RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2012

Photo of crowds at the RHS Chelsea Flower ShowChelsea Flower Show as seen from Diarmuid Gavin's pyramid garden

Monday 21 May 2012 saw the beginning of the week long floral extravaganza that is the annual RHS Chelsea Flower Show in the heart of London city.

This year saw the 99th annual Chelsea Flower Show taking place in the same year that the country celebrates the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the London 2012 Olympics.

Queens Diamond Jubilee Flower DisplayWhile the show featured various nods towards the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, it certainly was not as obvious as it could have been. Surprisingly, the Olympic theme that you might have expected in some of the displays this year was noticeable by its absence.

Show Gardens

This year's show featured 16 large show gardens, of which 9 won a gold medal, and 17 small show gardens. The small gardens were divided into two categories the artisan gardens, which promote sustainability and craftsmanship, and a new garden category entitled Fresh.

Large Show Gardens

The Arthritis Research UK Garden designed by Tom HoblynThis year's selection of large show gardens were not as vivid as previous years and were generally more muted in colour. The poor Spring was undoubtedly a contributing factor with many of the garden designers having to change their planting schemes at the last moment. However, the gardens looked wonderful with their subtle and understated colours and may well have actually benefited from the last minute changes.

This year also saw many of the large show gardens returning to classical influences such as the ancient Persian paradise garden influence found in the The RBC Blue Water Garden and the Italian Renaissance influence in The Arthritis Research UK Garden (pictured right) designed by Tom Hoblyn, which won the people's choice award this year.

Small Show Gardens

The QR Code GardenThe new Fresh category of small gardens is supposed to encourage creativity and modern thinking in garden design. This category is very reminiscent of the "modern art" gardens found at the Hampton Court Flower Show, although thankfully the gardens entered in this category weren't quite as avant garde as those at Hampton court. Only one of these gardens won a gold medal!

While boundaries need to be challenged and encouraging new design ideas is to be applauded, I miss the small courtyard gardens. The small urban or courtyard gardens at Chelsea really gave inspiration as to what could practically be achieved at home in a modest space. The ultimate test for me is, "would I like this in my own garden?"

Being at the pinnacle of garden design, Chelsea is the obvious place to encourage new design ideas, it is just a shame that we have lost the urban gardens to make space for this new category. If we could have both categories, I'd be over the moon.

The Great Pavilion

HyacinthesA few weeks ago we visited the Malvern Spring Gardening Show (our first show of the season) and were impressed by the displays in the floral marquee. However, coming to Chelsea two weeks later to be met by the spectacle that is the Great Pavilion, you suddenly realise why Chelsea has the reputation and prestige that it does. Malvern was impressive by any standards, but Chelsea is in a league of its own and you cannot help but be bowled over by the floral extravaganza that greets you as you walk into the "tent".

The Great Pavilion occupies the space of two football pitches and is packed to gunwales with every species and cultivar of plant imaginable. The combined scent from the flowers is delightful, if a little overwhelming in places, so it may not be the best place to visit if you are prone to hay-feaver. A particularly beautiful yet pungent stand was the Hyacinthe display (pictured above).

Shopping Opportunities

Trade stands at ChelseaIf, after a hard day on your feet looking at all of the show gardens and floral exhibits, you still have a little energy remaining, you may want to take a stroll down the main colonade underneath the imposing Plane trees. The avenue is lined with a host of trade stands designed to tempt you to part with your hard earned cash. Even if you could by the same products elsewhere, you will always be able to nonchalantly say, "Oh that, I bought it at Chelsea."

Until Next Year...

It seems a shame that we have to wait another year for Chelsea to come around again, but the wait and anticipation is all part of it. At least we have got other shows coming up to keep us occupied in the meantime. The next show in the calendar is BBC Gardeners' World Live followed closely behind by the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.

Next year is the centenary of the Chelsea Flower Show, which promises to be a spectacular event!

Video of Our Day at the Chelsea Flower Show

During our visit to the 2012 RHS Chelsea Flower Show we took a video of the entire day at the show from start to finish, which resulted in over 4.5 hours of video footage. We have compressed this video into 7 minutes which gives you a brief impression of a day at Chelsea:


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