Chelsea Flower Show

This year’s Chelsea Flower Show runs from May 23-27, 2017 in the Royal Hospital, Chelsea. It is one of the oldest and most prestigious flower and landscape garden shows in the world, dating back to 1912 in these grounds. This year’s show promises to be a spectacular event full of colour and exotic garden designs. In anticipation of Chelsea Flower Show 2017, Cornelia Raftery looks back at her highlights from the 2016 show.


My favourite gardening event of 2016

The 2016 Chelsea Flower Show was a wonderful event and one of the best I have ever attended. I went on Saturday - probably the busiest day - but the weather was fine and everyone was in high spirits. I had arrived in London the night before and stayed in a hotel nearby. On Saturday morning, I grabbed my camera, dodged the crowds in Sloane Square and entered the grounds just after 10:00am.

My first impressions of the 2016 show were how much less formal the planting had become compared to previous years. While the build structures were impressive and contained a mix of different styles, there was a noticeably wilder look to the plants. Aquilegia, with its wonderful colours, was probably the most popular plant on display, but there was a huge variety of flowers, edibles and even weeds to be seen. The colour palette was toned down compared to other shows, the main colours being soft whites, pinks and mauves.



Regenerating urban surfaces with greenery was a concept that featured in many show gardens in 2016. The highlight was Garden Garage, designed by Ishihara Kazuyuki Design Laboratory. It managed to turn suburban features, such as steps and house entrances, into a work of art. My second favourite garden was the RHS Greening Grey Britain for Health, Happiness and Horticulture. It used a huge selection of unusual and inexpensive materials to prove that you don’t have to spend a fortune on your garden to make it spectacular. Interestingly, this garden was built by several residents from the Angell Town Estate in Lambeth, and after the show the garden was relocated to the estate.


The Great Pavilion

This huge marquee can hold an enormous number of people and is always brimming with exotic plants from around the world. It houses a mixture of show gardens, plant displays and stalls where you can buy garden-related items. It is more sales oriented than the show gardens outside, but it is well worth visiting. In 2016, one of the most impressive show gardens inside the Great Pavilion was Bowden’s Floral Garden. At its centre was an authentic 1920s Pullman train carriage which you could walk through. It was fantastic. Let’s hope the 2017 show will have an even more exciting show garden on display.

Towards the end of the day, I decided to take one last walk around the grounds to see what products were on sale. There were lots of garden ornaments, tools to make life easier for any gardener and a variety of boots and clothing. Tired but happy, I headed for the exit full of ideas for my own garden and already making plans to return for the 2017 show.


Top Tip: Plan your day
I always recommend creating an agenda when visiting exhibitions like the Chelsea Flower Show so you can make efficient use of your time. I usually visit the big show gardens first, then move to the smaller ones before visiting the exhibits in the Great Pavilion. Finally, I browse the stalls full of garden paraphernalia. About half way through the day I take some time out and have lunch, do some people watching and then return to the action.


Are you attending this year’s Chelsea Flower Show? Please let us know your highlights.

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Written by: Cornelia Raftery

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