The RHS Chelsea Flower Show also known officially as the Great Spring Show, is a garden show held each year on five days in May by the Royal Horticultural Society in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London. It is the most famous show in the United Kingdom, perhaps the most famous gardening event in the world and part of London’s summer social season. The Flower Show is considered to be the ultimate event in the gardening year.
It sets the latest gardening trends, features the newest and most desirable gardening products and creates an explosion of colours and scents adored by many a visitor.
The RHS Chelsea Flower Show showcases cutting-edge garden design and thousands of perfect blooms; top growers and world class designers; scents and sights and shopping galore. Chelsea is usually crammed with leading lights, big name designers and the flower show has enchanted millions of visitors to embark on horticulture as a hobby.
Despite the First World War, the show was held 1914 – 1916, but was cancelled in 1917 and 1918. By the 1920s, the Chelsea Flower Show was back in full swing, the famous Chelsea tea parties were established and Royal visits resumed. In 1926 the show was held a week late due to the General Strike.In 1937, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth celebrated their Coronation Year, and to mark the occasion, a superb Empire Exhibition was staged. It featured wattles from Australia, pines from Canada, brilliant gladioli from East Africa and even a big prickly pear from Palestine.The show was cancelled during the Second World War, as the land was required by the War Office for an anti-aircraft site. Some doubt arose as to whether the show would resume in 1947. The majority of exhibitors wanted a postponement, as stocks of plants were low, staff much depleted and fuel for greenhouses was obtainable only with special permits, but Lord Aberconway (then RHS President) and the RHS Council felt strongly that the show should resume as soon as possible. As it turned out, the show went ahead in 1947 and it was a great success.The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 was sufficient cause for a flower show that reflected the celebratory mood of the country. Most members of the Royal family attended that year. Unfortunately, due to a relentless stream of other commitments, the only Royal unable to attend was the Queen herself!
The Chelsea Flower Show receives a lot of publicity. It is attended by 157,000 visitors each year (a number limited by the capacity of the 11-acre ground), and all tickets must be purchased in advance. From 2005 the show was increased from four days to five, with the first two days only open to RHS members. The show is extensively covered on television by the BBC and an official DVD of the show is produced on behalf of the RHS. Several members of the British Royal Family attend a preview of the show, as part of the royal patronage of the RHS.