Dame Judi Dench places first Sycamore Gap seedling in Chelsea Flower Show garden

20 May 2024, 15:51

Dame Judi Dench has placed the first seedling from the Sycamore Gap in the National Trust's Chelsea Flower Show garden
Dame Judi Dench has placed the first seedling from the Sycamore Gap in the National Trust's Chelsea Flower Show garden. Picture: Alamy

By Christian Oliver

Dame Judi Dench has placed the first seedling from the Sycamore Gap in the National Trust's Chelsea Flower Show garden - eight months after the parent tree was illegally felled.

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The legendary actress, known best for her Shakespearian stage performances and as M in the James Bond films, was presented with the seedling by schoolgirl Charlotte Crowe, 7.

Charlotte, from a Northumberland school local to the Sycamore Gap, won a competition where pupils were invited to draw a picture and write a short poem about the iconic tree.

The actress, 89, said she had named the seedling Antoninus - after the adopted son of Roman Emperor Hadrian, whose reign saw the erection of the wall, baring his name, across Roman Britain where the tree once grew.

It comes eight months after the tree was felled during the night on September 28 last year. Two men were subsequently arrested.

Dame Judi Dench and Charlotte Crowe attend the Octavia Hill Garden by Blue Diamond with the National Trust
Dame Judi Dench and Charlotte Crowe attend the Octavia Hill Garden by Blue Diamond with the National Trust. Picture: Alamy
Dame Mary Berry and Chelsea Pensioners on The National Garden Scheme Stand
Dame Mary Berry and Chelsea Pensioners on The National Garden Scheme Stand. Picture: Alamy

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Dame Judi - one of Britain's most celebrated performers - has been vocal about her love for trees, even making a BBC documentary in 2018 entitled My Passion for Trees.

She previously revealed that she plants a tree everytime a friend of hers dies.

Andrew Jasper, the Director of Gardens and Parklands at the National Trust, said: “Placing the Sycamore Gap seedling within the garden at Chelsea reflects the National Trust’s important role in preserving both our nation’s heritage and our shared horticultural heritage through plant conservation.

“We hope that those who visit the garden at Chelsea this week will feel that beneficial connection to the natural heritage that we care for and also take inspiration from seeing the seedling - when we first saw the seedlings germinate, we knew there was hope for the tree’s future.”

The selling will return to the National Trust plant conservation centre at the end of the garden festival. It will continue to be cared for by expert growers before a decision is made as to where it should be permanently planted.

Daniel Graham, 38, and Adam Carruthers, 31, have been charged with criminal damage to the tree and to Hadrian's Wall.

Graham, of Carlisle, entered pleas of not guilty to both charges while Mr Carruthers, of Wigton, Cumbria, entered no plea.

Joanna Lumley during the press day of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, at the Royal Hospital Chelsea
Joanna Lumley during the press day of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, at the Royal Hospital Chelsea. Picture: Alamy
Dame Joanna Lumley, Marcus Wareing and Dame Prue Leith attend the RHS Chelsea Flower Show
Dame Joanna Lumley, Marcus Wareing and Dame Prue Leith attend the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Picture: Alamy

Also at the Flower Show, Dame Mary Berry and Bridgerton stars were among the celebrities photographed viewing the garden.

The former Great British Bake Off judge, 89, was photographed in the Bridgerton garden, joined by Hannah Dodd, who plays Francesca Bridgerton in the series, and Ruth Gemmell who portrays her mother, Lady Violet.

The garden is inspired by Penelope Featherington, played by Derry Girls star Nicola Coughlan, whose love story is one of the main focal points in the romance series' latest season.

Dame Mary also visited the National Garden Scheme garden, joined by the Chelsea Pensioners, who are retired soldiers of the British Army.

The pensioners are based at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, where the annual flower show takes place.

The TV chef is the president of the scheme, which gives people access to over 3,500 private gardens in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

She was pictured in the garden wearing a pink, green and blue dress alongside gardener and broadcaster Alan Titchmarsh - another supporter of the scheme.

Elsewhere Dame Joanna Lumley was seen in a stylish blue hat, joined by The Great British Bake Off judge Dame Prue Leith and celebrity chef Marcus Wareing.

Other celebrity attendees included TV presenter Nick Knowles and his fiancee Katie Dadzie, Good Morning Britain's Charlotte Hawkins, sports presenter Gabby Logan, Britain's Got Talent judge Bruno Tonioli and Wicked Little Letters star Joanna Scanlan.

The world famous show opens to the public on Tuesday.

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