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
For the Glory of the Garden occupieth all who come.
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
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 http://www.rhs.org.uk/chelsea/2004/exhibitors/show_gardens/index.asp
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
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
RHS Floristry Trophies (for best floral exhibits by professional/commercial
Show Certificates of merit (for sundries stands - awarded for presentation not
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: http://www.rhs.org.uk/chelsea/2004/awards/awards.asp
For pictures from last year's show see:
For further information: