Rainy Day at London’s Chelsea Flower Show

The English seem to be absolutely mad about gardening (which is a good thing). And after visiting The Chelsea Flower Show, I understand why. It is the world’s most famous flower exhibition, and the excitement extends far beyond Great Britain. I’ve always wanted to attend, so we flew in from Arizona. Others are equally enthusiastic, as we shared a coffee with an Australian national living in Poland who had flown in to attend Chelsea.

It was our first time attending, and we weren’t sure how to see the show, but we knew we didn’t want to miss the large feature show gardens. We were in the gate by 9 a.m., armed with the purchased show guide and a pull-out map. We quickly discovered there was no time or space for reading as the crowd was massive, and viewing the eight major show gardens turned into a crush.

To view, you stood facing the garden with people 4-5 deep ahead of you, and as they finished, you inched forward to have your turn to peer in from one angle to see the space.  The gardens were just to be viewed from the outside. One couldn’t walk into them to experience the space.  I can understand that limitation as crowds continued to stream in, but it wasn’t the garden experience I hoped for.

Chelsea and the Royal Horticultural Society are focused on Environmentalism and this year, Sustainability was emphasized. The gardens are planned to relocate the entire design to a permanent home after the show. The competition also featured the reuse of hardscape materials. The winners have been announced, but I still need to have the opportunity to match the names with the program write-up and my photos to confirm the details. The winners weren’t important to me as I tried navigating the show and didn’t know the English garden designers.  But I do know all the exhibits were first-rate. See the gallery of images at the end of this post.

Umbrellas are essential!

The early morning was cool, under a cloudy sky, and the forecast was for only a 20% chance of rain. Sadly, that was not the case, as steady rain began around 11 a.m. and continued much of the day. Chelsea is built on the grounds of the regimental hospital along the Thames River. There is an enormous exhibition hall and surrounding vendor displays and retail booths, all purpose-built for this week-long show. All structures are removed once the show is over.

Truly a fashion statement, best worn inside the exhibition hall

The guests were also a show. I dressed in waterproof walking shoes, pants, two layers of shirts, and a rain jacket, but the show’s dress was floral.

Spring Florals!

Visitors wore floral dresses, coats, hats, and even floral shoes; it was a planned wardrobe choice for the locals and seasoned visitors.  I was warm and dry, but they were celebrating spring, and they were beautiful.

The exhibition hall provided relief from the rain, so we and hundreds of others headed inside. Each exhibition is a work of wonder competing in various categories.

Sweet Pea varieties are displayed by color as arrangements inside a black frame against a black wall.  

You can just make out the soda glasses in the back row

Clusters of Chrysanthemums were displayed as scoops of ice cream in giant sundae cups, cones, and milkshake glasses, arranged by color and bearing the names banana, grape, raspberry, strawberry, and more.

Simply stunning spring flowers

Daffodil varieties bloomed in enormous blue and white bowls. Again, to look, you had to wait in the back till you could inch your way forward to the front. But, oh, it was worth it.

Floral artistry displays were also in competition.

Peony Perfection in so many colors

The sight of huge bouquets of peonies in every color was nothing short of mesmerizing. Peonies are one of my favorite flowers and it was a sight that filled my heart with joy.

Another beautifully dressed attendee enjoying the fuchsias

A carousel of baskets of fuchsia varieties compelled me to walk around and around the circular display. It may be that fuchsia is my favorite flower. 

I’ve always loved still-life paintings; these were great.

A still-life gallery of vegetables was highlighted by gold picture frames.

David Austin’s roses created a fragrant fantasy of colorful blooms.

David Austin, fragrance abounded

Clematis vined over arches, alongside wooden fences, and some bloom varieties were the size of dinner plates.

Clematis in so many colors and sizes

Lilies perfumed the air in a display of so many colors and in single and double blooms.

So many varieties of Lillies

Begonias with giant leaves in colors and designs inspired thoughts of an abstract painting

Begonias unlimited

Hostas, ferns, and moss took the idea of forest bathing literally.

 

It appears we could begin growing our own varieties of mushrooms!

Fungi Fun

I’ll let the pictures tell the story as the day seemed to blur.

At about 4 p.m., the rain pounded down, and we returned to the exhibition hall.  As the crowd thinned out, we got a second wind and took another walk around, enjoying such creative displays.  It is flower heaven!  

Potted Plants & Disco Balls

Potted plants, balcony gardens, and container garden displays are all in competition. Yes, gardeners are known for sharing and caring, but this is a competition! Everyone is trying for a prize medal.

This is one of the major show gardens

 There is a marketplace for all things garden. There are shopping opportunities for garden sculptures, tools, accessories, woven wraps, clothing (fine woolen and Liberty cotton), and tea things.

You can buy a stump for your garden!

Though the temptations were plentiful, I made it out without even a teacup. The rain hampered my browsing.

All made from fresh flowers

We left the show at 6:30 and walked toward Sloan Square in light rain, where more floral decorations awaited. We walked up Sloan Street to Knightsbridge Street, admiring the shopfront florals. Cartier, Ralph Lauren, and others entered the spirit of things and created their own show celebrating Chelsea.

Strolling along was such a pleasure

We rode the tube for two stops to get back to our hotel and stopped at a small Italian restaurant where we managed a seat at one of two outside tables under an awning with a bit of heat.  It was great to sit down; right after we sat, the last table was taken by another couple; he dressed in a wool uniform of the Irish Guard, and her in heels, an ivory dress, and a spectacular tulle fascinator.  We soon learned they attended the Buckingham Palace garden party.  It, too, is an outside affair beginning at 3 p.m., and it rained for the entire event. He won a lottery invitation in his regiment.  Military service groups, hospital workers, teachers, and others can enter a lottery to win an invitation to this annual posh event.  They, Paul & Izzie, saw Prince William from afar. They stood in the rain with their umbrella throughout the garden party. However, Paul had been to the palace once before and was awarded a military medal for bravery in battle in Afghanistan years earlier presented by Queen Elizabeth. This evening is likely the closest we will ever get to a connection to the British royalty experience.

So, in summary, it was a rainy English day for the Chelsea Flower Show; the Palace Garden party, a short tube ride, and a long walk made for a most memorable day.

Hedgehogs are always welcome in English Gardens

More images follow:

26 thoughts on “Rainy Day at London’s Chelsea Flower Show”

  1. What a show you gave us with these amazing pictures — and in the rain! You two are brave travelers. This show is almost too much to even imagine — but you made it real for us. Thank you!!

  2. I attended Chelsea Garden Show and Hampton Court Flower Show the three years I lived there and they were all so spectacular. I’m so glad you were able to expereince it.

  3. Thank you for sharing, Sue and I managed to get into Chelsea 2023 and I understand your frustration with the crowds!

  4. Fabulous photos – my experience at the Chelsea Flower Show a couple of years ago was like yours – a dash between puddles and downpours. But beautiful all the same.

  5. Thank you for the stunning beauty, and for braving the rain. Loved the story of you meeting the couple who had attended the Kensington Garden party- he as a medal winner. What a memorable experience!

  6. What fun to see all your great photos of this garden event.
    Good thing you went prepared for rain. I especially enjoyed your comments about the photos and what the whole experience was like for you. It is interesting to know that the gardens are relocated—do they go to both private homes, etc. and public spaces ?

    1. Glad you enjoyed the photos, most of the gardens, this year, are done in association with a charity, hospital or such and so the garden space is then recreated in that organization. Some of the plants are sold on the last day of the show if they aren’t able to be planted immediately. It’s a new approach. Challenging for sure.

  7. What an amazing memory and spectacular pictures. I have to say I enjoyed the disco balls the best. So unique

  8. Thank you for taking us on your trip to the Chelsea Flower Show. And sitting here in 110º heat, I didn’t even get rained on! Your photos are just fabulous. Fuchsia and peonies are favorite of mine, but not here in Phoenix! I loved the flowery dresses, hats, etc. but they looked chilly to me. But I suppose the English are used to cool, rainy weather!

    1. Yes, rain. . .at the Chelsea and then we went to Ireland and found some more. I’ll remember it as we hold up in our dry heat.

  9. A gray rainy day exploded by the grand color of mother nature. A truly beautiful visual experience. Reminds me of the much much smaller flower color display in the Butchart Gardens in Victoria. Thanks

  10. Fantastic – thank you for sharing your visit with us. Brought back memories of several visits made many years ago – when it was not so crowded , still a wonderful, amazing flower show – as only Chelsea can be..
    Jan Surrey UK

  11. What a great way to start my day seeing these incredible displays and gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show. The photography is wonderful! Thank you, Linda, for sharing this show with us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *