A Blooming Brief Guide To The Chelsea Flower Show

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 6 months ago
A Blooming Brief Guide To The Chelsea Flower Show
Two Chelsea pensioners in their red uniforms - one with a plant pot, the other a wheelbarrow full of flowers
It's the Glastonbury Festival of the horticultural world. Image: RHS

What is the Chelsea Flower Show exactly?

The RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) Chelsea Flower Show is a five-day-long annual spectacular of flowers, plants and show gardens, hosted in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea.

For visitors, it's one of the places to see cutting-edge garden design, discover new plants and trends, and take home a wheelbarrow of flowers/tools/inspiration. For exhibitors, it's the chance to show off their concepts/green fingers, and maybe scoop a coveted award or two.

TLDR: Think of it as the Glastonbury Festival of the horticultural world. Or, if that comparison's not working for you, a really posh garden centre.

Carol Kein in a floral dress, reflected in a pond
Expect to see gardening royalty like Carol Klein (and maybe actual royalty too). Image: RHS

When is the Chelsea Flower Show?

It runs from 24-28 May 2022, although the first two days are reserved for paying members of the RHS (boo). From 26-28 May the hoi polloi can get get their mitts on tickets.

Blue flowers in the foreground with a classical temple structure in the background
The RNLI garden. Image: Chris Beardshaw

How much are tickets?

Non-member day tickets start from £40.85, although it looks like they've sold out. The cheapest day tickets are now £85.85.

Two people relax in the shade of a palm filled garden
The Out of the Shadows garden.

That's too spendy for me

Fair. Well, the BBC offers comprehensive coverage of the show, and there are plenty of other RHS shows you can go to instead, including one in Hampton Court in July.

A man sits in an egg shaped pod dangling over a garden
A gold-winning garden from 2021. Image: RHS

What are the highlights of the 2022 show?

Over 30 gardens will feature, with a wealth of different styles and technologies to appreciate. We've hand-plucked a few:

  • The Meta Garden: Growing the Future: highlighting the versatility of timber, and how nature-based solutions will help us tackle climate change.
  • Hands Off Mangrove by Grow2Know: promoting the healing/unifying power of gardening, this community effort will be replanted in Kensington once the Chelsea Flower Show's over.
  • RNLI Garden: a sea of whites, blue and pinks fills this classically-inspired garden, which also features Chinese elm and Scots pine — a hint at the traditional lifeboat-building materials used when the charity was formed in 1824.
  • Brewin Dolphin Garden: an illustration of how brownfield sites can be transformed, this garden is planted with species that collect carbon at higher rates, improving air quality.
  • Out of the Shadows: a lush, palm ensconced safe space with swim spa, climbing bars, and yoga and meditation areas — inspired by the dark times of late.
mock up of the garden with various shelves of pots sprouting leafy plants
The Potting Balcony Garden. Image: William Murray/Big Fish Landscapes

Do I need a garden to enjoy the show?

We won't lie, you'll probably feel more invested in the Chelsea Flower Show if you have a garden of your own. However! It is a day out in its own right, where you get to admire a host of exclusive gardens in one place. Plus the gardening community these days aren't all land-owning, secateur-wielding know-it-alls. There's also stuff aimed at people with limited space, for example, The Potting Balcony Garden provides inspo for growing on balconies, and nurturing microgreens for the kitchen.

Topiary elephants at the show in 2014. Image: Eva Rahman Nishi in Creative Commons

What's the history of Chelsea Flower Show?

Its historical roots run deep; hosted in Chelsea since 1912, before that, the show was initially called 'The Great Spring Show', which was first held in Kensington in 1862. Before THAT, it was hosted from 1833 in the RHS's garden in Chiswick. Between 1888 and 1912, it was the Temple Flower Show, located in Temple Gardens, off Fleet Street.

What celebs will be at the Chelsea Flower Show?

You're bound to run into a green-fingered celeb or two. You'll probably spot the common-or-garden Gardeners' World presenter (Monty Don, Frances Tophill, Carol Klein etc). But many other famous faces flock here — last year (when the show was in September because of Covid) the likes of Dame Judi Dench, Bill Bailey, Ronan Keating and Sally Phillips were in attendance. It's also a hotspot for royalty. Who knows, you might even see the Queen.

Last Updated 14 April 2022

Continued below.