The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is a gardening extravaganza, running this year from May 22 to 27, and one of the highlights of the horticultural calendar. Here’s what to look out for.
Women in horticulture
For the first time, there are more women designers entering the competition than men. The new balcony and container garden category has exclusively female designers, and women make up 58 per cent of those competing for a medal this year. Designer Pollyanna Wilkinson will also be creating an installation celebrating women in gardening history.
Weeds in vogue
Watch out for weeds as garden designers acknowledge that what we call weeds and wildflowers are full of benefits for biodiversity. Cleve West’s garden takes inspiration from a derelict Victorian garden, and taking centre stage are plants that many might be surprised to find at Chelsea, including stinging nettle Urtica dioica and field bindweed Convolvulus arvensis.
Recycled materials and sustainability
In an effort to reduce the environmental impact of garden design, this year a number make use of building waste or rubble. Darren Hawkes has rescued chunks of an old concrete floor from a farmyard. The large, jagged fragments have been polished and hang through the Samaritans Listening Garden.
Surviving the show
This year there are a whopping 36 show gardens and 76 nurseries exhibiting. Expect crowds, especially at the gardens awarded best in show, and be ready to be on your feet all day.
Listen for the bell to buy plants
Chelsea is not a market. You’ll find nurseries taking orders for plants but most won’t have much you can take home on the day. If you have tickets for Saturday, however, it is a different story. In the afternoon a bell sounds for the end of the show. At this point nurseries and garden designers can sell their plants. There’s an opportunity to pick up some amazing specimes — if you can carry them home!
The last few tickets are still available for Thursday, Friday and Saturday (rhs.org.uk).