Alan Titchmarsh delighted when Queen Elizabeth praised his onions

Alan Titchmarsh has shared some memories of the late Queen Elizabeth credit:Bang Showbiz
Alan Titchmarsh has shared some memories of the late Queen Elizabeth credit:Bang Showbiz

Alan Titchmarsh was delighted when the late Queen Elizabeth praised his onions.

The 73-year-old gardening expert met the monarch - who died on 8 September aged 96 - numerous times over the years, with their first encounter coming at the Chelsea Flower show in 1985, and Alan was thrilled when what he thought was criticism from the queen turned out to be a compliment.

He recalled: "I had designed a country kitchen garden for Woman’s Own magazine. Laid out in a simple chequer-board pattern, it comprised a miniature orchard carpeted with wild flowers, beds of roses intermingled with hardy perennials and a vegetable patch divided by a narrow, gently gurgling rill fed by a village pump.

"Queen Elizabeth was ushered towards me and for the first time I felt the radiant warmth of that famous smile. Out came the hand. I shook it and indicated my modest plot; explaining that it was the sort of cottage garden that could be fitted in the tiniest space. She nodded, then turned to me and remarked, 'Your onions are very small.'

"Before I had a chance to articulate some kind of excuse for my apparent lack of growing skills she continued, 'I like them small. When they’re big they taste of nothing at all.'

"I remember little else from that sunny May day – meetings with the late Queen were frequently accompanied by a degree of amnesia, compounded by excitement and disbelief – but the following morning, when the card showing a Gold Medal appeared on the garden, my joy knew no bounds.

"I had a Royal Horticultural Society Gold Medal and Queen Elizabeth had visited a garden I had designed and planted."

In 2003, Alan wrote 'Royal Gardeners: The History of Britain's Royal Gardens', and after sending the queen a copy, received a letter from her husband, the late Prince Philip.

While the Duke of Edinburgh was a fan of the tome, he also admonished the author for snubbing his own work in the grounds of the Windsor Estate.

Alan told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper: "I sent a copy to the late queen. I felt it would have been rude not to.

"A week or so later I received a closely typed letter taking up two sides of a sheet of A4 headed writing paper. It was from Prince Philip. He thanked me for sending the book to Her Majesty, which he said he 'very much enjoyed', and went on – at some length – to tell me what I had left out: mainly his own contributions to the planting of avenues of trees at Windsor, along with the redesigning of the east terrace and its fountain and the provision of a 'sitting-out' garden. "