HM Queen Elizabeth II

1926 – 2022

On the 8th of September 2022, Britain lost its longest reigning Monarch and an era ended. Certain words have been repeated many times in recent days; constant, service, strong, steadfast, dedicated, duty…. The list goes on.

The Love of Nature

Queen Elizabeth II was many things to many people, and she had a vast range of interests, experience, and expertise, however, her love for nature and horticulture were subjects close to her heart. As a child, she declared that she ‘‘wanted to marry a farmer and have lots of cows, horses, and dogs’’. She later revealed that although she was not an expert in gardening, "plants, trees and flowers had been a source of pleasure” throughout her life.

Much of Elizabeth’s early life was spent between her rural homes - Windsor Castle, Balmoral Castle and Sandringham House. During her childhood she lived mostly at the Royal Lodge, the family's home on the grounds of Windsor’s Great Park with lush acres of land and gardens. Her parents developed a woodland garden here and from a young age Elizabeth understood the importance of gardening.

During the second World War Elizabeth and her younger sister supported the war efforts in many ways, one of which was the Dig for Victory Campaign. With increased rationing and restrictions on food, families across the UK were encouraged to dig up their gardens, local parks, and any other green spaces to grow food and keep livestock. At 14, Elizabeth was photographed with a spade and wheelbarrow and the image of the princesses doing their part for the war effort encouraged other families across the country to pitch in and take part.

Later in life, Her Majesty and her late husband, Prince Philip, divided their time between their public gardens ensuring they had places for quiet, private reflection. Prince Philip designed a ‘sitting out’ garden at Windsor, as a place for the family to spend time away from the eyes of the public and of course so that the Queen had a private space to walk the Corgis!

At Sandringham, where much of the garden was created by her parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the space was divided into a series of rooms using yew hedges. The Queen may have inherited all these homes, but she and her husband made the gardens their own, creating spaces they could use and enjoy.

It is said that no one knew the gardens of Buckingham Palace better than Queen Elizabeth herself. Head Gardener, Mark Lane would take her a posy of seasonal flowers every Monday morning when she was in residence. Changes and improvements to the gardens there were the subject of discussions between Her Majesty and a succession of head gardeners as were many of the other gardens in her various residences.

The Queen’s Green Canopy

In 2018, ITV broadcast The Queen’s Green Planet, a film that showed Her Majesty walking informally around the garden at Buckingham Palace with of Sir David Attenborough. They discussed the development of ‘The Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy’, an initiative of forest conservation and tree planting in the 53 countries of the Commonwealth. Sir David talked of ‘her genuine love of nature and her passion for trees of all shapes and sizes’, perhaps not surprising considering how many trees she planted across the world during her reign!

In 2021 The Queen’s Green Canopy was launched, an initiative led by Prince Charles, to plant trees throughout the United Kingdom in celebration of Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022. Following the wishes of the now Patron, His Majesty the King, The Queen’s Green Canopy initiative will be extended to the end of March 2023 to give people the opportunity to plant trees in memoriam to honour Her Majesty.

As part of the recent Platinum Jubilee celebrations Van Hage launched a Social Media competition and offered the prize of a tree, pot and compost. The winner was delighted with their prize and the message it carried!


When Elizabeth was only ten years old, the RHS was delighted to hear that “the little Princess Elizabeth was starting to plant a garden of her own” at the Royal Lodge. To encourage this interest the RHS sent her tickets to Chelsea and Princess Elizabeth became a regular visitor to the show much to the delight of the RHS, the nurseries, designers, and growers!

Her Majesty became the longest serving royal Patron of the RHS starting in 1952 upon the death of her father and attended RHS Chelsea for over 80 years. In total she visited the flower show more than 50 times and had a great understanding of the fashions of the day as well as the latest plants and technological developments.

During the 2009 flower show, The Queen presented HRH Prince Charles with the RHS Victoria Medal of Honour (VMH, the Society’s most prestigious award), a tribute to his deep interest and expertise in horticulture. King Charles III is renowned for his enduring and very active passion for gardens, plants, and the natural world, in which, most will agree, he was years ahead of his time!

During the Covid pandemic in the spring and summer of 2020 and to celebrate RHS National Gardening Week, a video was released of the rhododendrons flowering in the garden at Buckingham Palace. Her Majesty also broadcast a warm message of support for Virtual Chelsea, an online event to replace the live show, and chose lily-of-the-valley as her favourite plant, since it had featured in her Coronation bouquet.

“The Forgotten Pavilion"

Our very own John Van Hage had the privilege of meeting Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II at Chelsea in 1991, creating a treasured memory for the Van Hage family. John won a gold medal and the Sword of Excellence for Best Garden in Show. At only 25, John was the youngest ever to receive this award and still holds this record from the first ever flower show in 1912!

Traditionally gardens during this time at the RHS CFS would have their main features at the back or middle of the garden exhibit but John wanted to break new ground. He decided to boldly place his huge 21 tons of Cotswold stone and brick archways complete with iron gate, right at the front to frame the view of the garden beyond. The Forgotten Pavilion took its name from the point of interest set further back in the display, a bespoke wooden slatted pavilion.

This gothic-style garden included Hostas, astilbes, carex elata ‘Aurea’, Rheum Palmatum Atrosanguineum, Wisteria, Evergreen Oak, Rhododendrons and Silver Birch which created a textured, natural, and shady ambience. The garden also featured a stream that meandered through the garden over smooth boulders and pebbles.

The Language of Plants

Since the 18th century, members of the British royal family have lent their names to flowers and plants, from Queen Victoria, whose eponymous flower is the Queen Victoria Lobelia, through to Queen Elizabeth II's roses. Her Majesty officially selected one rose to mark her Platinum Jubilee, 'the Queen Elizabeth II Rose' which is a stunning new hybrid tea rose bred by Harkness Roses, produced exclusively to commemorate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

Even Her Majesty’s funeral wreath was defined through floriography, and the plants used were carefully chosen for their symbolism. At The King's request, the wreath contained foliage of Rosemary for remembrance, English Oak for the strength of love and Myrtle (cut from a plant grown from a sprig of Myrtle that was used in The Queen's wedding bouquet) to represent a loving marriage. Weeping Birch was also incorporated in the state funeral displays. Garden Roses, Autumnal Hydrangea, Sedum, Dahlias and Scabious, in shades of gold, pink and deep burgundy, with touches of white were cut from the gardens of Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and Highgrove House.

A touching and truly memorable way to say goodbye.