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Last Updated: Monday, 19 May, 2003, 20:06 GMT 21:06 UK
Royals flock to flower show
The Queen
The Queen braved the rain
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have been given a private viewing of the world's most famous floral spectacle.

They were joined at the Chelsea Flower Show by the Earl and Countess of Wessex and other minor Royals.

It was Sophie's first official engagement since the countess and husband, Edward, announced she was pregnant earlier this month.

Celebrities from the worlds of sport and television were also among the visitors as the Royal Horticultural Society's (RHS) 81st annual show opened for previews at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea, west London.

Olympic legend Sir Steve Redgrave, Cilla Black and former Arsenal player Frank McLintock were among those admiring the displays.

Ringo Starr and wife Barbara Bach
Ringo Starr and his wife were among guests at the opening

The FA Cup has been recreated using flowers and former Beatle Ringo Starr was opening an 'octopus garden', to show his support for coral reef conservation.

The Soham Rose, dedicated to Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman who were killed in Soham, Cambridgeshire, was also unveiled.

Representatives of Soham Town Council received the rose, proceeds from its sale will go towards the Holly and Jessica appeal fund.

The idea of dedicating a rose to the girls' memory came after Holly's father, Kevin, wrote a poem called Soham's Rose, which he read out at their memorial service.

The creators, businesswomen Nadine Smith and Coral Paxton and solicitor John Aspinall, from Soham, said: "The immediate aim is to raise money to serve local community needs in ways which recognise the tragedy of what has happened."

Originally called the Great Spring Show
First held in Kensington in 1862
600 exhibitors
60 gardens
Exhibits are judged by RHS before the show opens

The Queen visited a garden by staff and inmates at Leyhill Prison, Gloucestershire.

Jez, who is coming to the end of a six-year sentence, told her he had taken up gardening in jail and wanted to pursue it professionally on his release.

Daisy Rogers, nine, presented the Queen with a posy at Sunflower Street, a garden sponsored by The Sun newspaper.

There are more than 60 gardens for visitors to inspect and there are 600 exhibitors from South Africa to Jamaica taking part.

Environmentally friendly gardening is a major theme this year, with ideas ranging from naturalistic planting to the more adventurous planting roof spaces, effective for insulation and absorbing noise and pollution, from Help The Aged.

Soham rose
A visitor admires the new Soham rose at the Chelsea show
The RHS say a noticeable trend this year is a move towards greater geometry or symmetry in garden design.

The ubiquitous water feature is well represented, with a water umbrella, the octopus garden and a clock that drips instead of ticks.

There is an artificial pond with a plasma screen showing images of koi carp, while another features a patio filled with bubbles.

  • The Chelsea Flower Show is open to RHS members only on Tuesday and Wednesday but open to the general public on Thursday and Friday.

    The BBC's Jennie Bond
    "The real stars of the show are the gardens"

    Hopes high for flower show
    16 May 03  |  Europe
    Save the bumblebee, gardeners urged
    16 May 03  |  Science/Nature
    Rose grown for Soham girls
    17 Apr 03  |  Cambridgeshire
    Show flowers put on ice
    01 Apr 03  |  Wales


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