Page last updated at 17:08 GMT, Monday, 24 May 2010 18:08 UK

London's RHS Chelsea Flower Show fit for royal visit

Queen at Chelsea flower show
The finishing touches were added ahead of the official opening

The Queen has taken a preview tour of the displays on offer at the Chelsea Flower Show ahead of its official public opening on Tuesday.

Around 600 exhibitors are taking part, with a garden created by prison inmates vying for top honours.

More than 150,000 people are expected to visit the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London for the five-day event.

Concerns that flowers might be in short supply after the coldest winter in more than 30 years have proved unfounded.

Princess Alexandra, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent and the Duchess of Gloucester are also due to visit on Monday.

Community theme

This year's event was the fastest selling since 1988, with all tickets sold 11 days ahead of the opening.

The public can enter the event from 0800BST on Tuesday.

AT THE SCENE
By Lucy Rodgers,
BBC News

Judges wander tight-lipped clutching orange clipboards as the green-fingered sweep up stray soil, water and trim plants to the beep of heavy machinery.

These are the sights and sounds of Chelsea - where men in top hats happily rub shoulders with gardeners in khaki - as flower show participants make last-minute preparations ahead of the opening of gates to the paying public on Tuesday.

There are gardens of diamonds and exotic-looking plunge pools and talk of tickets changing hands on the black market for five times their original value.

While some traders speak of gloomy times and admit they are not out of the woods, others describe more of a plateau in the horticultural market. Customers, they say, are driving a harder bargain but are, crucially to many of those at Chelsea, still buying.

The Royal Horticultural Society said some exhibitors had grown five times as many plants as usual to make sure they had enough.

It promised a spectacular display, despite designers having to deal with recent frosts.

A community theme has replaced last year's recession-busting measures for the gardens, while the organisers are using the event to also mark the International Year of Biodiversity.

During the preview event, television presenter and wildlife enthusiast Bill Oddie said it was important to be aware of the biodiversity of not only the rainforests in South America but also in British gardens, while celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Raymond Blanc explained how to make healthy meals using garden-grown food.

Designers spent the weekend putting the finishing touches to the 15 show gardens, 21 small gardens and hundreds of exhibits.

Among them are a pair of giant seeping lock gates, a section of wrought-iron bridge and a swimming pool with submerged bar seats.

Scientist Stephen Hawking has inspired a garden created by the Motor Neurone Disease Association charity.

A dark swirling water feature represents the feelings of people when they are diagnosed with the condition, while a curved stone folly signifies sanctuary.

New experience

And £20m worth of precious stones will be used in an urban garden called Ace of Diamonds. The stones will be replaced with fakes for the public viewings which start on Tuesday.

Chelsea's largest-ever show garden, the Eden Project's Places of Change, was created by prisoners and homeless people with no gardening experience.

Paul Stone, designer and co-ordinator of Places of Change, said: "This feels like a step into the unknown. Of the 10,000 plants, one-third have been grown by amateur individuals who have been excluded from society.

"At its heart is that horticulture is central to our lives and represents an opportunity for excluded people to gain life skills and contribute, that investment in people must be seen as a solution and not a cost."

The Hesco Leeds City Council garden, based on a section of the Leeds-Liverpool canal complete with lock, is intended to encourage an appreciation of public green space.



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SEE ALSO
Chelsea tribute to gardening icon
19 May 10 |  Nature
Eden plans huge Chelsea display
13 May 10 |  Nature
Chelsea Flower Show for Leeds lock
27 Apr 10 |  Nature
Flower show's credit crunch tips
17 May 09 |  London

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