The RHS Chelsea Flower Show



United Kingdom




5 Days

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show

This is the place where you can see world trends and creations of the famous garden architects from many countries; one was co-designed by Duchess Kate. The show featured also romantic garden houses, adorable greenhouses and blue-eyed dragon; but gnomes were strictly banned

RHS Chelsea Flower show is smaller than the Hampton Court Flower Show, but much more prestigious. For gardening lovers, it is the most important spring event, with nearly 160,000 visitors attending every year. Among them is almost always Queen (she missed only two years), many people from high society and celebrities.

It was first held in 1862 as the Great Spring Show; under one single tent in Kensington. Later, its organizer, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), decided to relocate it to central London. In 1912 they managed to secure the grounds of the Royal Hospital of Chelsea; since then it has been held there under its current name.

It was cancelled only during World War II, because the army needed space for an anti-aircraft site; but its gates opened again in 1947. Gradually, the number of guests and exhibitors increased, turnstiles could not handle the onslaught, until it was finally decided to extend the opening hours. However, the first two days are only for RHS members, so it is better to buy tickets in advance.

The exhibition was accompanied by controversies, curiosities and bad weather.

In 1927 there was a campaign to ban foreign exhibitors in order to reduce competition with Brits. RHS wisely refused this by saying that “Horticulture knows nothing of nationality”.

A year later, such a terrible storm came before the opening that the whole area was flooded and damaged. The devoted organizers worked through the night and in the morning the show opened as if nothing had happened. Four years later, it rained so much that a summer house display collapsed completely.

One of the most contradictory gardens in history was Paul Cooper's "Cool and Sexy" work in 1994, where a grille blew jets of air up the skirts of unsuspecting women.

Until 2000, flowers were exhibited under a tent, which entered the Guinness Book of Records as the largest in the world. When they built a new pavilion in 2000, the tent was cut and used for bags, aprons, and jackets.

Garden dwarfs are absolutely banned because they fall into the category of "colorful mythical creatures"; they are associated with the gardens of the unrich, the unfamous and the untasteful; and distract from the exposed plants. Only in 2013, a ban was temporarily lifted -.the RHS gave gnomes to famous people and asked them to decorate them; then auctioned them for charity.

By the way, the Chelsea Flower show has an unwritten dress code. Ladies usually wear lightweight dresses with floral prints; gentlemen jackets and ties. Hats are not recommended as they may block the view. I was amused by the recommendation to complete an outfit with a floral scent . :)

So I ironed my green dress with roses, I poured on myself Dolce & Gabbana Peony perfume and went to the show.

The entrance gate was impressively decorated with flowers. We crossed the gate and then, along with the crowd, rolled down the road lined with stalls with everything possible and impossible; literally from shoes through paintings to a rocking horse. Suddenly the crowd thickened, because the first garden called Back to Nature was designed (in collaboration with renowned architects) by Duchess Kate. It was supposed to be an inspiration for family trips to the forest, where children could climb trees, swing, go boating, pick up wild strawberries or roast sausages over an open fire. Although Kate wasn ́t present, every Briton wanted to have at least a picture of her piece of work.

The Great Pavilion was a dream come true for every gardener, there were many flowers from all over the world. Huge and stunningly fragrant  lilies, lupines of amazing pastel shades, mass of hanging fuchsias, begonias as big as roses, orchids, sweet peas, daffodils, tulips, irises, abundance of clematis, cacti, large white and purple heads of ornamental garlic, peonies, roses on a white fence ... I think it’s better to see the pictures.

The jury gives four awards in five categories (gold, silver-gilt, silver and bronze) and as May marked the 200th anniversary of Queen Victoria's birth, florists also competed for the most beautiful royal floral crown.

There were also stunning demonstration gardens on different topics, one more beautiful than the other: African, ecological, tropical... Famous garden architects from many countries were showing world trends and their latest creations; I bet they inspired many visitors to buy immediately some plants and horticultural-themed products.

The English garden is supposed to look as if it was untouched by human hand. Although its elements (flowers, bushes, trees) look wild and unrestrained, the whole is harmonious and the flowering of the individual species is connected to each other so that it is constantly shining with colors. And so it was; the cultivated varieties were mixed with wild flowers, low plants with tall, something was in bloom and something wasn't. Many nooks looked like they were just being cut out of the meadow... Wow!

There were many stalls out there, and if I had a million pounds in my wallet and a platoon of porters, I would certainly buy up all. I loved the little romantic garden houses, where a bouquet and a bottle of champagne in a bucket of ice stood already on the table ... Mobile sculptures, swings, adorable greenhouses (yes, greenhouses can also be adorable). Fountains of all shapes and sizes; just imagine the fully elaborate shrub whose leaves were raining. It must be a real pleasure to have it under the window and listen to the rain drizzle in the night…  I was also enchanted by cute bronze statues of fairy-tale creatures from Robert James Workshop…

However, perhaps the most admired were the fantastic sculptures of various twisted branches and rods. British-born artist James Doran-Webb, living and working on the Philippine island of Cebu, apparently has an extensive "collection" of driftwood. He uses it to make works that appear to be created by nature itself.

But when I looked at them better, I realized they were holding together thanks to the cleverly hidden nails. People stopped in amazement and gazed at a wooden deer, ostrich, pig, two giraffes - mom with baby in real size, and a giant blue-eyed dragon, perched on a gazebo.

Suddenly I heard the familiar language: "Look, Maria, if we take a good picture of that dragon, I am sure that John will do the same for us for 1000 crowns!”.

Well, Maria, you'll surely save a few thousand crowns, but I have strong doubts that John could make the same dragon :)

On the final day there is the great plant sell-off. At 4 pm the bell rings and exhibitors begin to sell beautiful, high-quality, often award-winning pieces. I read that it is such a fierce fight that the British forget their typical polite ways and push and jump the queue...

I like the London Irregular Choice store on Carnaby Street that sells the craziest shoes you can imagine - with fairy-tale characters, ducks, bows, fruits; and even with heels resembling snow globes filled with liquid - when you shake them, you churn up the shimmering particles… I ́ve looked at them a couple of times but have never bought anything; it's not my style.. This time, maybe influenced by the floral beauty, I didn't resist and took a cute pair with roses - in these I will go to the Chelsea Flower Show next year :)

See also: Chelsea in Bloom, London

If you like this article, you can share it to others, thank you:-)

Share this on

Search Events & Festivals