Chelsea Flower Show

February 8, 2009

This show means more to me than is reasonable for a flower show to mean to a person, but that is not what this post is about…  I am going to be making a number of posts in rapid fire – each giving the facts of what I know to be the biggest and/or best flower shows in the world.  Each post will be filed under exhibitions so if you want to see all of them you can click on that and find the facts.  Why?  Because last Sunday a little discussion around the topic of the current demise of the New England Spring Flower got started but I don’t think finished.  Some of you posted comments but some of you also emailed me, and in the spirit of responding to some of those comments and emails, I thought it would be useful to do a quick study of what other shows are doing.   I think there is a lot more to discuss on this topic…and I hope this will help get things going.

Starting with Chelsea..

When is it? In 2009 it will be held from May 19th – May 23rd.   The first 2 days are always held for RHS members only the last days are open to the public.  Always held in May in London (which is late spring)

Ticketing? Tickets for the first days start to sell out about now (Feb) leading up to the show.  Tickets cost

Day(s) 8am–8pm 3.30–8pm 5.30–8pm
Tue 19 £48 £24 £15.50
Wed 20 £39 £21 £13.50
Thu 21, Fri 22 £32 n/a n/a
Sat 23 * £32 n/a n/a
Day(s) 8am–8pm 3.30–8pm 5.30–8pm
Thu 21, Fri 22 £43 £24 £18.50
Sat 23 * £43 n/a n/a

Children under five, babes in arms, prams and pushchairs are not admitted.

Indoors or outdoors? Facility? The Flower show is held on the grounds of the Royal Hospital in Chelsea (a borough of London) – outside, though large Tents and other temporary structures are are erected and many exhibitors show inside these ‘floral pavilions’.   Not much parking as the hospital is surrounded by city and neighborhoods, but there are buses and tube stations very nearby that bring many visitors. Chelsea is one of the highest rent districts in London, and the Kings road – which is only a few blocks away is one of the most high end shopping streets in London.  Many of these shops ‘participate’ with special window displays and events during the show creating an atmosphere and awareness of the show that extends beyond the show grounds.

Size? –  It is attended by 157,000 visitors each year (a number limited by the capacity of the 11-acre (45,000 m2) grounds) — size has been an issue for Chelsea as it can’t grow, for space reasons.  It can be hard to walk through the intense crowds and being a part of the show as an exhibitor is very competitive (I have applied – got accepted to a point — but then didn’t find enough sponsorship — proof of funding and ability to pull off the garden is part of the application process – I plan to do it one day).

Organizer? Royal Horticultural Society.  The RHS is the UK’s leading gardening charity dedicated to advancing horticulture and promoting good gardening. RHS work includes providing expert advice and information, advancing horticulture, training the next generation of gardeners, helping school children learn about plants, and conducting research into plants, pests and environmental issues affecting gardeners.

History?From Wikipedia:

In 1912, the Temple Show was canceled to make way for the Royal International Horticultural Exhibition. Sir Harry Veitch, the great nurseryman, secured the grounds of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, for this one-off event. It proved such a good site for an exhibition that the Great Spring Show was moved there in 1913, where it has taken place almost every year since.

Despite the First World War, the show was held 1914 – 1916, but was canceled in 1917 and 1918. By the 1920s, the Chelsea Flower Show was back in full swing, the famous Chelsea tea parties were established and Royal visits resumed.

The show was canceled during the Second World War, as the land was required by the War Office for an anti-aircraft site. Some doubt arose as to whether the show would resume in 1947. The majority of exhibitors wanted a postponement, as stocks of plants were low, staff much depleted and fuel for greenhouses was obtainable only with special permits, but Lord Aberconway (then RHS President) and the RHS Council felt strongly that the show should resume as soon as possible. As it turned out, the show went ahead in 1947 and it was a great success.
From 2005 the show was increased from four days to five. The show is extensively covered on television by the BBC. An official DVD of the show is produced on behalf of the RHS by Twofour. Several members of the British Royal Family attend a preview of the show, as part of the royal patronage of the RHS. The area of land devoted to show gardens increased steadily between 1970 and 2000 and the show has become an important venue for watching trends. New plants are often launched at the show and the popularity of older varieties revived under the focus of the horticultural world.

Responses to the show…My own opinion of the show – if I have been there…reviews, blog comments…whatever I can find from peoplewho have actually attended or participated: see my previous posting here

What else would be useful?  As I embark on this little research project let me know if you think some other tidbit of information might be interesting to this discussion.

Some images from past Chelsea shows….
Images from Chelsea flower show 2009
1. 100-0001_IMG, 2. Chelsea Flower Show, 3. Chelsea Flower Show Hats 095, 4. Gold Medal winning vegetable display at the 2005 Chelsea Flower Show, 5. Chelsea Flower Show 2008, 6. Chelsea flowers 2008 #12, 7. Chelsea Flower Show, 8. RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2003, 9. Chelsea Flower Show 2007, 10. The Japanese Moss Garden at the 2007 Chelsea Flower Show, 11. Chelsea Flower Show 2008, 12. Chelsea Flower Show 0508 003, 13. Chelsea flower show 2008 #14, 14. Lupinus polyphyllus hybrids (Leguminosae – Papilionoideae) Chelsea Flower Show 2006, 15. Chelsea Flower Show 0508 001

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  1. This is a great flower show! I went in 2006 and had a wonderful time.

  2. I do know from experience that you can’t just show up and hope to get in. We happened to be staying in a flat just off King’s road for a vacation two years ago.

    The Flower show was going on. I went to the ticket booth and they were sold out and were offering tickets for the next years’ show for what I figured to be about $150 at the time.

    Fortunately, we had this flat we rented, as opposed to a hotel room (saving lots of $$) and we were “home” every night to watch the Chelsea Flower show action every night on TV. That’s right, the English take their gardening so seriously that there is an hour-long TV show about it every night of the flower show. We got the play-by-play of the action-packed gardens every night by Alan Titchmark, with supplemental, live and pre-recorded, reporting by a team of horticulturists and reporters. These English, they don’t mess around when it comes to gardening.

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