Chelsea Flower Show 2019
Be they real or faux, at OKA we are all dedicated plant parents. The Chelsea Flower Show, the most well-known and prestigious horticultural show in the world, sits right on the doorstep of our Chelsea store so naturally the date is in our diary every year.
What is the Chelsea Flower Show?
The Chelsea Flower Show is the go-to event for stunning floral displays, flower-arranging workshops, fancy new gardening gadgets and, of course, the famed show gardens, where leading designers from all over the world exhibit their latest creations. Attracting more than 150,000 visitors every year, it is a visually stunning, quintessentially British day out.
Whilst an institution today, the Chelsea Flower Show hasn’t always had such a prestigious reputation. The first event was called ‘The Royal Horticultural Society’s Great Spring Show’, taking place in 1862 in a single tent, with a grand profit of £88. In 1913 the show relocated to the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, where it has remained ever since.
Running for over 100 years, the show has a rich history: it went ahead despite the First World War, but took a hiatus during the Second, when the War Office needed the grounds. Since it’s reopening in 1947, the show has gone from strength to strength, with some fascinating happenings along the way:
- The show’s Great Marquee was named in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest tent at 3-and-a-half acres
- The Great Marquee was replaced by a pavilion, the remains of the original marquee, which had been in use since the 1950s, was used to make 7,000 aprons, bags and jackets
- The show famously banned gnomes from its gardens, finally lifting this ban in 2013
- It has grown from 244 exhibitors in 1913 to over 500 today
Where is the Chelsea Flower Show?
Situated fairly centrally, there are a multitude of ways to get to the Chelsea Flower Show which is located at: London Gate, Royal Hospital Road, Royal Hospital Chelsea, SW3 4SR
The closest Tube station is Sloane Square, on the District and Circle lines, a short 10-minute walk away.
The Royal Hospital Chelsea is also on a number of bus routes and there are plenty of stops nearby; you can plan your route here. If you’re travelling by train to London for the occasion, Victoria is the closest station. Alternatively, Paddington, Charing Cross and Clapham Junction stations are all a short cab journey away as well.
Thinking of coming by car? You can park in nearby Battersea Park, which is outside the congestion zone and about a 20-minute walk from the show. You can choose this option when purchasing Chelsea Flower Show tickets; all parking must be pre-booked. The parking postcode is SW11 4BY, taking you straight to the Rosary Gate entrance of the park.
What will I see there?
If previous years are anything to go by, then plenty. From ribbon dancers to feel-good gardens that promote mental health, there were too many highlights in 2018 to pinpoint just one. The Royal Hospital Chelsea grounds were awash with colour and cutting-edge garden design in a show which placed huge emphasis on the ways in which gardens can enhance wellbeing.
One of the stars of the show was Tom Massey whose debut at Chelsea Flower Show brought The Lemon Tree Trust Garden, a space which reflected a garden in Northern Iraq, tended to by the refugees living in Domiz camp. The garden acts as a way of uniting the people who live on the camp, bringing a sense of normality to day-to-day life, after being displaced from their homes. The garden Tom created in Chelsea was inspired by their resilience and determination.
This year’s event promises to be no less spectacular. Featuring 11 show gardens, six artisan gardens and over 80 of the world’s best florists in The Great Pavilion, visitors will again be spoilt for choice for things to see and be inspired by. Key themes to be explored in 2019 are encouraging people to reconnect with nature and celebrating the beauty of the natural world.
An exciting design to look out for this year is The Facebook Garden: Beyond The Screen which looks at the positive impact of spending meaningful time on social media and how this enriches our lives – particularly those of young people – in the real world. The coastal-style garden uses the natural connectivity of water to represent the interactions, social change and opportunities that social media helps facilitate across the world.
When is the Chelsea Flower Show and how do I get tickets?
The Chelsea Flower Show always takes place in May, this year it runs from Tuesday 21st – Saturday 25th.
Tuesday and Wednesday are RHS members days, so you’ll need to be signed up to the Royal Horticultural Society to attend the event. If you do have a membership, the first two days will see less crowds and fresher flower displays; even more incentive is that you get free access to any of the RHS gardens all year round. Anyone can attend the show for the rest of the week, with prices for the public starting at £38, depending on the time that you go—the full list of ticket options can be found here.
As it’s such an acclaimed event, it does get quite busy; we would recommend going early in the morning or evening to avoid peak times.
What can I eat and drink at the Chelsea Flower Show?
It’s not all plant-based at the Chelsea Flower Show. There’s food and drink, for all kinds of appetites and preferences. So much so, that in 2015 6,000 sandwiches were served, 43,447 cakes and pastries were consumed, and 23,823 glasses of Champagne were drunk!
You’re spoilt for choice really, options range from sustainable seafood at the Ranelagh Restaurant to afternoon tea in The Drawing Room, hosted by The Dorchester Hotel. For a more immersive experience, head to Jardin Blanc: an idyllic area nestled in a corner of the show where you can indulge in exclusive menus designed by Raymond Blanc. There are a variety of packages on offer, you can choose from day-long options which include an open bar and live music, those which feature cookery demonstrations and much more. Not to be missed either is the Wedgwood Tea Conservatory, which will be offering complementary tasting in a beautiful setting.
If you fancy bringing your own lunch along, you can take a picnic with you; food only though, you can’t bring your own alcohol in. There are plenty of picnic areas and spaces to sit, just be sure to check the weather forecast beforehand as there’s not much shelter (despite being an English delicacy, soggy sandwiches are not always particularly appealing).
What about the weather?
The end of May is practically summer, so hopefully the sun will make an appearance for the week of the Chelsea Flower Show. It’s been variable over the past few years: 2018’s was luckily in the midst of a warm spell whilst attendees in 2015 got drenched. In typical fashion, the weather will likely remain unpredictable until the day before you go, but there’s no harm in keeping your fingers crossed.
Check the most up-to-date weather forecast.
Can I buy plants there?
After taking in all the delights of the gardens and the show-stopping arrangements, it stands to reason that you’ll want to recreate it all at home, or at least try. The Great Pavilion is every gardeners dream, you’ll find a huge variety of plants and flowers from all over Britain and beyond. If it’s pots, watering cans or everything in between that you’re looking for, there are hand-picked trade stands dotted around the show that sell a myriad of things.
A plus of attending on the final day, Saturday 25th May, is that there is a plant sell-off in the afternoon; this is where the demure demeanour of the show goes out of the window. Starting at 4pm sharp, to the toll of a bell, exhibitors begin to sell their expertly grown creations. Horticultural hysteria ensues as hundreds of people ignore the great British queueing system in the quest to take home award-winning plants. Our advice? Be sure to bring cash, and perhaps a fold-down shopping trolley.
Where to stay?
If you’re planning on making a night, or even a weekend of it, have a look at some of our favourite hotels in the area:
- The Sloane Square Hotel is understated and elegant, with rooms overlooking the Square and extremely comfortable beds.
- The Draycott Hotel is a traditional five-star hotel dating back to the 1890s, every room is completely unique and adorned with Edwardian antiques.
- Astors is fairly simple and relaxed, with a beautiful courtyard which is perfect for unwinding in after the show.
What is there to do nearby?
Whether you want to wander around Chelsea’s pretty streets or go shopping, there’s plenty to do and see in the area.
You’re very close to some of London’s best museums. The Victoria and Albert, the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum are all a short journey away and always have a variety of exhibitions on. If it’s retail therapy that you’d like to fit in, there are plenty of independent boutiques and high-street staples on the picturesque King’s Road—you can take a break from the shops and pop into the Saatchi Gallery by Sloane Square as well.
If you want to explore the culinary delights of the surrounding area, there is plenty on offer. The Nutbourne is the perfect choice for lunch, (especially if you’ve parked your car in Battersea Park as it is very close) and features a delicious British-sourced seasonal menu. If you’ve still got nature on your mind in the evening, head to The Ivy Chelsea Garden which has a lovely outside area and orangery, nestled off the King’s Road. We would advise booking beforehand though, as it does get busy.
Your trip to the Chelsea Flower Show should hopefully have taken shape, but don’t forget to pencil a visit to the OKA Chelsea flagship store, where you can explore our beautiful selection of garden furniture and faux flowers too.