Finding your way around: Chelsea Flower Show tips
For the uninitiated, navigating the biggest and best flower show in the UK can be overwhelming. With over 500 exhibitors from around the world, hundreds of trade stands, food stalls and artisan studios, there's almost too much to see. We'd recommend picking up a Chelsea Flower Show map and doing a little advance planning – though there's much to be said for stumbling across some of the RHS' more intimate displays.
When you enter through the London Gate on Royal Hospital Road, you'll immediately stumble across the Eastern Avenue, spanning the length of the show. Flanked by trader on trader, the avenue boasts a variety of gifts, crafts and goods for sale. From artisan soaps and bespoke wellies, to hand-crafted garden sculptures and home decorations, the Chelsea Flower Show is your one-stop-shop to celebrate stylish summer living.
From here, you can make your way around the exhibits: to the left are the Ranelagh Gardens, where the Artisan Studios and a selection of the Artisan Gardens are located, and to the right are more tradestands, the Show Gardens, the new Space & Grow Gardens and the Grand Pavilion, which is where the real pomp and excitement awaits.
Chelsea Flower Show 2018: The Trailfinders South African Wine Estate (Show Garden 324)
Design trends at the Chelsea Flower Show 2018
A good majority of the 2018 gardens are centered around two important themes: the environment and mental health. Designs demonstrate the positive impact gardens have on our health and wellbeing, while the show as a whole advocates the immense power plants and green spaces have to improve our lives and counteract environmental challenges. Among the exciting exhibits is the Space to Grow Pearlfisher Garden (284), which focuses on raising awareness around one of the biggest environmental problems of our time: plastic waste in our oceans. Underwater tanks filled with fish, cacti and succulents are used to imitate the structure and form of underwater coral, while the message behind the display calls to businesses and designers to create sustainable products and packaging. Read our comprehensive feature on this year's design trends to look out for here.
Show Gardens: Who's in Season?
Crafted by teams of landscapers – under the care and direction of a head garden designer – the Show Gardens at Chelsea are the envy of the horticultural world. The bare plots of land are transformed into magnificent horticultural havens that transport you to lands far away in a matter of a few short weeks. The designs of this year's Show Gardens will certainly stop you in your tracks. Below is our pick of the best.
RHS Gold medal winner, The M&G Garden (320):
Designed by Sarah Price, one of the most prominent and sought-after designers on the circuit, The M&G garden is a 'romanticised haven, designed for a warm, sunny climate'. A tranquil site of repose, the M&G garden, awarded an RHS Gold medal, features abundant Mediterranean flora and fauna – there's an explosion of colour, with blooms of scarlet, pink and yellow flowers taking pride of place. At its heart are pomegranate trees, a re-imagined pool that reflects the garden composition, scented herbs, subshrubs and many drought tolerant plants, more and more common in the UK.
The Trailfinders South African Wine Estate (Show Garden 324)
With a magnificent Cape Dutch homestead and a reconstructed estate garden comprising four main sections – Homestead, Vineyard, Fynbos Landscape and post fire Fynbos Lasdcape – travel specialists Trailfinders bring the heart of the Western Cape Winelands to Chelsea. Garden designer Jonathan Snow was inspired to recreate a traditional South African Wine estate following a recent trip to the region. By juxtaposing fynbos, including gladioli and pelargoniums, with exotic flowers and blackened remains of older vegetation, Snow hopes to raise awareness of the plight of the fynbos – a species of plant under great threat from urbanisation and agriculture.
Welcome to Yorkshire (325)
Returning to RHS Chelsea Flower Show for its second consecutive year is the Welcome to Yorkshire Garden. Set on the edge of a woodland, this quintessential English garden features a traditional limestone wall, a half reconstructed buttercup meadow and flowing stream. Taking inspiration from the natural landscape of the Yorkshire dales, Mark Gregory's garden is wild rather than manicured, and celebrates the region's abundance of wildflowers, grasses and native trees.
These smaller plots celebrate craftsmanship and are the glinting jewels in the Chelsea Flower Show's crown. Nestled in the heart of Ranelagh gardens, they are easy to miss. We recommend taking a right off Eastern Avenue, and then following signs to the Artisan Food Market.
Chelsea Flower Show 2018: The Myeloma UK Garden
The Supershoes, Laced with Hope Garden, a partnership with Frosts (561)
Bursting with vibrant colour, an artistic mural painted by Supershoes artists and beautiful flowers including mixed perennials and roses, Laced with Hope, designed by Laura Anstiss, is one of the most visually and emotionally engaging gardens at Chelsea. This delightful space tells the story of a child's painful and often traumatic journey following diagnosis with cancer. The garden's bold palette offers a psychological boost in times of stress, while the fixed features such as a bench and the inlaid paving stones inscribed with words including 'hope' represent the constant support offered by friends and staff. You can support the work of charity Supershoes by buying a pair of supershoes – a pair of customised trainers made by a designated Supershoes artist. Each pair of trainers is made specifically with one suffering child in mind.
Space to Grow Gardens
Replacing the Fresh Gardens this year are ten new Space to Grow Gardens, which 'are designed to inspire the gardener in all of us'. Reflecting new trends and planting patterns in the horticultural world today, the Space to Grow Gardens vary in style, format and message.
Space to Grow: The Myeloma UK Garden (283)
'Gill King passed away after a short battle with myeloma in 2016', says Rosemarie Finley, CEO of Myeloma UK. The Myeloma UK garden is a tribute to Gill, her family and all those who are suffering from this incurable form of blood cancer, Rosemarie explains. At the heart of the garden is designer John Everiss' blue acrylic sculpture, modelled on Gill's daughter Gemma Peace. Everiss' sculpture is blowing seeds and plants onto the fertile soil below, which symbolises regeneration, rejuvenation and rebirth. Celebrating carers whilst raising awareness of this deadly but little discussed form of blood cancer, The Myeloma UK garden is a ground-breaking feat of landscape design and stands out as a true beacon of hope.
What's blooming in The Great Pavilion
Moving on from the ten show gardens towards The Great Pavilion (the central glass-domed structure at the heart of the Chelsea Flower Show) you'll find an enormous grid of the best nurseries from around the world. From miniature cacti and historic bonsai trees to glorious displays of traditional English roses, The Great Pavilion is a horticultural enthusiast's haven.
Chelsea Flower Show 2018: The Windrush Garden
Complete with ancient Greek monuments and more classic English roses than you could ever possibly need, Peter Beales's stand (186) is a Pavilion highlight. Elsewhere, there is a marvelous display of lupins at Westcountry Nurseries (176) and a glorious showcase of delphiniums and begonias at Blackmore & Landon (111). The Weston Garden, designed by Tom Stuart-Smith, is a tranquil haven at the heart of the pavilion, for which everything has been recycled or borrowed. This year's Discovery gardens are also worth perusing. Among the strongest is Baroness Floella Benjamin and Birmingham City Council's The Windrush Garden (132). Celebrating the legacy of the Windrush generation in the UK, this 'educational garden' tells the story of Caribbean passengers travelling to Britain to start a new life. The stand boasts traditional Caribbean and British features to showcase the importance of both cultures.
What should you wear to the Chelsea Flower Show?
Wondering about the Chelsea Flower Show dress code? If you're having troubling deciding what to wear, Chelsea Flower Show clothes tend to be on the smart side: for women, summer dresses (especially floral prints), tailored trousers and smart jackets are ideal. If possible veer away from towering heels, as you will be on your feet all day (even if a cupcake and a glass of champagne or a 3-course lunch punctuate the day). Men tend to opt for light trousers, shirts and jackets (comfortable shoes again a must).
The weather this year looks set to be lovely (a rare Chelsea Flower Show treat) so we'd recommend a wide-brimmed sun-hat and sunglasses for the ladies. Gentlemen, opt for the lightest of summer jackets.
Chelsea Flower Show 2018
Chelsea Flower Show food and drink: where to eat?
With plenty of places to eat, the Chelsea Flower Show doesn't limit your gastronomical options. Bring a picnic and enjoy the great outdoors at the Band Stand, a special area for dedicated al-fresco diners, or pick up a light bite at many of the artisan food trucks on site. If you want to up the ante, while away the afternoon in the Dorchester's bespoke-built Drawing Room pop-up. Head pastry-chef David Girard has created a floral-inspired extravaganza especially for the occasion — the mini raisin scones, topped with cream, strawberries and edible flowers are the best we've ever tasted. The Dorchester's designer florist Philip Hammond has also created a spectacular floral installation, flanking the Dorchester's entrance. The Drawing Room is now fully booked for tea, but they do accommodate walk-ins, so it's worth a try.
Elsewhere, The Fortnum & Mason Champagne marquee serves seafood platters and light bites, while the Thames View Cafe boasts glorious food and fine wine. The Royal Hospital is conveniently located just a short walk from Sloane Square tube, so there's plenty of options a little further afield, too. Check out our guide to the restaurants in Chelsea to book now.
There are still tickets for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018. Book your tickets here.
*The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is only open to RHS members on Tuesday 22 May and Wednesday 23 May (8am - 8pm), Thursday - Friday (8am - 8pm), and is open on Saturday 26 May until 5.30pm.
|What||RHS Chelsea Flower Show, 2018|
|Where||Royal Hospital Chelsea, Royal Hospital Road, SW3 4SR | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Sloane Square (underground)|
22 May 18 – 26 May 18, 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM
|Price||£82 standard all ticket, check box office for current ticket information|
|Website||Click here to book tickets|