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Hester Digs Chelsea

Dig It! // Gardening & Green Spaces // By Hester Macdonald // May 19, 2017
Provided by // The Chelsea Flower Show

The spectacle that is “Chelsea” is a staple of the start of the British season, expect lots of floral frocks, hats and, if the weather doesn’t behave, brightly coloured wellies too.

MacDonald Hester Digs Chelsea

But what’s behind this huge event and who gets to go? The Royal Horticultural Society, the UK’s leading gardening charity, is responsible for the organisation and planning of the Chelsea Flower Show. The show has been held at Chelsea since 1912, and the 2013 Centenary event was attended by an extraordinary 165,000 visitors over the 6 days. The Members of the Royal Horticultural Society have the first two days for themselves and their guests. This may sound exclusive, but anyone can join the Society, and overseas members are welcome. After the two Members Days, then anyone can buy a ticket, as well as members, but it’s a good idea to buy them before Christmas as they sell out quickly. 

What can you see there? The Show Gardens are a big draw for many visitors, with the largest gardens on Main Avenue, costing many thousands of pounds to build, they are often sold or given away to charities and rebuilt elsewhere afterwards.

There are smaller “Artisan Gardens” , as well as the modern city “Chic” Gardens too, which I rather like as they are on a less grand scale and are more accessible for most gardeners.

The other big attraction is, of course, the plants. The Great Pavilion is at the literal and metaphorical heart of Chelsea, covering 11,775 square metres, or enough to comfortably house 50 London buses! In here you’ll find the Plant of The Year, with the best new introductions to the show. The public get to vote for their favourites, as well as the Jury.

You will also find breathtaking floristry exhibits, National Collections, breeders and specialists galore.

Don’t expect to buy any plants, apart from some seeds at Chelsea, which is probably just as well if you’re flying home afterwards!

As well as the gardens and the plants, you will find rows and rows of “sundries”, wellington boots, watering cans, paintings, sculptures, garden furniture and sundials are scattered across the show grounds. Here you can buy, of course, so leave a bit of space in your suit case!

What else? The red-coated Chelsea Pensioners, who live next door in the Chelsea Barracks, are always happy to have their pictures taken, and certainly add to the atmosphere. There are also plenty of spots to stop and have lunch or grab a sandwich and coffee, or if the weather is cooperating, perhaps a glass of Pimms or champagne. You won’t be alone, in 2015, 10,823 glasses of champagne were enjoyed, and 64,144 hot drinks!

Chelsea Pensionsers photo © RHS/Luke Mac Gregor

All other photos © Hester MacDonald 



'Hester Digs Chelsea' is sponsored by Meier in Dürnten - Switzerland’s most typical English-style Garden-Centre. Situated between Rapperswil and Hinwill and only 20 minutes from Zurich, Meier is the place where gardeners go. 







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