower Show but also on occasion at garden parties in Buckingham Palace. She was an extraordinary woman who loved gardens and took great delight, even in her
final year, in that annual trip where we diggers, planters, designers and creators would line up, on occasion having been given the nod that we would be introduced.
In 2004, I created a Lollipop garden, a Willy Wonka inspired multicoloured design which intrigued her... just a bit. I treasure the photograph of her delighted face as I rambled through an explanation of the exhibit.
In 2011, I lined up with family in tow as my daughter presented a bouquet of English garden flowers
to the Queen who only days before had returned from an extensive visit to my island, Ireland. We chatted about how the trip had gone. It was wonderful, she exclaimed.
Another occasion saw me enchanted by her garden when I attended a summer garden party. It was pristine, colourful and delightfully sprinkled with royal magic.
And then subsequently to be in the presence of not one but two greats, standing shoulder to shoulder with Sir Terence Conran to present to Her Majesty a main Avenue garden, as co-designer with a remarkable creator whom she had knighted. It really didn’t get much better.
If I was to think of plants to associate with the Queen, it wouldn’t be fragrant pastel roses or a spring flowering double peony covered in droplets of rain. It would be the evening I marvelled at the television while two nonagenarians, the Monarch and Sir David Attenborough, strolled through the grounds of the palace and looked at oak trees that had been planted on the birth of each of her children.
I will remember Her Majesty as a smiling lady who took delight in gardens and those who created them, a person who epitomises the welcome I received on this, your island.