LONDON — Beatlemania erupted at London's Chelsea Flower Show on Monday as Ringo Starr rolled up in a gaudily painted Mini to join George Harrison's widow for the opening of a garden inspired by the "quiet Beatle."
Photographers swarmed around as Starr drove up in the Mini decorated with symbols of the Hindu faith that Harrison embraced.
"Peace and love," Starr said as he kissed Olivia Harrison on each cheek.
Harrison, who died of cancer in 2001, was an avid gardener, and the display at the flower show reflects that interest.
The Chelsea Flower Show is the premier event on Britain's gardening calendar, and Starr and company got a more frenetic welcome than Queen Elizabeth II can expect when she formally opens the event Monday evening.
"He always told me his first garden was his father's vegetable patch," said Olivia Harrison.
She said that as a teenager, Harrison was unhappy at being kicked out of a local park at closing time.
"He always said, 'One day I will have my own garden.'"
The garden's designer, Yvonne Innes, said the 76 species and varieties of flowers were designed to depict Harrison's journey from the material to the spiritual world. Titled "From Life to Life, a Garden for George," the garden is arranged in four tiers linked by a path that is a mosaic of Venetian glass.
A big star in the garden is emblazoned with, "Sun, sun, sun, here it comes," from the cheerful song he composed for The Beatles' "Abbey Road" album, released in 1969.
"I think it's fantastic," Beatles producer Sir George Martin said of the garden. "It's completely George _ it's wonderful."
Olivia Harrison said her husband enjoyed developing the garden on the sprawling grounds of Friar Park, the neo-Gothic mansion near London that he bought in 1970. Harrison was pictured sitting in that garden on the cover his solo album, "All Things Must Pass."
"He never really had a lot of help" with the garden, she said. "It was amateur hour all the time."
"Above all in the garden, no one asks about business," she added. "I think that's why he liked it."
The garden was sponsored by the Material World Foundation, which Harrison established in 1973 with his earnings from the album he released that year, "Living in the Material World." The foundation sponsors art projects.
Starr's wife, Barbara Bach, also turned up for the opening.
The world's most famous flower show, Chelsea is a cross between trade fair, horticultural competition and showbiz ball, with some 600 exhibitors and more than 150,000 expected visitors.
On the Net:
Chelsea Flower Show, http://www.rhs.org.uk/chelsea/2008