London is looking particularly pretty right now with both Chelsea in Bloom and RHS Chelsea Flower Show officially kicking off the summer season.
Stretching across Sloane Street, Pavilion Road, Duke of York Square and the King’s Road, Chelsea in Bloom has come into its own this year with the theme ‘Flowers on Film’. Taking inspiration from the characters and storylines that have graced the big screen, famed cinematic awards and the neighbourhood’s silver screen heritage, the streets are dressed with spectacular installations, all made from fresh flowers.
Produced by Cadogan, in association with the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), the annual competition continues to grow each year, with Chelsea’s shops, restaurants and hotels adorning themselves with creative floral installations.
Running from 22-28 May, you’ll come across such sights as the Tiffany store adorned with a huge white necklace made from oversized white flowers, a Mary Poppins made of indigo blue flowers and a floral statue of King Kong making mischief.
Of course, the mutation of spring into summer is best signalled by the start of another RHS event. The iconic RHS Chelsea Flower Show runs at the same time in the same quarter of London, and is sponsored for the second year running by The Newt in Somerset – a working countryside estate, with spectacular gardens, farmland, woodland, cyder orchard and luxury hotel at its heart. A highlight of the horticultural year, and social calendar, RHS Chelsea Flower Show’s skilled gardeners look to inspire with an array of thought-provoking, and spectacular, gardens.
From the inspirational Show Gardens to the colourful displays inside the Great Pavilion, this year themes span from the impacts of the biodiversity crisis to climate change; from the topics of homelessness to mental health. One of the highlights includes ‘A Garden of Royal Reflection & Celebration’, which marks the passing of the late Queen Elizabeth II, as well as the recent coronation of King Charles III, and includes some of their favourite plants and flowers, including the David Austin rose – ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ and the ‘Duchess of Cornwall’ Clemetis.
There are 36 gardens, across four categories, celebrating garden design at its very best. The Centrepoint Garden is one of the most poignant, with a demolished house lying in ruins at its centre. Around it are thriving habitats – with plants and wildflowers growing over a fallen tree and around a pile of rubble. The garden is to celebrate Centrepoint’s work in supporting young people facing homelessness and also features a mural made of 120,000 dots to represent the number of young people homeless in the UK.
As sponsor of RHS Chelsea, The Newt plays a pivotal role at the much-loved event and this year offers a new, immersive experience with a unique ‘Beezantium’, as well as its usual cyder tastings and Somerset hospitality – all drawing inspiration from the West Country working estate.
Hosted by gardeners and beekeepers, the Beezantium submerges visitors into the world of the bee, through a scaled-up beehive surrounded by nectar-rich planting. Designed from the bee’s perspective, the human-sized hive helps visitors understand the important role bees play in our global ecosystem, and why they need our protection. Inside a multi-sensory honeycomb, you can sense what it feels like to be in a real hive: from how a colony shares information to the art of the ‘waggle dance’, from revealing how and why bees create wax to the importance of honey production.
The concept is inspired by the Beezantium exhibit on The Newt’s Somerset estate, which is situated in woodland surrounded by a specially planted apiary and houses a selection of native honeybee colonies in observation hives. At Chelsea, the hive is found at the heart of an apiary garden created by The Newt in Somerset’s head gardener, Stephen Herrington, in collaboration with head beekeeper Paula Carnell. Bringing the buzz of the estate’s gardens to the capital, Stephen has used pollinator-friendly planting to create a feature that is both beautiful and bountiful.
The installation aims to raise awareness of the plight of the humble bee and highlight the work being undertaken at The Newt to support this most critical of species. With decades of widespread chemical use and a shortage of food putting bees at huge risk across the UK, The Newt began its bee conservation programme in 2017.
An estate-wide bee survey at the time revealed two native honeybee colonies and eight species of solitary and bumble bees. Fast forward six years, and today The Newt’s 1,000 acres are home to 20 honeybee colonies, along with 26 species of solitary and bumblebees, all of which play a vital role in The Newt’s wider land management strategy.
Visitors to The Newt in Somerset can take part in a ‘Bee Safari’, which take you on a wild bee chase for live observation, before diving into the honeycomb structures of the Beezantium, where you can peer into a hive to see a colony at work.