With the 2017 annual Chelsea Flower Show opening tomorrow in London, I figure today is as good as any to finally get around to writing about my experience at the 2016 Chelsea Flower Show! (Big thanks to Dannielle for inviting me to use her companion ticket. This is not one of London’s cheaper events, so without her generosity, I would not be writing this right now!)
So, just what is the Chelsea Flower Show? Only the most famous flower show in the UK (possibly even the world), where world-renowned garden designers and plant and flower specialists come together to show off their newest creations. It’s attended every year by the Queen and other members of the royal family, London’s elite, and me, apparently, last year, and it is truly something to see. From whimsical outdoor gardens to classic, dainty indoor plants, there is something here to make everyone wish they had a greener thumb.
The Chelsea Flower Show has been an annual tradition in London since 1833 when it was first held in Chiswick. (My old neighborhood!) In 1912, after debuting in several other locations, the show was moved to the grounds of the Royal Hospital in Chelsea where it has been held ever since. Held over five days in May, the Chelsea Flower Show marks the beginning of the British summer season* and as such, many of the show’s 150,000 visitors will show up in their summer Sunday best, so in addition to a flower show, you just might be treated to a bit of a Best-Dressed In Britain show as well.
The main event here is walking through the Main Pavilion, admiring the 100+ floral exhibits from the world’s top florists and nurseries. Awards are always handed out, the most prestigious being the RHS Chelsea Plant of the Year. (It’s not always what you’d think. Last year it was a beautiful, yet unassuming, small yellow flower that I probably never would have given a second glance at. But then again, I’m no horticulturalist.) Besides the Main Pavilion, there are smaller tents to visit, as well as the can’t-be-missed outdoor gardens that were probably my favorite thing to see at the whole show. This is where I feel like people were able to get really creative, designing their gardens using sculptures and other unusual design elements in addition to flowers and plants.
There is so much to see that the Chelsea Flower Show is easily an all-day affair…if you’re lucky enough to secure tickets, that is. The first two days of the show are always reserved for members of the Royal Horticulture Society only, so as a member of the public, your only shot at getting in will be the last three days and tickets sell out fast. Tickets for the next year’s show typically go on sale starting in October, so planning ahead is essential.
Tickets for this year’s show are already sold out, but even if you aren’t able to get into the show itself, it’s still worth coming out this way. The streets of Chelsea come alive during the week of the flower show for the annual Chelsea In Bloom festival, and no tickets are needed. This year will feature over 50 window displays as well as large installations in Sloane Square, King’s Road, and Duke of York Square. In other words, Chelsea is about to become the most Instagrammable neighborhood in London this week. :)
*To my friends still in London who know that the official beginning of British summer does not actually mean warm weather, my hat’s off to you for enduring at least another month before you can leave the house without your overcoat. :)
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