It is a spectacle in London like none other – the Chelsea Flower Show. In fact, you will only know that spring has finally come to London after winter when young and old alike begin to flock to Chelsea and celebrate the Great Spring Show, as the Chelsea Spring Show is officially known.
All things considered, in its simplest definition it is a true celebration of all things to do with the art horticulture and gardening – one of the most British of all pastimes after all. But really, it is so much more than that.
Organised by the Royal Horticultural Society, it is first and foremost a great charity event that attracts high profile horticultural contributions from all over the country, and indeed the world, with a competition for various prizes. With lots of celebrity endorsements and a royal stamp of approval as well, it is clear that this is an annual event in the social calendar that is not to be missed. Come rain or come shine.
The tradition of the Chelsea Flower Show – at its current site at the Royal Hospital Chelsea -actually goes back over 100 years now. But the event has been around as a social gathering at various other gardening sites around London before for much longer than that, and is a tradition that dates all the way back to the mid 19th century.
But back to the present, the 2014 Chelsea Flower Show is bound to draw in thousands of visitors this year, who are all going to view the painstaking labour of over 500 exhibitors. No matter how long any of the exhibitors might need to take in order to prepare their garden designs, the Chelsea Flower Show allows 25 days for everything to be set up, even though it only open to the public for merely five days. This year’s show even includes entries from as away as the US, Thailand and South Africa.
Celebrating the memory of the late South African President Nelson Mandela, a delegation from the City of Cape Town is sending this life-sized floral experience from Kirstenbosch Gardens all the way to Chelsea:
Among other interesting display you will also find Birmingham City Council display honouring those, who fought in World War I, in particular the ABF Soldiers’ Charity, as the centenary of the conflict beckons this summer. The city council says that in its design it tried to honour the particular style of combat fought in the war:
“World War I was a static war, waged within a landscape of minefields and across a narrow No Man’s Land between frontline trenches. As a result, battles were fought many times over the same ground, leaving long-lasting scars on those landscapes.”
Another charitable contribution to this year’s exhibition is provided by the Royal National Institution of Blind People (RNIB), which has created a spectacular landscape of changing gardens “to stimulate the mind’s eye through a series of contrasting sensory experiences.”
Billed as a “sensory garden for blind and partially sighted people”, sighted people only need to close their eyes to be on par with the target audience of the installation. This is bound to be one of the hidden gems of this year’s Flower Show.
Another noteworthy exhibit to look for is the Extending Space garden, which hopes to draw attention to Europe’s dwindling pine forests. Inspired by the Swiss Valais region, Europe’s last remaining large pine forest, it brings the plight of the dying pine trees into the heart of London, while incorporating the ideas of rivers and lakes into its ingenious design of expanding spaces as well.
You will find all sorts of refreshments at the event; from picnics and nibbles to full-on champagne luxury lunches, there’s something to suit every taste-bud and budget. But what better excuse is there though to spoil yourself than being surrounded by some of the most beautiful garden displays in the world? You might want to go all-out and enjoy some of the outstanding cuisine offered on the grounds while you can.
Ticketing and pricing for the five-day event varies and can be rather confusing depending on your time of entry and the day. But you can catch a bargain for as low as £22. It helps, of course, to be a member of the Royal Horticultural Society or to come accompanied with one, as prices will drop for members. Your best bet is to shop around on the website until you find your best-suited time and ticket price to come to the Chelsea Flower Show.
If you are planning on arriving on public transport, you can take the London Underground to Sloane Square, from where the grounds are merely a ten minute walk away, and signposts will help to guide you in the right direction. From there you’ll be left to spend hours surrounded by some incredible gardens. What better way is there to celebrate the arrival of spring?