The world’s greatest gardening event, the Chelsea Flower Show, also known as “the Great Spring Show,” opened this week and runs until Saturday 27 May. King Charles, Queen Camilla, the Princess of Wales, Dame Judi Dench, Helena Bonham Carter, Dominic West and Matthew Macfadyen are just a few of the many well known visitors.
Showcasing world class gardens, glorious floristry and even educational exhibits, the Royal Horticultural Society’s show has been held on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, every May since 1913. The floral extravaganza attracts around 168,000 local and overseas visitors who not only enjoy the lovely gardens but receive valuable gardening advice from RHS advisors during the show, a benefit normally reserved for RHS members.
You could easily spend hours at the show as there’s plenty to see, plus there are numerous options for drinks, lunch, afternoon tea and even special limited edition macarons from French patisserie Ladurée. Here are a few of the highlights, if you manage to obtain tickets to one of London’s most popular annual events.
Exhibits featuring the late Queen Elizabeth II
This year’s show commemorates the life of the late Queen, who rarely missed her annual visit to RHS Chelsea during her 70-year reign. Enclosed by hedging to create a space for contemplation, designer Dave Green’s “A Garden of Royal Reflection and Celebration” features a range of pastel colored plants in light pinks and whites such as rose “Olivia Austin” and silver birch to reflect the late monarch’s tastes. And in the Great Pavilion, Agrumi Topiary Art have created a topiary display depicting “Emma,” the fell pony who stood to attention along the drive of Windsor castle to pay her respects as the Queen’s cortege passed on the day of the funeral.
Flowers for the new King and Queen
Blues, purples and pinks such as magnolia “Heaven Scent,” clematis “The Duchess of Cornwall,” lupins and geraniums, represent the King’s preferences according to Sandringham’s Head Gardener, Jack Lingfield.
Other themes at the show include edible plants, a popular choice for designers this year. The School Food Matters Garden features 80 per cent edible plants while the Savills Garden showcases plot-to-plate recipes.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) was founded in 1804 and is the UK’s largest gardening charity. The RHS vision is to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place via its inspirational gardens and shows, science research and advisory, extensive library collections and far-reaching education and community programs. Several of the twelve prize-winning show gardens this year represented charities. The National Brain Appeal’s Rare Space Garden, designed by Charlie Hawkes was sponsored by The National Brain Appeal and Project Giving Back. The space of contrasting materials has a simple layout that offers a balance between exploration and calm navigation. Central to this is a level path which turns through the garden, offering along its way three seating areas with visually contrasting shelters of various colours to promote independent wayfinding. Soothing water features, positioned next to each of the seating areas, also enhances the restful environment.
The Samaritans’ Listening Garden by award-winning garden designer and Samaritans volunteer Darren Hawkes celebrates the charity’s 70 years of supporting people struggling to cope. The garden shows that while the path to hope can seem full of obstacles, there is support out there and it is always possible for things to change.
Myeloma UK — A Life Worth Living Garden was designed by awarding winning gardener Chris Beardshaw, who drew his inspiration from conversations with people in the myeloma community. The ingenious use of a circuitous path weaving its way through the garden encourages those living with myeloma to pause, simply feel and be in the moment.
Attractive Weeds for Gardens
Naturalistic planting returns as a horticultural theme, with nettles, red campion, daisies and bindweed featuring in the Royal Entomological Society Garden and thistles and brambles in the Fauna & Flora Garden. Dandelions, brambles: weeds are all here this year, into the spectacular gardens that are more than ever concerned about biodiversity and sustainable development.
Afternoon Tea and Champagne
A corner of Ranelagh Gardens is dressed to replicate the world-famous hotel The Dorchester serving a floral inspired champagne afternoon tea. Culinary highlights included a selection of finger sandwiches, warm scones with jam and clotted cream, a selection of pastries and a choice of tea accompanied by a glass of Pommery Champagne.
The Chelsea Flower Show, London Gate, Royal Hospital Road, Royal Hospital Chelsea, London, SW3 4SR Tickets are from £68/£57 for RHS members