Spring has sprung in London and that means its time for one of the biggest events in the cultural calendar: the Chelsea Flower Show. But what exactly does the event entail, and what makes it such a cherished part of London’s springtime scene? Here is our mini-guide to all the flowery fun.
A Little History
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has been putting on flower shows in London since 1833, but it was only in 1913 that they held their first in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. The location stuck, and today, exactly one century later, the Chelsea Flower Show is one of the most renowned horticultural events anywhere in the world. The five-day festival of flowers welcomes more than 150,000 visitors from across the globe — including at least a few Royals usually — who cram into the 11-acre grounds to discover the new trends in gardening. It’s London Fashion week for phytophiles.
This Year’s Show
Every year the Chelsea Flower Show has new plants, gardens and floral displays from across the United Kingdom and further afield, and this spring brings more than ever. As always, awards will be given out to the best displays in a range of hotly-contested categories, from the “Best City Garden” to the finest “Artisan Garden” (gardens with an artistic use of materials), but for this centenary year, the RHS has thrown a curveball by lifting the ban on garden gnomes. For one year only, these controversial backyard adornments will be permitted in all garden displays — though nobody is sure what effect they might have on judging.
The show is taking place May 21 through 25 (though May 21 and 22 are reserved for RHS members), and tickets are on sale online. The prioritizing of RHS members, and the high demand from the general public, means they are certain to sell out quickly — but don’t worry if you miss out. In the UK, you’ll find the show extensively covered on BBC Television, and a highlights DVD is produced afterward by RHS, so there’s no reason to miss any of the action.
If you’re set on seeing spring in bloom in the British capital, there are also other places to visit. Head to the west of the city for the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew — the world’s largest collection of plants — and the 40-acre Syon Park, landscaped by Capability Brown. Or experience the beauty of one of The Royal Parks, such as the 350-acre Hyde Park with a Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain and the famous Serpentine Lake.
Photos Courtesy of RHS Flower Shows