Green-fingered Kate reveals Prince Louis is winning family sunflower competition - and George isn't happy

Rebecca Taylor
Royal Correspondent

The Duchess of Cambridge has revealed she is passing on her love of gardening to her children with a family sunflower growing competition - but not all her kids are happy with how it’s going.

On a visit to a hospice near Norwich, she said Prince Louis’s sunflower was winning, much to the annoyance of her oldest son Prince George.

Kate, 38, who last year had a garden at the Chelsea Flower Show, joined families from East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (Each) to plant a garden at The Nook.

She helped Star Pope-Saunders, 11, her brothers Hudson, eight, and six-year-old Sonny loosen plants, bought at Fakenham Garden Centre during her last visit, and replant them.

As she planted the sunflowers alongside a volunteer gardener, she revealed the family’s competition at home.

She said: “The children are really enjoying growing their sunflowers, Louis’s is winning so George is a little grumpy about that!”

Kate visited The Nook to help plant a new garden. (PA Images)
The duchess wore her hair down and straight, a departure from her usual curls. (PA Images)
Kate wasn't afraid to get her hands dirty during the visit. (PA Images)

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The duchess wore a pink floral dress for the visit, thought to be from Faithfull the brand, which took place on Thursday, and wore her hair down and straight - a change from her usual loose curls.

She also wore gold earrings and a pair of espadrilles. She did not have a face covering on, but as the visit was outside, it’s not required under government regulations.

She gave each child a sunflower seed and encouraged them to grow their own.

The sunflower has been adopted as the emblem of hospice care, with the seeds representing the patients and the petals representing love, care and compassion.

Kate’s visit to the hospice came after she and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, teamed up on a joint video call to representatives from hospices of which they are patrons. It was their first ever joint engagement.

Kate met the Pope-Saunders, who were making their first visit to the Nook. Sonny was diagnosed with a brain tumour after his birthday in February, but the pandemic meant they were unable to visit before.

Kate meeting Liam and Lisa Page and baby Connor during a visit to The Nook. (PA Images)
Kate meeting Sonny Saunders, who gives her a bracelet, and his family, including mother Kelly (right, back to camera) and father Jordan (left, back to camera). (PA Images)
Kate talks with Sonny Saunders (seated left) and his father, Jordan. (PA Images)

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Mum Kelly Pope-Saunders, from Norwich, said after the royal visit: “She said they are having a sunflower-growing competition and Louis is winning, much to George’s annoyance.

“It was so nice to see her – and in such a lovely dress too – getting stuck in.”

Kate earlier told the family: “I’m always so blown away by families like yours, particularly having to go through all of this in lockdown.

“You show such resilience and bravery. You’re such an inspiration to us all.

“More people in the country should meet families like you, there’s a huge amount of change for you all to take on and you have coped fantastically.”

She also met Liam and Lisa Page, and their three-month-old son Connor, who was born with severe brain damage on 5 March.

She told them: “Going through lockdown at the same time, when you can’t see your loved ones, you can’t share with people – there aren’t other families necessarily here that you can share your experience with.”

The Duchess of Cambridge helps to pot plants and herbs in the sensory garden. (PA Images)
The duchess repotted a sunflower she brought in memory of Fraser Delf. (PA Images)
Kate wearing the bracelet given to her by Sonny Saunders. (PA Images)

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Tracy Rennie, Each’s acting chief executive, said Kate wanted to create a patio garden and was asked to use plants with bright colours and smells.

They worked with lavender, bay and rosemary, and also added strawberry plants, herbs, geraniums and hydrangeas, with a lilac colour scheme.

Ms Rennie said: “She was absolutely prepared to get her hands dirty – she didn’t need the gardening gloves we offered her – and even plunged her hands into the earth with that massive engagement ring on!”

The duchess also re-potted a sunflower which she donated to the hospice in memory of Fraser Delf, whose brother and parents she spoke to in the calls with Camilla.

She had promised them she would plant a sunflower in his memory.

Kate at the hospice on Thursday, where she helped plant the garden. (PA Images)
The Duchess of Cambridge with Sonny Saunders (left) and his family, mother Kelly, brother Hudson, father Jordan and sister Star. (PA Images)
The duchess spoke about life at home during the visit too. (PA Images)

Fraser’s brother Stuie told the duchess about his fundraising efforts, as he ran 5k everyday in June, raising more than £16,000 for the hospice which looked after his brother.

In a message to mark Children’s Hospice Week, Kate said: “I’d like to thank the amazing staff for all the work that you do in children’s hospices around the UK.

“The care and the nurture that you provide children and families in the most unimaginable circumstances is just awe inspiring.

“I’d also like to pay tribute to all those families out there who are caring for and looking after a child with a life-limiting illness.

“You do the most extraordinary job and I know it’s particularly hard at the moment so my thoughts go out to you all.”

Read more: Duchess of Cambridge reveals what Cambridge children have been up to during lockdown 

The duchess wore a floral dress thought to be by Faithfull the Brand. (PA Images)
The Duchess of Cambridge talks with a member of the public as she shops for plants and herbs at Fakenham Garden Centre during last week's visit. (PA Images)
The duchess bought the plants for the garden at her last in-person engagement. (PA Images)

At the garden centre visit last week, Kate had also revealed she is missing her family, telling staff: “I’ve yet to see my family as they’re about three hours away in Berkshire, so I haven’t seen them and I miss them.”

Prince William and Kate have been living in Anmer Hall, their Norfolk home, since lockdown began and have been homeschooling their children, Prince George, six, and Princess Charlotte, five. Prince Louis turned two in lockdown, and Charlotte and William have also had birthdays in lockdown.

William and Kate have made a slow return to in-person engagements, but it is likely they will do many virtually as well.