Gardener’s World host Rachel de Thame reveals she has cancer

‘I haven’t been hiding, I have breast cancer’: Gardener’s World host Rachel de Thame stuns viewers by revealing on live TV why she hasn’t been at the Chelsea Flower Show

  • Rachel de Thame, 56, revealed her battle with killer disease started this year
  • Green-fingered ex-model by viewers wondering where she had been in 2018
  • She told BBC: ‘I’m doing well. It’s caught early so that’s all very positive’
  • Self-named ‘earth mother’ was once banned from breastfeeding at Chelsea

A star of Gardener’s World today explained why she hasn’t appeared in the current series and said: ‘I haven’t been hiding, I have breast cancer’

Former model Rachel de Thame, 56, has revealed her battle with the killer disease started earlier this year as she was interviewed during the BBC’s live coverage of the Chelsea Flower Show last night.

The mother-of-four, who has varieties of roses, dahlias and lupins named after her, spoke out after Gardener’s World viewers demanded to know where she was – and reassured them doctors found the cancer early.

Interviewed at Chelsea yesterday she said: ‘I haven’t been hiding, but I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the beginning of the year and so I have been undergoing treatment for that. 

‘[I’m] doing well and coming towards the end of it. It’s caught early so that’s all very positive, so on the whole it’s better not to be working too much just now’. 

Rachel de Thame, 56, has revealed she is battling breast cancer after vanishing from our screens this year


Ms de Thame (pictured with husband Gerard) has revealed her battle with the killer disease and she was praised by friend and co-host Monty Don (right who called her story a ‘message of hope’

Rachel said later she was overwhelmed by the messages of goodwill from fans wondering where she had been

Ms de Thame says she spoke out because he passion for gardening has helped her fight – and mental wellbeing

Speaking to Joe Swift she said: ‘I think your initial instinct is to sort of hide away and pretend nothing’s going on and pretend it doesn’t affect anything, but actually the longer that it’s gone on the more I felt that what you really want is for something positive to come out of it.

She added: I have been literally been clinging on to the things I love – my friends, my family and my garden.’

Ms de Thame says she spoke out because he passion for gardening has helped her fight – and mental wellbeing.

She said: ‘I know there’s a big message this year at Chelsea about the importance of gardening for your general health and mental health…if you’re going through some chronic illness, whatever it is… it’s vital to go out and be in a garden’.

She said planting and pruning had helped her ‘normalise’ her cancer and said: ‘I just want to be out there and doing it’.

After the interview host Monty Don said while his friend had been missing from Gardener’s World she had been desperate to get to Chelsea.

He said: ‘Anybody who knows Rachel would knows that wild horses wouldn’t have kept her from Chelsea this year’.

After her appearance, viewers praised her courage and she said on Twitter: ‘I’m overwhelmed by the lovely messages following tonight’s RHSChelsea coverage Thank you so much, it means a great deal to me.’ 


Ms de Thame (pictured) is a twice married former model who became a star gardener without formal training and describes herself as an earth mother

Rachel de Thame with the new ‘Rachel rose” named after her – she also has dahlias and lupins named after her

Ms de Thame is a popular and at times controversial member of the Gardener’s World team. 

Ms de Thame is a popular and at times controversial member of the Gardener’s World team for around ten years

She had dreamed of being a ballet dancer but illness scuppered her professional career.

Rachel then became a model and actress before discovering her love of gardening having taken a two year course.

In 2009 she came to prominence – and upset the horticultural world on her Chelsea Flower Show debut – by claiming professional training is no substitute for ‘a good eye’. 

In 2015 Thame has told how she was banned from breastfeeding at the Chelsea Flower Show.

The gardening star, 53, whose children are aged 12 to 29, told the Radio Times: ‘I’m an earth mother. I liked being pregnant and giving birth and breastfeeding. Up until that point, the job I was doing was working really well with juggling the kids, but not then.’ 


Rachel met Kate Middleton when she helped with greenery on the Royal Barge ‘Spirit of Chartwell’ during the Diamond Jubilee and has also met the Queen (together right) at Windsor Castle

In 2009 she came to prominence – and upset the horticultural world on her Chelsea Flower Show debut for LK Bennett (pictured) – by claiming professional training is no substitute for ‘a good eye’

Ms de Thame married her first husband, Stephen Colover, in June 1986 and had two children together, Lauren and Joe. 

The couple divorced in around 1993 and she then met advertising director Gerard de Thame, one of the biggest names in commercial filmmaking.

They have two children, Emma and Olivia, and split their time between West London and the Cotswolds.

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