It is difficult to think of a more British institution than the Chelsea Flower show. It is a beautiful celebration of nature and man’s engagement with it.
Founded by the Royal Horticultural Society in 1882, originally as the “Great Spring Show”, it is now an annual event, running for five days in May and held in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, central London.
Over 150,000 visitors from all over the globe come to marvel at the gardens and flower displays. It is even attended by members of the Royal family and a host of celebrities.
In typically British fashion it is actually quite a low-key affair, with a gentle atmosphere and all the focus on the floral landscape. However, there is a serious competitive side to the show, as gardens are judged by a panel of experts, with four grades of award being presented:- gold, silver-gilt, silver and bronze. This year only six gardens were presented with a gold award, which is fewer than in previous years, so it is an award that has become an even more highly coveted.
The gardens range enormously, from traditional to modern, from urban to avant-garde. One of the favourites from this year’s show is a garden that acts as a memorial to the start of the 1st World War, a hundred years ago this year. The garden’s creator has given it a wonderful back story as her grandfather, who was very dear to her, fought in and survived the brutal Battle of the Sommes, which killed almost half a million soldiers.
The show boasts every kind of flower you could possibly imagine, arranged in immaculately presented displays. Each and every garden or display is testament to unbelievable dedication, hard work and horticultural skills. Keep in mind that not all flowers bloom conveniently in time for the show in mid-May, neither do plants much like being shipped large distances and plonked in a strange environment.
All in all, it is well worth a visit. Book your tickets well in advance as they are incredibly popular, and be prepared for large, bustling, but friendly crowds. It may take a long time to see everything, after all it does cover an 11-acre area. If you don’t get the chance to attend, you can watch it on TV as the BBC cover the whole event, and there is even a DVD available for each year’s show.
Photos by Carolee-Ann Falconer-Barfield