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10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Chelsea Flower Show

Who knew the Chelsea flu existed? Or one year it was renamed The Chelsea Shower Flow.

Here are some little known facts about the greatest garden show on earth.


One of the stunning floral exhibits


The Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show is the most prestigious show on the planet. As the highlight of the horticultural calendar, the Chelsea Flower Show is the place to see cutting-edge garden design, breathtaking floral displays and weird and wonderful garden gadgetry.

It's been held on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, London every year since 1913, apart from gaps during the two World Wars, bringing 165,000 visitors through the gates each year. But what else is there to know?


1. It’s steeped in history


Gardeners carrying pots at the Show. Date 1931. Photo - RHS Lindley Library


It was first called the RHS Great Spring Show in 1862 after launching in the now vanished RHS garden in Kensington. Between 1888 and 1911 it was held in the Temple Gardens on the banks of the Thames before moving to its current site at Chelsea Hospital in 1913. Oh and did you know the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) was founded in 1804 by legend plant collector, botanist and explorer Sir Joseph Banks?


2. It’s not the largest flower show


Photo - Hampstead garden design


It may be the most prestigious but it isn't the largest - that accolade goes to RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, which is held in July in the gorgeous grounds of Hampton Court Palace.


3. The Great Pavilion is huge


Lupin display in the Grand Pavilion


The Great Pavilion is roughly 2.90 acres, that means there's enough room to park 500 London buses! It is crammed with over 100 exhibitors displaying lupins, tulips, sweet peas, allium, roses and foxgloves.


4. It was once dubbed 'The Chelsea Shower Flow'


Chelsea 'shower flow'


Rain is often an issue, particularly in the build stage. But in 1932 the rain at the show was so severe that a summer house display fell to pieces. One year when it was very wet, an exhibitor named it 'The Chelsea Shower Flow'.


5. It takes over a month to build


Photo - Huffington Post


It takes 800 people 33 days to build the show from bare grass to the finished display.


Did you know....


Designers complain of getting the Chelsea flu!

Garden designers face getting the Chelsea flu every year complaining that it is difficult to concentrate with trucks continually going past, and when people are stone-cutting, you get covered in dust. But the worst thing is when the plane trees on Main Avenue dump their pollen. It's horrible: you get it in the back of your throat and in your eyes – they call it Chelsea flu. Everyone hopes for a big strong wind overnight so it brings the pollen down in one go.


6. Aussie, Aussie, Aussie….


The Australian Garden 2013


Australia has brought 11 show gardens to Chelsea; picking up five Gold, one Best in Show and six Silver-Gilt medals. Financial support for these teams has primarily come from Flemings Trees, Trailfinders and Husqvarna. Severe bushfires in Australia stopped us from exhibiting in 2009.


7. Judging is a democratic process


Photo - AFPGetty


'Each garden will have 45 minutes spent on judging it,' garden designer and RHS show garden judge James Alexander-Sinclair told The Guardian. 'It's a democratic process: there's debate and chat. We try to keep it fun, but serious.' Judges are expected to train in anticipation of the event, it’s an honorary position.


8. Gnomes no good


All roads lead to gnome. Photo


Garden gnomes have been strictly forbidden throughout its history but in 2013, after a huge public protest, the ban was temporarily lifted for the show's centenary year.


9. In the beginning


Floral designer Okishima and Simmonds with Hilliers Nursery 2015


Of the firms that exhibited at the first show in 1913, only two are still showing now: McBean's Orchids, and Blackmore and Langdon. Mind you, our friends at Hillier’s Nursery, which you can find inside the Pavilion, have been exhibiting for 71 years and have been the most successful exhibitors in the shows history winning a record 71 gold medals for their shrub and flower displays in the pavilion.


10. Family favourites


Graham in the Grand Pavillion


Graham’s favourite thing to do first is catch up with all his mates in the Grand Pavilion – Peter Seabrook, David Austin, Peter Beales and John Hillier. Then he wanders over to the serpentine walk of Artisan Gardens behind the grand stand which are smaller more manageable courtyard designs. Sandra heads straight for the show gardens while Linda, after checking out the Dubarry boot shop goes for a jug of Pimms and hits the avenue after buying sweet pea seeds from Eagle Seeds.

Quirky, endearing and just plain fabulous, the wonderful thing about Chelsea Flower Show is there’s something for everyone. Why not join us for a trip of a lifetime next year? Find our English Garden Tour Itinerary here.