For five days in May, the grounds of the Royal Hospital in SW3 become home to the world’s most prestigious flower show, the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show.
Words Morag Turner
The Chelsea Flower Show will transform the site into a stunning display of floral art and landscape architecture. World-renowned designers, plant experts and florists will come together to showcase the very best in cutting-edge garden design. From travel to conservation, the gardens will take inspiration from everything. Over 500 exhibitors will be taking part as visitors flock in their droves to see the huge selection of displays. It’s a perfect opportunity to sip Pimms and mingle with famous faces, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
THE MAIN ATTRACTIONS
The Show Gardens, built from scratch in nineteen days by celebrities and big names in gardening, are the event’s centrepieces. This year, James and Helen Basson, who won gold for two years running, are back. They have chosen Malta as their inspiration and their garden represents a quarry. The couple see this as a chance to explore how to rejuvenate abandoned industrial places.
Other main attractions include Tracy Foster’s ‘Welcome to Yorkshire’ garden. It features ruins, a beach and its very own ‘sea’. Similarly, Lee Bestall’s ‘500 Years of Covent Garden’ depicts the area from Abbey Orchard to the flower market. Meanwhile, the Chengdu ‘Silk Road Garden resembles Chinese embroidery and features an architectural ‘bridge’.
There are always celebrity gardens in the show and this year is no exception. Find Chris Evans at his ‘Taste Garden’, designed by multi RHS Chelsea Gold Medal Winner Jon Wheatley. The allotment-style garden bursts with over fifty kinds of edible flowers, fruits, vegetables and herbs. It is one of the five BBC Radio 2 ‘Feel Good Gardens’ created to celebrate the station’s 50th anniversary. Next, fellow Radio 2 DJ Zoe Ball will present her ‘Listening Garden’. Designed by broadcaster and designer James Alexander Sinclair, the garden features water troughs and steel trays filled with gravel. Thus, as the bass plays underground, patterns emerge on the water’s surface and the gravel dances to the vibrations.
Zoe will join James during the build-up to the event to help with planting. ”I’m absolutely thrilled to be involved in such a delightful project,” she says. “I appreciate time out from busy days by escaping into the garden or the countryside, amongst the flowers and the wildlife, the smells and sounds. So what an absolute treat to work with James on the listening garden.”
Meanwhile, Professor Nigel Dunnett has created the RHS ‘Greening Grey Britain’ Garden. Encapsulating the RHS’s vision to make the UK greener, it celebrates the many benefits of gardens in the smallest areas.
In addition, visitors can chat to the experts in the Pavilion; exhibitors will be displaying almost every plant imaginable. Whether it’s roses and tulips or cacti and shrubs, there is something for everyone. The Discovery Zone features exhibits that aim to be educational and innovative. For example, The Miracle-Grower’s Academy have designed a garden to encourage children and adults to ‘Come to [their] senses!’. Focusing on the five senses, the ‘Teco-therapy’ garden ultimately aims to tackle the sedentary lives of children in the UK.
The garden celebrates the power of plants in creating a sensory overload in the natural environment. This aids in lowering children’s stress levels and improves their wellbeing.
“Leading lights of the horticultural world are pulling out all the stops to make this the best gardening event in the world,” says Nick Mattingley, RHS Director of Shows. “With world-class designers […] and many new trailblazers in horticulture and outstanding specialist nurseries, we’re looking forward to a fabulous show.”
If these stunning gardens inspire you to transform your own patch of earth, head to the show’s shopping stands. You can find everything here: books, plants, sculpture and outdoor furniture. Make sure to pick up tips from the experts on hand and bring a piece of Chelsea home with you.
This year’s show runs from 23rd – 27th May. Tickets cost from £41 for members of the public or you can join the RHS to get a reduced rate.