May 272011

My mum always used to say that if the Queen went past the bottom of our road, she wouldn’t wouldn’t so much as leave the house to give her a wave. And then one day the Queen did go past the bottom of our road. And who was at the front of the crowd, angling for a better view and waving furiously? My mum.

Celebrity is a curious and powerful thing. At the Chelsea Flower Show the other day I noticed that a crowd of photographers had gathered around the B&Q garden. It turned out that Gwyneth Paltrow was expected there in about ten minutes.

Now up to that point, I had not been particularly interested in Gwyneth Paltrow. I knew she was married to Chris Martin. I knew she had children with strange names. I even knew that she had a cookbook out. But that’s as far as my interest went – until I realised that I might see her, in the flesh, very close to where I was standing. All of a sudden, I was very interested in Gwyneth Paltrow.

It took a while for Gwynnie to appear. First of all we got Lorraine Kelly. Then Kirstie Allsopp. All the while the scary lady in the orange jacket was desperately trying to keep photographers and rubberneckers away from the judges in Diarmuid Gavin’s garden next door. WILL YOU PLEASE RESPECT THE PRIVACY OF THE JUDGES!?! she cried, in vain.

Then the scary lady’s day got a whole lot worse, because just at the very moment when the hallowed judges moved over to begin their critique of the B&Q garden, along came Gwyneth. The crowds moved in, a few hundred flashbulbs went off and the judges were completely sidelined.

At this point I underwent a bizarre transformation, from starstruck bystander to full-blown paparazzo. As luck would have it, I found myself quite near Gwyneth as she listened politely to the B&Q man and got quite a good shot of her then. Not content with that, I then squeezed to the front of the crowd of paps and took some more pics. And then I edged my way along and took some more. All the while photographers were shouting GYWNETH! TURN AROUND GWYNETH! OVER HERE GWYNETH! from all angles as she paraded around, shamelessly clutching her new book. I took an ironic and knowing shot of Gwynnie and all the paps opposite.

And then as quickly as she came, Gwyneth was gone, and I reverted back to the serious gardening journalist that I really am.

The following day, a friend emailed me a pic that he’d spotted on the BBC News website. In the crowd you’ll see a serious gardening journalist looking ridiculously pleased with herself as she paps a celebrity. Oh dearie me.





May 252011

Cleve West's Daily Telegraph Garden

Sarah Eberle's Monaco Garden

The Cancer Research Garden

Diarmuid Gavin's Irish Sky Garden

Cornish Memories Garden

What to say about the ‘greatest flower show on earth’ (as Alan Titchmarsh says year after year)? For what it’s worth, I liked Cleve West’s garden best (and not just because it won Best in Show).  But I still prefer the one he did for SAGA a few years back – one of my all-time favourites. I also liked Sarah Eberle’s Monaco garden (light and airy and sustainable too) and the Cancer Research one  (lovely seaside planting). And surprisingly, Diarmuid Gavin’s – but more for the lush planting than the pink pod hanging from a crane.

The small artisan gardens at Chelsea can be a bit cutesy but I always like to see them as they show how much can be achieved in a tiny space. My favourite was the garden with a rather unfortunate brief (pardon the pun): an evocation of a Korean toilet. I couldn’t get a shot of it of that due to the aforementioned lady in national costume and a TV crew but you can see it here. And I loved the pots in the Cornish Memories garden.