Emma Cooper meets the Duke of Edinburgh

I met the Duke of Edinburgh a few years ago. Shame I was stuck in front of a computer at the time, and not somewhere more exciting like the Chelsea Flower Show. Meeting human royalty might be a rare occurrence for most people, but you can surround yourself with royal plants and get that regal feeling every time you step into the garden. To illustrate my point, let me share with you an old joke….

‘Once upon a time there was a family of very well-bred Jersey Royal potatoes, with three daughters of marriageable age. The father sent each of his daughters out in turn to find herself a suitable husband….

The eldest daughter was gone for a number of weeks, and came home to happily announce her engagement to a Kind Edward. Her father was thrilled.

The second daughter then went on the hunt, and several weeks later was fêted grandly when she brought home the Duke of York.

The youngest daughter was gone for a matter of days, having already chosen her beau. But there was trouble when she brought him home to receive her father’s approval, as she had decided to marry John Innverdale*.

“You can’t marry him!”, her father yelled. “He’s a common tater!”‘

So you can certainly grow your own royalty in the potato patch – there’s also British Queen, and Caesar if you’re feeling a bit more historical. There’s also a variety of papyrus called Cyperus papyrus King Tut, which is another useful plant.

Good King Henry Flower
Good King Henry, in flower

There’s more coinage in the ornamental side of the garden, though, with roses particularly well-favoured with royal names. Prince William has a red hybrid tea rose called ‘Royal William’; his mum had several pink roses named after her, including the ‘Princess Diana Rose’. There’s also a pink floribunda ‘Queen Elizabeth’ and a salmon pink ‘Duchess of Cornwall’ rose. William and Catherine had a shrub rose named after them in time for the Chelsea flower show in 2011; they also have a sweet pea.

Diana, Princess of Wales, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge also share the honour of having had orchid varieties named after them in Singapore, although sadly Diana died before she was able to visit her namesake.

King stropharia
King stropharia mushrooms

If you have a favourite royal, then the chances are you can find a plant for your garden that has been named after them. There’s regal alstromerias, clematis, delphiniums, lobelia, narcissus and rhododendrons. What do you think will be the first species named to celebrate the birth of Baby Cambridge?

Crown Prince squash
‘Crown Prince’ squash

Which royal figures are you hob-knobbing with in your garden, or down on the allotment?

*I used to love telling this joke when I was a kid, but back then Des Lynam played the starring role. I have updated it to feature John Innverdale as he’s not quite as ancient and also because – following his sexist comments about the female Wimbledon champion – he certainly deserves to be someone’s punchline. If you don’t find this joke funny, it might be because you need to brush up on your British Potato Varieties. Or possibly you’re just not familiar with British sports commentators.