Chelsea Flower Show: Review and Tips

Monday, 27 May 2013

Visiting the Chelsea Flower Show has been on my 'London to-do list' for a long time. As this year was the show's 100th anniversary, I was particularly keen on checking it out.  As it turned out, I was in London all thorugh last week with work and managed to get an evening show ticket via eBay. Whilst timing (in the midst of a rather long work week) and weather (extremely cold for late Spring and very wet!) were not on my side, I was resolute enough to still find a ticket and visit. The tickets to the show are like gold dust and sell out almost instantly which means you often pay ridiculous amounts on non-RHS websites. Thankfully, I only paid a few pounds over the face value of the ticket which added a note of positiveness to the whole experience .

Whilst I knew that it would be a popular event, I did not expect the magnitude of crowds that surrounded me as I shuffled through the gates of the show grounds. I had got a 5.30-8.30 PM ticket and was hoping it would be a quiet time to visit. On the contrary, the place was absolutely heaving and I struggled to move at anything more than snail's pace. I was also constantly having to make sure the 'unobservant' did not trip over my laptop trolley bag. It was a test of patience. There were numerous compact show gardens and lifestyle stores shops scattered across the show grounds. However, I wasn't interested in products as much as the plants and flowers themselves and so I skipped most of these. Due to the rather cold weather, I spent a great chunk of my time inside the fabulous marquee full of both traditional and exotic blooms.

The stalls inside the marquee were simply spectacular. I could have spent a whole day just in there admiring the stunning flowers. I have never seen so many varieties of delphiniums, orchids, irises, roses, clematis, daffodils in  such a small space. The stall owners were all helpful and offered sound advice on plant growing and care. I fell in love with a whole family of auriculas that were on display at one of the stalls. They were so compact yet perfectly formed and colourful. That beautiful display has inspired me grow an auricula collection myself. Among the other things that stole my heart were a bunch truly beautiful mini irises, some very innovative rockery gardens, arty displays of floral decoration inspired by the last few decades, exotic varieties of orchids, and heartwarming masses of chrysanthemums 

On another note, there humongous crowds continued to make access to some of the exhibits, facilities and food slightly challenging. I was incredibly tired after a long week and a long work day and desperately needed to sit down and get a bite. Getting somewhere to sit down can seem an even bigger challenge when you are trying to balance an over-sized hamburger full of mustard, a drink, camera, bag and trolley. I muttered under my breath an awful lot. Thankfully, a visit back to the marquee made it all better.

Before I love you and leave you, here are some quick tips on planning your visit. Make sure you plan to buy the tickets in advance and through the RHS website. Investigate membership if you are likely to make good use of it. For your visit, wear weather appropriate clothing, comfortable shoes and carry some snacks and drink. Food and drink are over-priced. Avoid heavy bags, my arms were killing me by the end of the day. Most importantly, be mentally prepared for the huge crowds and slow pace of moving around.

I hope you are having a lovely day and I'd love to hear about your favourite gardening shows/gardens too. Ann x

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