The Chelsea Flower Show 2023: A Blooming Brief Guide

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 7 months ago
The Chelsea Flower Show 2023: A Blooming Brief Guide
Chelsea Flower Show 2023: 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.

TL;DR: 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.

Chelsea Flower Show 2023 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 23-27 May 2023, although the first two days are reserved for paying members of the RHS. From 25-27 May the hoi polloi can get get their mitts on tickets.

How much are tickets?

The cheapest day tickets for non-members are now £48.85 — and you'll want to grab them soon, because they will sell out.

Two young boys pose in front of a massive floral corgi
Chelsea in Bloom offers a free alternative in the same part of London, around the same time. Image: Chelsea in Bloom

That's too spendy for me

Fair. Well, the BBC offers comprehensive coverage of the show on TV, and there are plenty of other RHS shows with a smaller price tag you can go to instead, including one in Hampton Court in July. Then there's Chelsea in Bloom — a free flower festival, taking place May 22-28 2023, which sees around 100 shops in this part of west London transformed with eye-opening floral displays. This year's theme is 'Flowers on Film', and will pay homage to James Bond, Withnail and I, and Dracula. Belgravia in Bloom is a similar event, in the next neighbourhood over — it has a wild animal theme for 2023.

Over in Elephant Park, south London, plans are brewing for a 'Chelsea Fringe' on 28 May. Watch this space.

What are the highlights of the 2023 Chelsea Flower Show?

Artists's impression of a garden being explored by wheelchair users
Horatio's Garden is a wheelchair-accessible, woodland valley-inspired space that will be transplanted at at the Princess Royal Spinal Injuries Centre in Sheffield. Image: RHS

12 main show gardens will feature in the 2023 Chelsea Flower Show, including:

  • Horatio's Garden: a wheelchair-accessible, woodland valley-inspired space from Harris Bugg Studio that will be transplanted at the Princess Royal Spinal Injuries Centre in Sheffield.
  • The Royal Entomological Society Garden: a haven for insects, featuring hoggin pathways and piles of rubble for them to thrive in — as well a microscope lab with a roof shaped like an insect's eye.
  • The Samaritans' Listening Garden: Sculptural seats provide spaces for talking and listening, but this effort from Darren Hawkes is a walk-through artwork too, reflecting the plethora of human emotions.
  • A Letter From A Million Years Past: Jihae Hwang's design represents a Korean herbal medicine colony that's home to over 1,000 medicinal plants.
  • The Fauna & Flora International Garden: Ahem, ape an ecotourist on a gorilla trek, as you make your way through banana trees and past kiosks selling 'local' crafts at this garden-experience sanctioned by none other than David Attenborough. (No real life gorillas, though.)

There's also wealth of other exhibitors at the Chelsea Flower Show — from plant nurseries, to sculpture makers, to greenhouse specialists. Check out the full list here.

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, Derbyshire Bonsai is a setup dedicated to bonsai trees that'll fit in the cosiest of London bedsits.

Chelsea Flower Show 2023 topiary elephants
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 — in recent years, the likes of Dame Judi Dench, Ainslie Harriott, Bill Bailey, Ronan Keating, Katie Piper and Deborah Meaden have shown up. It's also a hotspot for royalty; who knows, you might even see the King.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show, 23-27 May 2023

Last Updated 22 May 2023

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