The Glory of the Garden it abideth not in words.

And some can pot begonias and some can bud a rose,

And some are hardly fit to trust with anything that grows;

But they can roll and trim the lawns and sift the sand and loam,

For the Glory of the Garden occupieth all who come.

                                                                                                                                                            extract from The Glory of the Garden by Rudyard Kipling


As Wimbledon is to tennis, the Chelsea Flower Show is to the gardening community. For three weeks every spring the grounds of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea come alive to the sounds of earth movers and cranes positioning rocks, soil, mature trees and plants in preparation for the annual four-day event at the end of May. For many months nurserymen work behind the scenes to ensure that everything is at its very peak for the show - plants of all kinds are forced with heat and light, or held back by refrigeration, and tweaked and pruned to perfection.

Show gardens are possibly the highlight of the event. They are constructed complete with ponds, waterfalls, walls, buildings and patios, making the tiny areas allocated seem huge by careful positioning, planting and perspective. Photos taken over the years highlight how gardens and gardening have changed as fashions come and go. For this year's show gardens see

Enormous marquees are erected for the various displays of fruits, vegetables and flowers, succulents, cacti and bonsai - every scent and colour imaginable crammed under the hot canvas, an onslaught to the senses of the 154,000 visitors who arrive each year.


Originally called The Great Spring Show, the Royal Horticultural Society first held the event in the RHS garden, Kensington in 1862. This garden was closed in 1888 to allow for the building of Imperial College and the Science Museum, and the show moved to Temple Gardens near the Embankment where it remained for the next 23 years. In 1912 it was cancelled to allow for the Royal International Horticultural Exhibition in the grounds of the Royal Hospital in Chelsea, and that venue proved so popular that it was decided to use it for the Great Spring Show from 1913 onwards. It has run almost continuously for over 140 years, with the exception of cancellations during the war years, when the land was needed by the War Office.


To be accepted to show at Chelsea is a priviledge in itself and Commercial gardeners, designers and (more recently) amateurs from the all over the world compete for the coveted gold, silver-gilt, silver and bronze awards in this most famous of arenas.

Flora: Gardens and floral exhibits
Hogg: Exhibits of fruit
Knightian: Exhibits of vegetables, including herbs
Lindley: Exhibits of special educational or scientific interest
Grenfell: Exhibits of pictures, photographs, floral arrangements and floristry

Special Awards:
Best Show Garden Award
Best Courtyard Garden Award
Best Chic Garden Award
Best City Garden Award
RHS Sundries Bowl (for best sundries exhibitor)
RHS Junior Display Trophy (best exhibit of a collage)
RHS Floral Arrangement Trophies (for best floral art displays by amateur flower arrangers)
RHS Floristry Trophies (for best floral exhibits by professional/commercial flower arrangers)
Show Certificates of merit (for sundries stands - awarded for presentation not products)
Certificates for Junior displays
RHS President's Award - awarded by RHS president Sir Richard Carew Pole for his favourite display in the Floral Pavilions.


Originally anyone could turn up and get in to see the Show, but severe overcrowding has meant that entry is now by ticket only, for safety reasons. This year (2004) the show runs from 25th to 28th May and is already sold out.

When it's all over

When the last visitor has departed weary workers have a mere 3 days to return the Hospital Grounds to the exact state they were in before the show began. Many of the plants are auctioned or sold off, litter is cleared and the tents are put away for another year.

Results for 2004:

For pictures from last year's show see:
For further information:

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