Blooming Great: How Chelsea Flower Show Takes Over London This September

For the first time in its 108-year history, Chelsea Flower Show will be held in September – thanks, Covid. While it may be a later date in the calendar, the iconic flower show will still fill London up with floral beauty and nature-inspired creativity. Read on for show highlights and our pick of flower show-related events…

Photo: Royal Horticultural Society

Chelsea Flower Show Highlights, Chelsea
The date change has seen many designers adapt their show gardens to the change of seasons as well as consider Britain’s collective reaction to emergence of Covid-19.

Autumn/winter houseplant trends. Photo: N1 Garden Centre

1 Houseplant Studio
Ah, houseplants! So easy to love, so easy to kill. The Houseplant Studio is a collection of installations showcasing the joy and beauty of indoor plants, which are currently experiencing a pandemic related boom.

Forest London’s display illustrates the health benefits of indoor gardening, while Patch Plants and The Edible Bus Stop look at  houseplants from a pharmaceutical and healing point of view.

East London’s Conservatory Archives show you how to turn your bathroom into a lush, green space, and N1 Garden Centre in De Beauvoir Town encapsulate autumnal beauty with plants in a warm palette of yellow, brown and orange.

There’s also an installation on hanging plants, ‘suspended’ in a macrame hanger by Ian Drummond of Indoor Garden Design and Malvern Garden Buildings, and ideas to breathe life into home-working spaces by RHS Wisley.

2 Balcony and Container Gardens
Sponsored by M&G, these gardens provide inspiration and ideas for small space gardening, which, thanks to the pandemic, is something many of us Londoners now know a bit about.

The ‘Green Sky Pocket Garden’ by James Smith is an oasis away from busy city life. Martha Krempel’s ‘Arcadia’ garden features subtropical planting and an idyllic painted backdrop and Michael Coley’s ‘Sky Sanctuary’ uses a colour scheme of soft pastels and greens.

There’s also the ‘Balcony of Blooms’ designed by Alexandra Noble who is known for using planting schemes to support biodiversity.

The garden will feature blooms for pollinators and culinary herbs and aims to show how small spaces can be productive, practical and enchanting.

3 RHS COP26 Garden
Taking a key message from COP26, the RHS COP26 Garden, which has been designed by Balston Agius, led by Marie-Louise Agius, will demonstrate how our gardens, plants and public green spaces can play an integral part in protecting biodiversity, our planet and people and ensure a greener, more resilient future for us all.

Whilst it will  be a clear exposition of the climate change crisis, the Garden will also show achievable things that people can do at home and within their communities that don’t cost too much.

Plants sustaining pollinators and insects can be grown from seed. So can climbers like beans providing summer food and a small degree of cooling.

This will be a call for action by the RHS, for people to make small changes to their own garden, which collectively will make a big difference.

4 The Florence Nightingale Garden – A Celebration of Modern Day Nursing 
Designed by Robert Myers, this garden shines a light on the critical role nurses play in modern-day healthcare whilst celebrating the remarkable legacy of Florence Nightingale and the importance of gardens for wellbeing and recovery.

For the September show, Robert has adjusted the planting pallet so rather than creating a shady garden with woodland plants, the garden will be a bright and vibrant space with colourful late summer perennials.

5 Travel-inspired gardens
In a year where many of us haven’t left this drizzly island, there are a handful of gardens that take inspiration from foreign landscapes will transport visitors to far away destinations. Designer Lilly Gomm celebrates the beauty of Switzerland’s natural landscape with ‘Swiss Sanctuary Garden’.

Despite being based in Thailand, first time RHS Chelsea designers Tawatchai Sakdikul and Ploytabtim Suksang are determined not to let potential travel restrictions prevent ‘The Calm of Bangkok Garden’ being part of this year’s show.

There’s also gardens based on the Ural Mountains in Russia, as well as Nordic seaside life and a Himalayan inspired garden as well.

September 21-26; gates open at 8am and closing times vary; tickets start from £66.75/£83.75 for member/public; Royal Hospital, Chelsea, SW3 4SL; rhs.org.uk

Ways to keep the Chelsea Garden Party going around London

Want more flowers and greenery? Of course you do, and these exhibitions, events and afternoon teas will ensure you get your fill…

Chelsea Flower Show-inspired cocktails at Bluebird Chelsea. Photo: Bluebird Chelsea

1 Floral Inspired cocktails at Bluebird Chelsea
The modern European restaurant and bar on King’s Road has an exclusive line-up of floral inspired cocktails throughout  the Flower Show week that are inspired by the Chelsea in Bloom celebration. With names such as Let’s Talk About Flowers, Never Enough Thyme, Forrest Nymphs and Rose Petal, these libations are bound to be a treat.
September 21-26; Monday to Saturday 9am-10pm; Sunday 9am-10pm; all cocktails are £14; booking recommended; 350 King’s Road, SW3 5UU; bluebird-restaurant.co.uk

2 Champagne Afternoon Tea at Brown’s Hotel, Mayfair
Head pastry chef Reece Collier has teamed up with Floris London’s head perfumer Edward Bodenham to create a special floral cake – The Floris Neroli Gateau – to mark the flower show. The cake is infused with ginger, lemon, almond and orange blossom, similar to the citrus-marine fragrance notes of Floris’ Neroli Voyage eau de parfum. This cake is served up with a traditional afternoon tea spread and a glass of Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial. Guests will also be gifted with Floris’ trio of Orange Blossom hand soaps which have a powdery, musky base scent, made up of neroli, orange blossom and jasmine notes.
September 17 – October 1, Monday to Sunday 12pm-5pm; £75 pp and booking ahead is recommended; 33 Albemarle Street, Mayfair, W1S 4BP; roccofortehotels.com

3 Chelsea in Bloom, Chelsea
London’s largest free flower festival and competition is back. Having skipped a year due to the pandemic, this year’s bouquets and floral arrangements are designed around the theme Extraordinary Voyages and Around the world in 80 days, celebrating the golden age of travel, optimism and adventure. In its 15th year, the event is produced in association with the Royal Horticultural Society and expands the Chelsea Flower Show out into the neighbourhood, flooding Chelsea’s streets with wanderlust-inspiring installations, colour, beauty and joyful escapism.
September 20-25; around Sloane Street, Pavilion Road, Duke of York Square, King’s Road; a map will be available here; chelseainbloom.co.uk

4 RHS Botanical Art & Photography Show 2021 Exhibition at Saatchi Gallery, Chelsea
Yet another one for nature buffs and lovers of beauty, the RHS Botanical Art & Photography Show returns to Saatchi Gallery featuring more than 200 botanical drawings and photographs. The exhibition runs in tandem with the Chelsea Flower Show and includes intricate and scientifically accurate illustrations and photos from a global cohort, many of whom are in the running for an RHS Medal.
September 18 – October 3; 10am-6pm; tickets are free for gallery or RHS members, otherwise they start from £5; Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Rd, Chelsea, SW3 4RY; saatchigallery.com 

5 Show-inspired Afternoon Tea at The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences, Mayfair
Celebrating one of the world’s greatest flower fests, a limited edition menu has been created featuring floral-inspired cakes such as the chocolate and blackberry ‘Pink Hydrangea’ and the mango and passionfruit ‘Sunflower’. These of course, are served up after a selection of sandwiches – the avocado, grilled courgette, coriander and almond one sounds pretty good – and scones with jam and clotted cream. Also, good to know – your pooch is welcome to join you for tea too.
September 21-26; Monday to Saturday 12.30-4.30pm, Sunday 12.30pm-5.30pm; 116 Piccadilly, Mayfair, W1J 7BJ; athenaeumhotel.com

6 Belgravia in Bloom, various locations
Celebrating the Chelsea Flower Show, Belgravia will be filled with more than 20 floral installations, created by the neighbourhood’s florists including Neill Strain Floral Couture and Judith Blacklock. This year’s theme is Floral Fairgrounds and installations include a spiralling Helter Skelter tower in Eccleston Yards that comes with pink clouds of candy floss, as well as giant ice-cream cones, a circus tent with elephants  as well as a carousel complete with fairground horses, Punch & Judy and a fortune teller. Use your smart phone to activate virtual fairground themed games or access the interactive map. There’s also an artwork competition for kids that closes on September 15.
September 20-26; around Elizabeth Street, Motcomb Street, Pimlico Road and Eccleston Yards; belgravialdn.com