Former nurse recalls 'precious' moment he met Queen after winning Chelsea Flower Show competition

“You remember it for your lifetime”: Competition winner Sean Murray meeting the Queen at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2015. Credit: Family photo

A Northumberland man has recalled the "precious" moment he met the Queen at The Chelsea Flower Show.

Sean Murray, who lives in Ashington, designed gardens as a hobby when he won a competition to create one for the 2015 edition of the annual show.

During the prestigious event he had the chance to chat to the Queen and show her his design.

He said: "It was a lovely experience, and as everybody’s saying now that has met the Queen, you remember it for your lifetime."

The 59-year-old, who now runs his own garden design company, had worked as a nurse for 30 years when he entered the BBC competition.

Mr Murray, from Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, was one of six people chosen from 700 applicants to take part in the television programme The Great Chelsea Garden Challenge.

The Queen at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2015. Credit: Family photo

He said: "To my astonishment, I went on to win that competition and the prize was to build a garden on Main Avenue in Chelsea.

"Main Avenue is the most prestigious part of the flower show. Designers try for years to get on to Main Avenue. 

"As an amateur, for me to go and build a garden on Main Avenue is quite something. It was a large plot and it was right on the triangle, which is a really prominent place."

Mr Murray met the Queen and had the chance to present his garden to her.

He said: "I met most of the royal family, because I didn’t realise that they came in descending order so the most junior royals came first and then finally around 4pm the Queen arrived. 

"They said initially that she wouldn’t stop and talk because she was timed almost by the second as she went round, but she did.

“I don’t think I was nervous because I was just looking at the Queen and thinking, really, she was just like my mother-in-law, who was about the same height and the same age.

"But looking back, I probably was, because I went into overdrive."

His design featured a courtyard front garden, with a driveway.

He added: "I started to explain to her that when you come back from the supermarket with your shopping in the car, you could get your shopping out at that end and carry it to the house across this water rail which had a slate bridge.

“Then I said as you get out of the car all the grass that I’ve planted there will tickle your legs so that’ll be lovely.

“She did laugh but I could see that she was struggling with the whole concept of what a driveway was and what it would be like to go to the supermarket and do your own shopping. 

"She liked the colours. She said she like the the colour palette I’d used, and the stone which she knew had come from Cumbria.

"It was just a few minutes while she was doing a walk around but it was a lovely experience."

Mr Murray has now left nursing and runs his own company Garden Narratives.

Reflecting on the Queen's death, he added: "I just looked back at that moment and thought it was a moment in time for me that was very precious.

"You feel a real connection at the time. You know you’re in their space and you’ve got their attention. It feels very genuine, and that they’re interested and the Queen was very interested in the garden. 

"I can’t really use the word sad because she had a fantastic life, it’s just a bit of emptiness because it's the end of an era."

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