Deborah James makes secret trip to Chelsea Flower Show to see rose named after her

Dame Deborah James has visited the Chelsea Flower Show with her husband to see a rose which bears her name

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The 40-year-old podcast host, known as Bowel Babe online after campaigning to raise awareness of bowel cancer, revealed two weeks ago that she was receiving end-of-life care at her family home in Surrey.

She saw the bloom on display during a private tour on Tuesday evening, where she was accompanied by her husband Sebastien Bowen.

Dame Deborah, who was recently honoured with a damehood by Prince William at her home for her “tireless campaigning” efforts, said: “Flowers are a reminder of our future.

"We plant the seed not knowing what we might see grow.

“Being around nature gives us a lift and it is a reminder that life continues to blossom, even in some of the hardest places, and brings a smile to all of our faces, even in the hardest of times – particularly mine.”

Deborah James and Prince William after she was awarded her damehood
Deborah James and Prince William after she was awarded her damehood

A short BBC video shows Dame Deborah arriving to see her rose, saying “this is amazing” and raising a glass of champagne to commemorate the moment.

She revealed on her social media recently that World of Roses and the Harkness Rose Company had named a rose after her.

The presenter of podcast You, Me And The Big C, said of her flower: “Roses are my favourite flowers and I hope this one will brighten the smiles for all!”

She said in an Instagram post that “what breaks my heart and brings me the most beautiful thought, is that this variety will and can now be grown forever”, adding that she hoped one day that her daughter, Eloise, may have the rose as part of her wedding bouquet.

The rose is described as a floribunda which “produces masses of white blooms with a subtle ‘ballet slipper pink’ centre, as Deborah would say!”, the Harkness Rose Company said in the Instagram post announcing it.

Deborah James (left) and Steve Bland with the award for Best Podcast for the show You, Me and the Big C
Deborah James (left) and Steve Bland with the award for Best Podcast for the show You, Me and the Big C

It added: “The rose is repeat flowering from early June to the first frosts, with its blooms set out perfectly against the dark green, glossy foliage.

“This variety is suitable for beds, borders or large patio containers. It is an absolutely superb variety that is easy to grow and will perform well in all gardens.”

The Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) Chelsea Flower Show in London is back in its May slot for the first time since 2019, after being cancelled in 2020 and moved to September for 2021 due to the pandemic.

Dame Deborah has raised more than £6.5million for Cancer Research UK, Bowel Cancer UK and the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity through her Bowel Babe fund on Just Giving.

She set herself an initial target of £250,000 and has received donations from a huge number of supporters, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

During a visit to the Royal Marsden Hospital this week, William spoke about meeting Dame Deborah to award her the damehood, telling Dr Nicos Fotiadis, a consultant interventional radiologist, who treated the cancer activist: “I loved meeting her, she was fantastic.”

Dame Deborah is a former headteacher who was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016 and has kept her Instagram followers, who number more than 800,000, up to date with her treatments.

In an Instagram post the morning after her visit to see her rose, she said: “Thank you to @sophieraworth for being my real life fairy godmother and getting me to @the_rhs Chelsea flower after hours to see my @theharknessrosecompany rose. To celebrate it and to see the gardens. You are incredible. And the whole thing brought a well needed smile to my face.”

Sharing a selection of pictures, she wrote: “A few for the memories. A mix of some pics that have made me smile over the last few days.

“I feel at the moment I’ve got so much to share, to be thankful for but my body just isn’t playing the game! I’m finding it harder and harder to engage and am just resting up a lot between managing side-effects and having lovely random chats with my family.”

She revealed last week that she had completed her second book, How To Live When You Could Be Dead, which will be published on August 18.