The Chelsea Flower Show has in many ways become the traditional curtain-raiser to the English summer, featuring prominently in the glossy guides to ‘The Season’ along with such events as Glyndebourne, the Derby and Wimbledon.
The modern show, which is unquestionably the UK’s and arguably the world’s most prominent horticultural celebration, has taken place annually in May in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea since 1912; however, is actually a much older event, dating back to at least 1865 when it was styled ‘The Great Spring Show’.
Featuring displays from across the globe, the Chelsea Flower Show attracts some 165,000 visitors each year; however, the organisers could sell many more tickets if there were not strict limits on the daily capacity. The format of the show has been modified over the years and currently comprises a full five-day event, with entry to the first two days reserved for members of the Royal Horticultural Society.
The show is associated in some quarters with meeting and greeting, seeing and been seen, and it consequently receives a great deal of media coverage. Fascination with the event is not limited to the social, however, with the displays quite rightly drawing most interest from the press and public.
This year’s attractions are naturally too numerous to list, but the highlights included:
– Best Show Garden. The 2017 winner of this much sought-after accolade was James Basson’s Maltese Quarry. Making extensive use of rare plants from Malta, the garden showed that horticulture can help us to reclaim former industrial spaces – in this case, a quarry. The designer insisted that his well-received display was not intended to be pretty; instead, it highlighted how the scars of excavation can successfully be healed. Land remediation is, of course, being undertaken up and down Britain, with disused industrial landscapes being transformed into everything from sports venues to shopping centres and housing developments. Basson’s remarkable installation will have provided much food for thought for those charged with repurposing sites across the country.
– Royal Bank of Canada Garden. This breathtaking garden, developed by Charlotte Harris, was reminiscent of the boreal forests and lakes of Canada. Ms Harris incorporated native Canadian and European species in her design.
– Linklaters Garden for Maggie’s was created by Darren Hawkes. As thought-provoking as it was enchanting, the garden was inspired by Maggie Keswick, who was passionate about the need of cancer patients for access to a private green space away from hospitals, clinics and the entire medical environment.
– RHS Greening Grey Britain Garden 2017 was conceived by Professor Nigel Dunning. Against a backdrop of tower blocks and apartment complexes, the display highlighted the value of horticulture in otherwise gloomy urban areas. Professor Dunning set out a vision of the ways in which we can develop living and working spaces in which nature can flourish.
This is just a snapshot of the amazing attractions found at the 2017 Chelsea Flower Show and we cannot hope to convey the sense of wonder the event inspires. Transporting you within a relatively small area and within a relatively short space of time to every corner of the world, it is a celebration of all that is creative and life-affirming in horticulture.