The history behind the world’s most famous flower show is a treasure trove of horticultural delights! We share some blooming fascinating facts in the run up to this year’s event, which is held in the grounds of the Chelsea Hospital, London.
The Chelsea Flower Show is over 100 years old
The first RHS event of this kind was held in 1862, but as the Royal Horticultural Society’s Great Spring Show at their gardens in Kensington. The show was renamed and moved to the grounds of the Chelsea General Hospital in 1913.
Garden gnomes are a Chelsea Flower Show no-no
Coloured sculptures are forbidden in the garden designs, which means that you are unlikely to spot a gnome on your visit. Some designers however have been known to hide these ubiquitous sculptures amongst the foliage – so keep your eyes peeled!
The only exception to the gnome rule occurred in 2013
Gnomes were allowed to appear in exhibitions for just one year. The historic ban was lifted to mark the centenary. Some gnomes present were designed by horticultural celebrities such as Alan Titchmarsh.
The show was cancelled to make room for an anti-aircraft site
During the Second World War the show was put on hold to aid the war-effort as an anti-aircraft site. Although it resumed in 1947, depleted stocks and a shortage of staff mired its return.
Designers have just 19 days to build a garden
This time limit makes even the most ardent green-fingered enthusiast wilt at the thought – building a garden from scratch in just 19 days! Exhibitors are given five days after the close of the show to dismantle their creations.
The longest surviving exhibit lasted over 50 years
While installations can’t stay at the hospital garden, they can be transferred to live on elsewhere. Sherman Hoyt donated the plants and painted desert backdrop of her Cacti Garden (1929) to Kew Gardens, who displayed it until 1977.
In 2014 visitors to the show ate over 10,000 portions of fish and chips
They also quaffed 1,150 glasses of champagne, 6,400 glasses of Pimms and 10,560 hot drinks!
The Chelsea Flower Show used to be held in the world’s largest tent
From 1951 to 2000 the show was held in a record-breaking three-and-a-half acre tent, and was even listed in the Guinness Book of Records. After being replaced by a new structure the tent was cut up and made into 7000 bags, aprons, and jackets.
Where: London Gate, Royal Hospital Road, Royal Hospital Chelsea, London, SW3 4SR