London Flower Power

by Margaret Barca

From the drifts of crocuses that appear in Hyde Park in spring to tumbling, colour-filled cottage gardens and the formal ‘garden rooms’ of Sissinghurst, England is the perfect place for garden lovers. But for those fortunate enough to be in London in May – and smart enough to have booked their tickets well ahead of time – the Chelsea Flower Show is THE biggest, brightest bloom of all.
Held by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) in the grounds of the Chelsea Royal Hospital for more than a century, it’s a showcase for inventive and avant garde design, colour and creativity, and the newest trends from around the world. It’s a coming together of hands-on gardeners, horticulturalists, designers and those who just wish they could create some of this magic on their own turf. (Many visitors are, literally, green with envy).

More than 500 exhibitors are booked for 2014. While there’s plenty of serious design there is also whimsy. We love the sound of the display based on Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit books, complete with the famous vegetable garden, the blue door and espaliered tree, and naturally, Peter’s favourite ‘Long Scarlet’ radish.

There are displays exploring conservation and sustainability, exhibits commemorating the centenary of the commencement of WW1, magical gardens, Spanish and Italianate gardens, gardens based on star constellations and conceptual gardens based on touch and taste. There are Zen-like Japanese creations, sculpture gardens and wonderful Australian native-plant gardens. There’s even a garden planned to evoke the spirit of the Viking age, inspired by Nordic maritime exploration (seriously! ) And of course, lots and lots and lots of flowers.
The Chelsea Flower Show is quite an event on London’s social calendar – all the best people go – and of course, it is almost always visited by Queen Elizabeth, who is the patron of the RHS.

A few fascinating Chelsea Flower Show facts:

Gnomes and other brightly coloured mythical creatures are banned
In 2000, a new pavilion replaced the large canvas marquee, which was cut up and turned into over 7000 handbags, jackets and aprons, by the Old Chelsea Marquee Company.

In 2008 fashion designer and passionate gardener, Manolo Blahnik, designed a rose-printed shoe just for the show
Guests have included Ringo Starr (a regular), Sienna Miller, Jamie Oliver, Joanna Lumley, Helen Mirren, and swags of royals (the Queen, Prince Harry, Zara Phillips and more)

In 2009 James May of Top Gear fame designed a garden in plasticine – and was awarded a gold medal made of plasticine.
It takes 800 people 33 days to build the show from bare grass to the finished article.
Royal Chelsea Flower Show 20 – 24 May 2014.

As soon as you have booked your apartment, book your tickets to the Chelsea Show on line. They do sell out, as the number of visitors is capped.

All photos courtesy of Royal Horticultural Society, London

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