THOUSANDS of gardening enthusiasts flocked to Tatton Park in Cheshire yesterday for the launch of the Royal Horticultural Show.
The show, which runs until Sunday, was opened to 17,000 RHS members and special guests prior to its public opening today.
The highlight was the launch of the Central Plaza, reflecting the region's cool image, opened by Eric Robson, renowned presenter of the BBC's Gardener's Question Time, and former actress Karen Drury, who played Brookside temptress Susannah Farnham.
Also there were gardening experts Monty Don and Diarmuid Gavin, Neil and Christine Hamilton and Ken Barlow from Coronation Street.
Fashion guru Wayne Hemingway and TV presenter Charlie Dimmock are expected to attend later in the week.
The plaza, designed by The Landscape Design Group, Salford City Council, is an area where visitors can reflect on the cool image of the region.
With five entrances from Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Man-chester, Lancashire and Merseyside, the garden showcases the North West's strong regional identity.
The region's famous waterway network is also portrayed via the continuous water feature flowing through the plaza.
Tatton show manager Max de Soissons said: "It has been a difficult choice this year. Overall, we are very impressed with the standard of entries and it's particularly encouraging to see so many newcomers to the show."
Several local exhibitors were among the winners of yesterday's awards.
Best in show garden went to Cancer Research UK designed by Stockport's Mary Holt. Its theme is music in the garden and will feature top quality musical quartets from the Halle Orchestra for the show's duration.
The Garden Designers of Cheshire won best back-to-back garden.
Sara Lynch, an amateur gardener from Wirral who won a competition to design a show garden for the Anthony Nolan Trust, won a silver award for her show garden entitled the Owl and the Pussy Cats.
And Ormskirk garden and landscape designer Peter Tinsley, who won a gold medal in the best show garden awards last year, followed up with a silver gilt medal.
Vale Royal Borough Council was one of five local authorities to receive a gold medal in the national flowerbed competition and took the overall title.
Tickets available on the day priced £18, £13 for RHS members and £5 for children 5-15. Show opens 10am-7pm (Sunday 5pm).