Will clematis ‘Prince Charles’ be among coronation flowers?

Erin Schanen

The coronation of King Charles III this Saturday will be full of pomp and circumstance packed with arcane rituals, some of which apparently involve perching the septuagenarian in an old chair over an older rock, if the salient tidbits shared on U.S. news channels are any indication.

But I’ll be watching for flowers. Much is made about the monarchy’s affinity for flowers and great significance is attached to which flowers are chosen to grace the occasion. I suspect the significance is greatly overblown because people love analyzing every detail of such events and flowers don’t carry the risk of controversy like jewels of questionable origin or ermine robes.

Most garden magazines and the British tabloids predict that Delphiniums will feature in the coronation floral displays, primarily because during the Covid-19 online version of the famous Chelsea Flower Show the king tweeted that they “hold pride of place in my botanical affections.” But I have to wonder, did the king just pick the first flower he thought of and now, much like a relative who makes the mistake of complimenting a particular object in mid-December, will live to regret it?

Lily of the valley is a fairly good bet for a flower that will make an appearance, since it was apparently a favorite of Queen Elizabeth II, who carried it in her coronation bouquet. The problem is that lily of the valley is so dainty it gets lost in large flower displays, and since the king is unlikely to be carrying a bouquet (that would give the tabloids something to write about), it seems somewhat impractical.

There are flowers named for the royals that could come into play. I grow Clematis ‘Prince Charles,’ a lovely lavender blue variety. It is slightly overshadowed in my garden by another clematis growing nearby that is considerably more flashy — ‘Princess Diana.’

And, of course, there are roses that might be appropriate, including ‘King Charles Coronation.’ Although there are roses named specifically for almost every other royal, including Anne Boleyn and William and Kate, I can’t find one named for Charles before this.

The flower choices for the coronation will also be an opportunity for the king to show he practices what he preaches. Considered the most environmentally conscious monarch, the king has put an emphasis on sustainable practices and native plants in his home garden, although skeptics point out that he also flies around on a jet-fuel guzzling private plane.

Perhaps the coronation invitation, which featured a British wildflower meadow with plants more likely to be in bloom now, including lily of the valley, cornflowers, bluebells and wild strawberries, is a hint to a less flashy but more environmentally aware approach to floral displays.

No matter what flowers are used, I’m sure we’ll hear all about their significance. But I suspect they might be chosen because the king just likes them.


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