CELEBRITY TV gardeners Monty Don and Charlie Dimmock were the star attractions yesterday as record numbers of flower fanciers poured into the Royal Horticultural Society Flower Show at Tatton Park.
The event, which runs until Sunday, is one of the most competitive but social events in the gardening calendar.
It is estimated that around 25,000 people made the pilgrimage to what has been described as the best festival of flowers in the country.
The 24-acre showground, set in 1,000 acres of leafiest Cheshire, features more than 35 gardens, built from scratch by some of Britain's finest horticultural designers and nurseries.
About 600 exhibitors catering for every kind of garden requirement are complemented by two spectacular floral marquees and a giant plant plaza.
And gardening guru, TV presenter Monty Don, reckons that everyone is enjoying the sweet smell of success.
Between takes in filming for BBC show Gardener's World, he said: "The Tatton flower show is absolutely marvellous. This is day one and look at the number of people here; they can't all be wrong and they help create the wonderful informal atmosphere.
"I firmly believe this is the best show in the British Isles, bar none. It's just the right size, it's refreshingly local and the standard is phenomenal. But it is the friendliest of flower shows around. There's also plenty of space to walk without encountering huge crowd build-ups, so it is perfect for taking your time and enjoying all there is to see. The show contains some of the best in gardening and horticulture."
More than 500 members of staff have spent the past four weeks preparing for the show.
Music is a big feature of the event. As well as a bandstand playing jazz, swing and calypso, the best-in-show entry is based around four musical movements and features a quartet from Manchester's Halle Orchestra.
Other highlights include Sale designer Robert Frier's non-allergy garden, called the Living and Breathing Garden, Janine Crimmins' Chocolate Garden and Reaseheath College's Passport to Paradise. The Heritage Marquee is devoted to education and information and includes work which is connected with heritage, conservation and tourism.
Many of Britain's plant societies and clubs will have displays in the Specialist Societies marquee.
Show manager Max de Soissons said: "Ninety four per cent of our visitors last year said they would return, which proves we're getting the content just right and that it is really a great day out."
* THE RHS Flower show at Tatton Park runs until Sunday with tickets, priced £18, available on the day.
WINNING OWL GARDEN SHOWS THE WAY FOR NEW DESIGNERS
ORGANISERS at Tatton are delighted this year with the influx of new garden designers who qualified for this year's RHS Flower Show.
As many as 15 new faces appeared in the shortlist and those who made the grade include well-known designers who haven't yet been to Tatton, as well as new up-and-comers.
Sarah Lynch, 32, an amateur gardener from Parkgate, Wirral, won a competition to design a show garden for the Anthony Nolan Trust.
Her winning design called the 'Owl and the Pussy Cats' has really been turning heads and captured the imagination of young and old alike.
The lower deck of her garden invites you into a world of make believe - enter the pea-green boat, fly the flag and hoist the sail.
Sarah said: "The garden creates a safe haven suitable for children of all ages to enjoy, including my own two-year-old son."
Wavertree's Ruth Carter, area manager for The Anthony Nolan Trust, pictured right, said they were delighted with the response of public and judges.
"The garden won an unexpected silver medal, but the appeal is obvious. An enduring fairytale with lots of colour and a great theme."
The Trust maintains the UK's largest register of over 330,000 potential volunteer donors.