RHS Chelsea Flower Show: Ten Top Facts
The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is probably the biggest event in the horticultural calendar and here at The Real Flower Company preparations are well underway to make sure our blooms are at peak condition for this year’s display. This year we’re celebrating our 20th anniversary and to mark the occasion we’ll be exhibiting in the main hall at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show for the first time
But how much do you know about the history and traditions of this stunning event? Here are ten top facts to help you appreciate why the RSH Chelsea Flower Show matters and the pleasures it brings.
- The RHS Chelsea Flower Show celebrated its centenary in 2013 – but in fact, the Royal Horticultural Society held its first flower show back in 1827, in Chiswick, moving to Kensington Gardens in 1861 and to Temple Gardens in 1888.
- Initially the Royal Horticultural Society show was held in summer, but with the move to Kensington it was rescheduled to spring and became known as the Great Spring Show. Coinciding with the London social season, it drew huge crowds – but following the move to Temple, lawyers based nearby complained it interfered with their work, initiating the move to Chelsea.
- The current location for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is the 66-acre site of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. Founded by Charles II in 1682, the Royal Hospital is home to some 300 Chelsea Pensioners – both male and female army veterans.
- One of the key figures in establishing the show was Sir Harry Veitch, an eminent horticulturalist with a nursery in Chelsea. Veitch sent botanists all over the world to seek out plant species and developed many new hybrids including the first hybrid orchid.
- The RHS Chelsea Flower Show has been at the forefront of horticultural experiment and a trendsetter for garden design since its initiation. In 1913, the first Bonsais (Japanese dwarf trees) were shown in the UK and during the war years the show set a trend for rock gardens.
- The first show consisted of no more than 250 exhibitors in a large single tent. Today, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show covers more than 23 acres with over 500 exhibitors and gardens as well as more than 100 exhibitions in the Great Pavilion and more than 250 stands.
- Turnstiles were closed because of overcrowding in 1979 and again in 1987, after which visitor numbers were capped and charges introduced for entry. Today attendance is capped at some 160,000 visitors per year.
- Judges spend 45 minutes looking at each garden and garden awards include Best in Show, Best Courtyard Garden, Best Chic Garden and Best City Garden. In addition, there are bronze, silver and gold awards for flora, trees, vegetables, scientific interest and floristry.
- Significant 20th-century gardens include The Times Garden of Tomorrow (1959), featuring a radio-controlled lawnmower, the first garden for the disabled (1967) and a honeybee garden (1988).
- Extraordinary gardens from the last 20 shows include a Plasticine garden (2009), a suspended sky garden (2011) and a display of 300,000 crochet poppies (2016).
The 2019 RHS Chelsea Flower Show takes place from 21 to 25 May. You can find Rosebie Morton’s pick of the best new roses from last year’s show here.