RHS Chelsea Flower Show
It’s being held at the current location for the 84th time this year; over 600 exhibitors displayed and presented gardens and equipment over 5 days in May last year; and it has a history stretching back to 1862 – the Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower show must be the greatest horticultural event in the world!
Back in 1862, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) presented their Great Spring Show at their garden in London’s Kensington. The show was a great success until the closure of the garden in 1888 which left the Society homeless. A new venue in Central London was a necessity and the Temple Gardens, near the Embankment, played host to the Spring Show, under cover, until 1911.
By a quirk of fate, the show scheduled for 1912 was cancelled to make way for the Royal International Horticultural Exhibition. Fortunately, the famous Sir Harry Veitch, who was responsible for establishing the formal St Luke’s Garden in the district of Kensington and Chelsea, negotiated an agreement to hold the show in the Grounds of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, for one year only. Or so he thought - the event proved to be a resounding success and the Chelsea Flower Show has been held on the site ever since!
The two World Wars rather predictably forced the cancellation of the events in 1917, 1918 and throughout the duration of the Second World War, when the site was requisitioned for anti-aircraft defences. The show was scheduled to return to the gardening calendar in 1947 but there was some resistance from the industry; stocks of plants were low, labour was hard to find and fuel to heat glasshouses was only available by special permit. On the other hand, the RHS, led by then president Lord Aberconway and supported by the RHS Council, were most keen for the show to go ahead – this proved to be the correct decision as it was a great success and went some way to boosting the morale of the country following the dark years of war.
The remainder of the 20th Century saw many changes in horticultural fashion and exceptional advancements in knowledge and techniques. The latest garden themes, in vogue one year and quickly forgotten by the next; from rock gardens and paved yards to cottage gardens; and from regimented lines and precise angles to beds overflowing with plants; the grand old show has seen them all. Bonsai trees were first seen at the Chelsea show as long ago as 1913, and the 2005 show saw the introduction of new garden categories such as Courtyard, City and Chic, which reflect current tastes.
If you visit the show in 2006 (May 23-27th), you will be adding to the rich history of this event and contributing in some small way to the continued evolution of the horticultural industry. You may even visit the Harrod Horticultural stand – which received a Certificate of Commendation for Display in 2005. Garden designers from across the globe will be vying for the prestigious Chelsea gold medals – possibly catapulting them into gardening stardom and fame – and the latest ideas will either gloriously succeed or fail miserably. One thing however seems to be in no doubt; that there will be a Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show next year!