The Chelsea Flower Show is one of the most anticipated annual events in the world of gardening – and it’s a bucket list item for anyone who’s interested in the remarkable possibilities of flora.
This London-based show is hosted by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. And ever since it debuted in 1913, it’s blossomed into a phenomenal festival celebrating everything that grows.
At the five-day extravaganza (held from the 22nd-27th May), you’ll find everything from fantastic floral displays and spectacular show gardens to flower arranging workshops and gardening-related shopping opportunities.
But you don’t need to be an experienced gardener to enjoy the Chelsea Flower Show. In fact, there are plenty of other reasons to attend – like the unique music, food, and atmosphere. Below, you’ll find some of the top reasons for visiting this year.
1. You can treat your senses to the fantastic array of flowers on display
One of the main reasons why hundreds of thousands of people visit the Chelsea Flower Show each year is because of the unmatched range of kaleidoscopic blooms on display.
Between the nurseries and growers showcasing their work in the Great Pavilion, and all of the fantastic gardens on display, the grounds at the Royal Hospital Chelsea are transformed into an incredible mosaic of colour.
2. You can get inspired by the latest horticultural trends
Gardening, like any art, is constantly evolving. New innovations in landscaping and design push the limits of what was once thought possible, and trends emerge, disappear, and re-emerge. So, if you’re looking for some ideas to use in your own green space, the gardens on display at the show are packed with impressive planting and design.
There are lots of gardens to see this year – each with cutting-edge design and trending plants. The Centrepoint Garden, by famed designer Cleve West, and The RHS and Eastern Eye Garden of Unity, which aims to promote diversity and inclusion in horticulture, are two examples of eagerly anticipated installations.
Gardens in the ‘All About Plants’ category are also worth a visit if you’re looking for gardening inspiration. Here, designers have collaborated with charities to create gardens that reflect their individual causes. But there’s a strong focus on plants, rather than other, more complicated features – which is great if you’re looking to get creative with or introduce more greenery to your own garden.
For more information on the gardens on display this year, check out the RHS’s website.
3. You can sample the delicious food and drink on offer
While growing and gardening are undoubtedly the main focuses of the Chelsea Flower Show, there’s also plenty on offer to satisfy your foodie side!
Amongst the gardens, displays, and market stalls, you’ll find various food options – from bustling cafes to luxury dining.
If you’re looking for an elevated dining experience, why not book a place at The Ranelagh Restaurant? The Ranelagh offers luxury breakfast and lunch packages (with all ingredients on the lunch menu sourced within 30 miles of the grounds). Or perhaps a spot at the Champagne and Seafood Restaurant might be more to your taste.
Alternatively, if you’re in the mood for something lighter, you could enjoy some afternoon tea in The Drawing Room, or visit one of the many cafes and food courts if you’re looking for a more informal meal. Though be prepared, some of the food stalls can get quite busy, so you might want to pack your own lunch to enjoy in one of the picnic areas dotted around the showground.
4. You can get some ingenious tips on how to make the most of your gardening space
These days, space is at more of a premium than ever – and this is especially true when it comes to gardening. With so many people living in urban environments, it can be a challenge to find ways to get stuck into some green-fingered activities.
Fortunately, amateurs and professionals alike have been coming up with inventive new ways to grow all sorts of things in small gardens, and even on patios, balconies, and windowsills.
If you’re a small-space gardener, the Chelsea Flower Show’s various balcony gardens can provide a window into some ingenious space-saving strategies.
For example, The Restorative Balcony Garden stresses the importance of adding items to your green space that have both practical and aesthetic advantages. And The Doorstep Library Garden saves space by doubling up as a garden, reading space, and library.
Plus, this year in the Great Pavillion, Caley Bros – a company that supplies grow-at-home mushroom kits – will be displaying how nurturing fungi is a worthwhile growing solution for those with limited space.
5. You can take home a treasure to add to your home or garden
Throughout the showground, you’ll find various stalls and shops selling artisan items for your home and garden.
Featuring everything from small-scale, specialist plant sellers (like Kelnan Plants, a family-run nursery that propagates and grows South African plants), to well-known gardening toolmakers like Burgon and Ball, you’re sure to come across something you love.
You can head over to the RHS’s website to find out more about what vendors are featured at the show this year.
6. You can find a little bit of peace among the sanctuary gardens
If you’ve got a particular interest in how plants and gardening can affect our health, then the sanctuary gardens are a must-visit.
This category of gardens focuses primarily on how our cultivated green spaces can work to improve our wellbeing.
Themes featured in this year’s sanctuary gardens include bringing us closer to wildlife, using sustainable gardening practices, and creating inspiring and autonomous spaces for those living with disabilities. For example, The National Brain Appeal’s Rare Space garden aims to help people with dementia.
You can find out a little more about the sanctuary gardens on display this year on the RHS’s website.
7. You can learn about the latest discoveries in horticultural sciences
The Chelsea Flower Show isn’t simply a place to learn how to grow more fruits and vegetables, or how to arrange aesthetically-pleasing floral displays. In recent years, the RHS has demonstrated a commitment to educating people about the latest innovations in horticultural sciences.
This year, in the Great Pavillion, you’ll find The Discovery Zone. Here, you can explore interactive displays and delve into the many interesting advances in the field of horticulture. There are particular focuses on issues like how plants and gardening can help to combat climate change and improve mental health.
To get an idea of what sorts of things to expect, check out what was featured in The Discovery Zone last year on the RHS’s website.
8. You can listen to some show-stopping music
With a typical all-day ticket for the Chelsea Flower Show, you can show up to enjoy everything the event has to offer between the hours of 8am and 8pm. But on Friday 26th of May – the penultimate day of the show – the RHS is hosting a special event: Chelsea Late, which will see the festivities continuing further into the evening.
Running from 5:30pm to 10pm, Chelsea Late will feature a range of activities and productions that aren’t available during the day – one of the most exciting of which will be a live performance from The Aston Band.
Described on the RHS website as “the epitome of a fun and flamboyant showband”, The Aston Band will be playing boogie-inducing hits from the past four decades. So if you fancy shaking your hips, you can find them at The Bandstand at 8pm sharp!
9. You can check out a live talk, demonstration, or hands-on workshop
Not only will Chelsea Late be serving up some funky tunes, but the RHS also promises live talks and demonstrations, as well as some hands-on workshops that you can get involved with.
For example, DIY terrarium kit and workshop provider Leafage will be running a session in which you can create your own ‘Flowery Moss Wall display’. Hackney Herbal will also be guiding visitors through an introduction to the world of aromatherapy, as participants create their very own aromatherapy spray!
If flower arranging is more your thing, why not visit Featherstone’s English Flower Co.’s workshop, where you can curate your own floral display? And if you’d really like to immerse yourself in the atmosphere, head on over to Glitter-Arty, who’ll be giving guests eco-friendly glitter makeovers!
10. You can celebrate and support women in horticulture
One of the most compelling reasons to attend the Chelsea Flower Show this year – even if you’re a seasoned veteran of the event – is that there are lots of firsts planned. For example, the RHS is inviting 100 children from London schools to attend the inaugural Children’s Picnic on Monday 22nd, to help encourage kids to get involved with gardening.
Although, perhaps the most exciting first is that the 2023 show marks the first time that more women gardeners are competing for medals than men. This year, female designers will be making up 58% of entrants – and perhaps even more impressively, the teams taking part in the balcony and container garden categories are all headed up by women.
Designer Pollyanna Wilkinson will also be creating a display dedicated to women who have played a key role in the world of horticulture, such as Vita Sackville-West and Nobel Prize-winning scientist Barbara McClintock. So by attending this year, you can help celebrate and support women in gardening!
11. You can take part in a longstanding royal tradition
The Royals have long been associated with the Chelsea Flower Show. In fact, ever since the inaugural event was opened by King Edward VII’s wife Queen Alexandria in 1913, members of the family have made it a tradition to attend the opening day each year.
The late Queen Elizabeth II in particular was very fond of the show and even visited the 2022 event only a few months before her passing.
This year, the RHS is planning an array of Royal tributes across the show, both in memory of the life and service of the Queen and to celebrate the coronation of our new King. One of the most prominent will be the RHS Garden of Royal Reflection and Celebration, which will include flowers enjoyed by both monarchs, as well as a statue of the King.
With all the different activities on offer and things to see, whether you’re a gardening fanatic or not, there are many reasons to visit the Chelsea Flower Show. But one of the best is simply to immerse yourself in the unique atmosphere of the world’s most famous flower show. It’s an event that fizzes with life, vitality, and spring joviality.
If you’re interested in attending this year, head over to the RHS website to secure your tickets. But make sure not to wait too long, because, with the show just around the corner, they might sell out!
And if you can’t make it this year, as always, you can watch it on television – with coverage starting on BBC One on Sunday 21st May.
For more gardening content, check out the home and garden section of our website. And if you’re interested in more ideas for exciting days out, you’ll find plenty of suggestions in our art and culture section.
Note: Often described as ‘the Glastonbury of flower shows’, the Chelsea Flower Show attracts hundreds of thousands of people each year. And naturally, this means that it can get very busy.
To help avoid the crowds, seasoned visitors recommend arriving early in the morning or late in the afternoon. But if you don’t do well in large crowds, then you might want to consider watching from home.
And while the RHS works hard to make the show accessible for all, if you have a disability, you may want to visit this page on the RHS website to plan your visit.
Are you planning on visiting the Chelsea Flower Show this year? Or have you attended before? If so, we’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.