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By royal appointment: Cheer Wills and Kate at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show

By Emma Townshend
Sunday 23 October 2011 03:00

Chelsea time again. Not buns, Clintons or Premiership football, but roses and irises in profusion. Some people every year put a brave new twist on Chelsea. You'll hear that this is the year of green flowers. Or wild flowers. Or no flowers. But the truth is that Chelsea is and always will be a flower show of roses and irises, buds and blowsy blooms, the lot of them.

Many of the roses are actually displayed indoors on old-fashioned stands in the main floral marquee. Ahem, I use the word, "old-fashioned", but the truth is that ridiculous quantities of modern wizardry goes into creating a tiny English garden containing 50 different roses on a plot the size of the average small family car.

The kings of the rose display are David Austin and Peter Beales. Beales has been established in Norfolk for many years, on three acres of flower fields that smell to perfection this time of year. However, he and his team, headed by nursery manager Ian Limmer, must remove themselves to London this coming week to start putting together their meticulous display. Many of the plants were under thick snow in December, but nonetheless the stand, judging by their 15 previous gold medals, will be blooming summer all over by opening day.

Austin's lot, meanwhile, will be coming down from Wolverhampton with truckfuls of the best newly bred roses from the quarter of a million seedlings they raise each year. Austin's 2011-12 introductions will be on display, including a white wedding rose called "William and Catherine", which I imagine will be widely bought and planted by all of us stockpilers of royal-wedding souvenir newspaper supplements.

There's definitely something about Chelsea that brings out celebrity-naming in force. Beales has gone with a local theme for a couple of his Chelsea introductions. One is "Churchill", a peachy bloom named after the Cambridge college, rather than the great man directly. Austin, not to be outdone on "roses named after buildings", is featuring "Wollerton Old Hall", a fragrant rose named after one of Wolverhampton's wonkiest and most charming half-timbered medieval buildings.

However, in the main, the new Chelsea introductions are named after great ladies, queens and the odd ballerina. Not surprisingly, it's a particular kind of famous person the plants get their names from; after all, the edgiest celebrity seen posing with roses in recent years was Bill Nighy, and that was just because he happened to be passing. In fact, you can always tell when a celebrity is settling down, because you'll suddenly spot him taking his mum round Chelsea. Any minute now we're expecting Tinie Tempah, who will probably appear with the aunt whose house he has to keep his clothes at. And don't hold your breath for an Ancelotti rose any time soon.

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show runs from Tuesday to Saturday; for more details, visit

Best of breed

The popular pick

The nation's favourite rose, according to a recent survey, is Gertrude Jekyll, a proper little-girl's-bicycle-coloured pink rose, with superb fragrance. Buy from its original breeder, David Austin, £24.95,

Sweeten the pot

You will need to wait till November for plants harvested from the field. Or pick now from a range of potted roses: Peter Beales has more than 300 available.

See the roses at home

See 700 varieties over two acres at Austin's centre in Albrighton, WV7 3HB. Or get ideas for what to plant alongside roses for impact at Beales' place in Attleborough, Norfolk.

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