On Monday’s opening day of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, the Princess of Wales made an unexpected appearance. She joined schoolchildren at the event’s first-ever Children’s Picnic.
Children from ten schools participating in the RHS Campaign for School Gardening were greeted by Catherine as they sat down for lunch. She then accompanied them to three of this year’s Show Gardens while wearing a repeat pink ME+EM shirt dress.
The Princess’s conversation with the RHS in 2019 when she unveiled her Back to Nature Garden served as the impetus for the Children’s picnic, which is anticipated to become an annual event at the Show. She expressed to the event’s organizers her opinion that more children should be involved.
The future queen and the kids participated in a bug hunt, assisted in creating a meal from scratch, and learned how gardens can support wellbeing, something the Princess has been emphasizing for a number of years, on her first trip to the renowned horticultural show since 2019.
When Catherine arrived, she sat down on a picnic blanket with students from Hammersmith’s St. Augustine’s Primary School and inquired, “Are any of you keen gardeners? Does your school allow you to plant things? What kinds of things do you get to eat after you grow them?
“Seeing plants grow and then having them on your plate is so rewarding, isn’t it?” she continued.
The Princess mentioned a plant that smells like chocolate to the kids as they were talking about fruits and vegetables and herbs. When I was young, I recall my granny showing me that. It has very dark leaves and gives off a chocolate scent when you rub it.
When she told the students that the school was growing sunflowers, she exclaimed, “They get so big, don’t they?” Louis is raising broad beans at school, it has been revealed. As soon as you place them in a cup, you can observe the roots emerging. They grow rapidly, much like sunflowers.
Catherine continued a favorite theme by praising the benefits of being outside, telling the kids that it is “so good for our bodies and our minds.”
When discussing flowers and plants with another group from Alec Reed Primary School in Northolt, she admitted: “Lots of the names are in Latin and I can never remember them.”
Is this different from your regular lessons, she questioned the kids. Today’s methods of learning are different.
Before leaving, Catherine asked the students to write to her after their visit and tell her “how we can make it even better for the kids next time” after viewing the bug hotels they had constructed from bundles of hollow bamboo tied together with string.
The RHS hopes that the annual picnic will encourage a new generation of gardeners because this is the first time it has invited so many schoolchildren.
The Princess and some students from St. George’s Church of England Primary School in Camberwell joined designer Mark Gregory to tour the “edimental” garden at the Savills estate.
When picking fennel, mint, and other herbs, Catherine stooped low and instructed the children, “If you rub it between your fingers, you can smell it.”
Additionally, she showed the kids a foxglove and pointed out the opening where bees enter to access pollen. “The bees love that,” she remarked.
She smiled as the kids correctly identified “green” as her favorite color when she asked the kids to guess.
She was asked about being a member of the royal family by one of the students in the meantime. You have to work hard, but you know the best part is meeting kids like you, she retorted.
When questioned about the duties of the royal family, she responded, “They help support all the different people in the country, showcase all the amazing work being done, and look after everyone.”
She responded to a question from a young child by saying, “The Prime Minister makes the laws.”
The Princess’s interruption of a group of Chelsea pensioners eating chargrilled peas with herbs prepared by chefs in the walled kitchen garden was met with laughter. The 94-year-old brave diner Harry Puttick, a former member of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, responded when she inquired about the menu: “The peas are forgettable, but you are not.”
Afterward, he cracked a joke with the chef standing nearby, saying, “I’d better say the peas were wonderful but it was fantastic to meet the future Queen.”
She later discussed her kids with Mark, saying: “My kids love being in the natural world, but not all kids have access to that.”
The Princess joined students from Holy Trinity Church of England School in Chelsea and St. George’s Church of England Primary School in Wandsworth in the Samaritans garden.
She said, “That makes you feel a bit nervous and anxious, doesn’t it?” as she pointed to some small rocks suspended from a pergola over the walkway.
“And then you can come and sit here,” she said, pointing to the area where they were conversing under the tree. “It’s all really calm and feels secure.”
The interior, which Darren Hawkes designed, depicts an emotional journey from confusion and overwhelm to a serene locale. Seats made of sculptured oak provide a place to converse, listen, or ponder conversations.
More plants are being sent to other Samaritans branches, and some of the garden will be permanently installed at the Truro Samaritans.
Catherine eventually joined architect Tom Massey in the garden of the Royal Entomological Society, where students from Glenbrook Primary School in Brixton and St. Mary’s Church of England Primary School in Islington were identifying insects that had entered through the permeable modules in the wall.
The Princess informed the young guests that bees had already begun to colonize the area after only three weeks.
However, the kids were just as eager to have a memento from their VIP meeting and requested that Catherine sign their drawings.
She informed them, “I can draw, but I can’t write my name.” She drew a flower for seven-year-old Ruby Mann, a tree for another girl, and a pond with greenery surrounding it for a third child.
When asked again what her name was, she replied, “Catherine. I’m not allowed to sign in writing; it’s just against the rules.
“My kids like palm trees,” she attempted to draw for the kids, adding that her drawing looked more like Holly.
It’s wonderful that the children are here, she said, addressing Glenbrook’s headteacher Jane Scarsbrook. When [her 2019 garden] was built, kids were not permitted on the property.
It really inspires their creativity, I think. They learn in a unique way there, and it’s a total haven for them.
She then joined a group of kids at the garden’s pond, where eight-year-old Solyana Dane collected some tree pollen from the Princess’s hair and received praise.
After the event, 11-year-old Saron Fikremariam stated: “I asked her what’s the first thing she is going to do when she becomes Queen and she said she is going to help kids.”
Solyana enquired about the Princess’ enjoyment of gardening. She said, “She said she does and it’s her calm place.
Jane, the headmistress, remarked that the Princess “was really engaging. She expressed how wonderful it was that the kids were being invited for the first time; she was very pleased about that.
Cameron Vale School, Alec Reed Academy, St. George’s Church of England Primary School, St. Augustine’s Church of England Primary School, Falconbrook Primary School, Christ Church CofE Primary School, Glenbrook Primary School, St. Mary’s CofE Primary School, St. George’s Church of England Primary School, and Laycock Primary School were among the schools sending students to the picnic.
With the picnic, Catherine hopes to spread her years-long passion for gardening and the outdoors among more young people.
In order to emphasize the value of outdoor time for a child’s development, she launched her RHS Back to Nature gardens in 2019 at Chelsea and the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show in partnership with the landscape architects Davies White.
Later, at RHS Garden Wisley, she inaugurated a permanent Back to Nature play area.
Children can develop their independence, self-confidence, and interpersonal skills while playing outside, all of which help to shape their adult lives.
In the Great Pavilion of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show this year, there are 12 show gardens and more than 70 nurseries.