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Gallows humour from the Queen as she is warned of plant's poisonous properties

Published 23/05/2016

The poppies exhibit at the Chelsea Flower Show
The poppies exhibit at the Chelsea Flower Show
Rupert Murdoch and his wife Jerry Hall ahead of the Chelsea Flower Show
Chelsea Pensioner Dewi Treharne pushes a lawnmower on one of the lawns of the World Vision Garden
Ainsley Harriot and Channel 5 News presenter Dani Sinha appearing at the Barbados Tourism Marketing stand
Isla Cheyne, four, throws rose petals at Rosamund Pike
A flower named Rossano Charlotte in honour of Princess Charlotte on display at the National Chrysanthemum Society exhibit
Dame Judi Dench, during a press day ahead of the Chelsea Flower Show at the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London.
Sarah Harding has a look through a peephole of The Marble and Granite Centre - Antithesis of Sarcophagi exhibit - a garden set inside a giant granite cube
Richard E Grant during a press day ahead of the Chelsea Flower Show at the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London.

The Queen has revealed the darker side to her sense of humour by joking about being killed off - by a highly poisonous plant.

The monarch's quip came as she was joined by her family at this year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show - an annual royal tradition that this year has seen security increased in the wake of terror attacks in Brussels and Paris.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were making their first visit to the world famous horticultural show and they were joined by Prince Harry whose charity Sentebale entered a show garden last year.

The Duke of Edinburgh, who visits the world famous show regularly, walked around without the Queen and with a minimal entourage stopping to look at gardens and stands that took his interest.

Other guests included the Duke of York and his daughters Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, the Earl and Countess of Wessex and minor royals.

As the Queen toured the famous show herb gardener Jekka McVicar told her how the flowering plant, lily of the valley, used to be used as a poison.

Ms McVicar, designer of the St John's Hospice garden at the show, said she told the Queen: "It has the same properties as digitalis."

She added: "She said, 'I've been given two bunches this week. Perhaps they want me dead'."

The designer gave the Queen a bunch of herbs to smell, including lemon verbena.

"She said it was lovely," she said.

One of the highlights of her tour came when the monarch was photographed behind a cut-out of her own head, filled with flowers.

The striking image, filled with hydrangeas, sweet peas, alliums, freesias, roses and other flowers, was created by floral designer Ming Veevers Carter for the New Covent Garden Flower Market.

Ms Veevers Carter, 56, questioned the Queen about her creation which celebrated the blooms sourced from the famous market: "I said, 'Did you like it?' She said, 'Yes, it's very nice'. I said 'Thank you' because we did it specially in honour of her.

"I was a bit worried, in case she said, 'What the hell were you thinking of?'"

She added: "She said, 'The most difficult part was probably the cut-out.' I said, 'Yes, it was probably the trickiest'."

The first stop for William, Kate and Harry was the National Chrysanthemum Society where they spoke to Alison and John Peace who were displaying the new pink and green Rossano Charlotte, named after their daughter Princess Charlotte.

It is being sold for the first two years through Waitrose with half the profits going towards EACH - East Anglian Children's Hospice - of which Kate is patron.

William asked where they were available and joked: "You could always steal one off the exhibit", and Kate replied: "Waitrose are selling them."

The Cambridges were in a light hearted mood and the Duke asked the couple from the Chrysanthemum Society: "Can you spell Chrysanthemum? I can't even say it."

The Duchess asked: "Do you have a favourite? You don't have to be biased."

Pointing at the Rossano Charlotte in the centre of the display, Harry joked: "What about the one that's in the middle."

The Duke made light of his lack of horticultural knowledge, asking the couple: "Without being too technical, because I probably won't understand what you are saying, did you cross pollinate to create it?"

Responding to an incredulous look from his brother, William joked: "Alan Titchmarsh taught me a thing or two."

"Thank you, it means so much to them," said Kate, in an emerald green Catherine Walker dress and LK Bennett nude heels.

Later the Queen even stopped off for a little peek at the flower named after her adored great-granddaughter.

The young royals stopped off at Peter Beale Roses, where they walked through an exquisitely-scented bower of blooms, and then onto an intriguing garden named Antithesis of Sarcophagi, which consisted of a granite box with a hidden woodland inside.

The 44 tonne granite cube contains a woodland that is only visible through narrow slits placed at different heights in the side.

The three royals stood gazing in before chatting to designers Martin Cook and Gary Breeze, who carved the lettering on the memorial to Diana, Princess of Wales at Althorp.

Mr Breeze said: "They loved it (the garden). William asked if I had carved the memorial at Althorp. He was well aware of that."

At the 5,000 poppies exhibit, which actually comprises 300,000 hand-crocheted poppies, William, Kate and Harry surveyed the extraordinary carpet of flowers made by 50,000 people and looked deeply moved.

The project began as a project by friends Lynn Berry and Margaret Knight, from Melbourne, Australia, to crochet 120 poppies to "plant" at a memorial in honour of their fathers, who both fought in the Second World War.

But the project went viral on the internet and people from all over the world started sending poppies to them.

Kate knelt down alongside Ms Berry, for whom this has been a three-year labour of love, for a closer look, telling her: "I love the fluffy ones." and she replied: "They're made of felt."

Fellow designer Ms Knight said she had "jelly legs" after the royal visit, adding: "Everyone is gobsmacked (by the garden), it's stunning. This sort of thing is very close to their hearts, they were very intrigued by it."

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