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Living in London means access to some of the world’s most amazing events and the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show is certainly one to add to your must visit list if living in the UK or visiting London in May.
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For gardening enthusiasts the Chelsea Flower Show needs no introduction, however as a mere floral and garden appreciator I was not really sure what to expect. Unfortunately I found their website a little clunky so I thought I’d recap my experience for those interested.
Held in the stunning grounds of the Royal Chelsea Hospital since 1913, the Chelsea Flower Show features the very best of everything to do with British gardening over 5 days each May. You will see show gardens, floral displays, rare and unusual plants, water features and outdoor sculpture. The show also hosts an incredible market selling everything plant and gardening related from seedlings and outdoor settings to wellies and gardening tools.
There are over 150,000 visitors each year and the show is very genteel and British (until the sell off of plants on the last day when apparently it resembles more of a scrum). Champagne and Pimms stalls are found throughout the grounds and it is customary to sip your way around the exhibits. Fabulous.
When all that garden and flower appreciation and shopping becomes a bit taxing there are many lovely cafes and restaurants as well as a stage hosting musical acts to sit, relax and people watch. You will likely spy many of the Chelsea Pensioners in their distinctive uniforms adding a distinctive British flavour to this internationally renowned event.
I was fortunate to visit on a gorgeous sunny day and I am sure that contributed to my enjoyment however if it is raining many of the exhibits are under cover in the Great Pavilion.
Despite the sheer volume of people viewing the exhibits, sometimes five deep, I really felt a sense of tranquility and peace looking at some of the gardens. And even with no technical knowledge it is certainly possible to appreciate the considerable effort and attention to detail required to transport you to gardens from around the world – from the fields of Provence to the highly stylised and manicured gardens of Japan. This was my favourite –Edo no Niwa – Edo Garden by Ishihara Kazuyuki Design Laboratory
I loved the show and London does too. Even as you approach the show grounds the local traders of Sloane Square and Chelsea are in the spirit of spring and decorating their store frontages for the Chelsea in Bloom floral art show – some examples below. Chefs and mixologists across London also create special menus and cocktails inspired by the event – there is a nice roundup of them here. I’m very much looking forward to visiting in 2016.
My top 5 tips for enjoying the show:
1. Do your research and pick the key show gardens you wish to see and visit them first before the crowds become inhibiting. A good starting point would be the list of award winners. This year’s winners list is here.
2. Get there early. This is actually my top London tip as Londoners are not early risers. You can beat most crowds with this strategy.
3. Come prepared for any weather – comfortable shoes, hat, umbrella and cardigan all required
4. If you are shopping come with a list and a budget as it would be very easy to get carried away with all the goodies on offer
5. Be prepared to be mixing with a lot of people and therefore queuing. Your patience is very much required.
Each year the Chelsea Flower Show is sold out well in advance so luckily for me, my lovely friend Rachel had a spare ticket this year. If you are wanting to visit the show in 2016 the dates are 24 – 28 May and tickets go on sale in November/December. You can stay up to date with all the latest news by following the Royal Horticultural Society’s website.