The Queen has been the Society’s Royal Patron since 1952, visiting the Chelsea Flower Show more than 50 times during her 70-year reign.
Let me first start with what I know about plants.
Ok so that will be a very short article, it’s fair to say I’m no gardener. My husband bought me gardening lessons, at my request, which I failed to turn up to because it clashed with my body pump class. Frankly, I was more interested in cleaning the inside of the fridge than I was in my all year round perennials (I’ve made that up, not sure what a perennial even is but it’s sounds gardenie!) and I had to admit I like the idea of gardening but I’m not at all interested in doing any.
I have been to The Chelsea Flower Show before, but my friend whose neverending 50th birthday I am repeatedly celebrating had never been and had expressed an interest, so club together we did and purchased her and us tickets.
Since Covid, I prefer to travel above ground if at all possible, so we met at Canary Wharf to get the river taxi (Uber Boat as it now is). I had travelled in from the countryside arriving at London Liverpool Street Station whereupon I took the brand new Elizabeth Line. Now that’s something, aside from the long walk through the pristine tunnels and up escalators, over a stile and under a bridge (ok but it was far), the brand new Lizzie Line was just a quick two fresh minutes from Livers to Canary Wharf. Sensational and highly recommended.
The show was crowded. Too crowded we discovered having arrived at exactly peak time. I couldn’t even take a full stride for fear of standing on the floaty-skirted-white-trainer wearing woman in front (unspoken Chelsea uniform it seemed, including myself), and I was starting to think it might be once round and head home mission failed kind of day. Fortunately, the crowd did disperse somewhat as we mooched our way around. I stole quick glimpses of the show gardens that are situated around the edge, but again it was like being at a concert near the stage.
However, on a plus, there’s loads more to see, and by loads I mean loads. There were so many beautiful creations, even to my very untrained eye I could see the amount of work and expense that had gone into their creation. From vegetables to bonsai trees, to orchids like M&S can’t even make in plastic, to alliums and lupins and roses that if you didn’t see with your eyes you would never believe. There was an army of fuzzy bumblebees doing the rounds and you could tell by their buzzing they knew they were onto a jackpot day. It was wholesome and very enjoyable.
Food & drink – You’re going to starve. The end. No seriously, there’s not a square centimetre to sit down. A few dining areas that have a ratio of 1000 people to 1 seat. Funnily enough, every single one was occupied, but don’t worry because when you buy a small plastic cup of Pimms for £9.50 you can faint and take a rest then!
Some people had bought picnics but again, there are only a few places to sit so do expect to see elderly ladies perched on anything they can sit on and those that are able to will sit in the grass.
The toilet situation is fine, in fact good. There’s plenty around with a helpful attendant cleaning and being useful. Your much-underused bladder will be fine, £3 for a small plastic bottle of water (with refill stations dotted about, sometimes with a floaty skirted lady with her head in it but there you go, needs must).
I sound like I didn’t enjoy it. I did and I accrued 20000 steps for my troubles, oh yes don’t go if you are a wheelchair user, the ground is level but your chances of seeing anything amid the throng of people is pretty close to zero.