The iconic Chelsea Flower show is a wonderful day out. Hosted by the Royal Horticultural Society, it attracts in excess of 157,000 visitors annually. Breathtaking gardens and floral displays, rare and exotic plants, artwork, sculpture and garden features are displayed in a dizzying array of colour and light, all against the backdrop of the iconic Royal Hospital, Chelsea. Garden designers and florists compete for the coveted Chelsea Flower Show awards, and corporations sponsor designers and gardens to create publicity. Charities use their gardens as an opportunity to increase public awareness of their causes. Chelsea also celebrated special occasions, like The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee last year.
Royalty has a long association with Chelsea. The Queen herself attends on the first day every year, a day when Chelsea is open only to invited guests and the press. Other members of the Royal family often attend throughout the show, sometimes to witness the unveiling of a rose, orchid or exotic plant named in their honour. Prince Charles had a beautiful garden Healing Garden designed at Chelsea in 2002, and this year Prince Harry asked the same landscape designer, Jinny Blom, to design a garden in memory of his late mother, Princess Diana. The ‘Forget Me Not’ garden’s purpose is to raise public awareness of Sentebale, Prince Harry’s charity in aid of disadvantaged and orphaned children, many of whom have HIV, in Lesotho, Africa. Tickets for this year’s show sold out in record time when Prince Harry’s garden was announced.
Whether you love gardens or flower arranging, there’s so much to see here. Past exhibits include floral fashion, The Diamond Jubilee and iconic gardens.
As one of the highlights of the iconic London ‘season’, The Chelsea Flower Show is not surprisingly a great place to people watch. Famous faces are tucked in amongst the crowd and you are constantly stumbling across well-known television presenters hard at work. The glitterati teeter along is high fashion and heels. Shepherded on private tours by garden designers, they appear behind the ropes in the beautiful gardens, clutching glasses of champagne and admiring the view. Seasoned veterans of Chelsea are dressed for comfort in light layers (perhaps a summer dress and a light sweater or shawl, or linen trousers, blouse and a jacket) and flat shoes.
Chelsea offers something for everyone, from garden inspiration to shopping, as well as fine dining and a change to relax with a glass of champagne in the (hopefully!) sunshine.
The Chelsea Flower Show runs from May 21st to 25th in the grounds of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, London. While it may be too late to obtain tickets for this year’s show, you can follow all the coverage on the RHS website and on BBC Television. This year there’s even a free iPhone App available to keep you up to date.