RHS Chelsea Flower Show is undeniably the best flower show in the world. It’s the highlight of the horticultural year and brings out the great and good of the industry and allows people to relish in the joy of flowers and plants!
The show that the public sees is immaculate. There’s not a petal out of place nor an in-shined leaf. A tremendous amount of effort goes in to ensuring the show runs smoothly and visitors receive the best possible experience. To put it into perspective, for a five day show in May, we start planning in September of the previous year. Whether it’s a trade stand, a show garden or a shop stand, everyone is wholly dedicated to delivering a fantastic experience and gaining good results.
I was so pleased this year to read Chris Beardshaw’s comments saying he doesn’t design his show gardens with the judging criteria in mind; he does it for the visitors, for the industry and for the sheer love of it. That was really reassuring to read. The judging is strict but it’s elating to receive that Gold medal or 5* award which is why everyone makes such an effort.
The company I work for has exhibited at Chelsea for over 55 years! It’s amazing looking back at the archives to see how trends have changed. Yes there are flower trends just like clothing trends.
We usually collaborate with other like-minded brands to make the most of the opportunity and deliver a fantastic experience for the visitor. It’s very much a finished garden, full of planting, flowers, accessories seating, brick paving…the works. This year we collaborated with luxury interior designers Sims Hilditch, using lots of Neptune items for the home and garden which was just dreamy. I’ve just ordered a load of items from Neptune!
A big part of my job is planning Chelsea and all the logistics. As fraught as it gets sometimes, I thrive off it and love seeing the end result. We came back with a 5* trade stand award this year (the highest accolade you can receive).
But what’s it like behind the scenes? Well, it’s a heck of a lot of hard work and long hours but so rewarding and I get to see the show from a completely different perspective. And we all help each other out. During the build up, we housed an exhibitor’s ‘Prince William’ clematis in the greenhouse to encourage it to flower in time for show week in the Great Pavilion which sees no light…it worked!
I put myself on the early shifts. A 4am start isn’t my favourite but I love getting there early with a coffee, walking past the crowds gathering at the gate and walking round the show when it’s so peaceful. There’s something so lovely about London in the early morning sunrise. The workers are checking their stands and watering the plants, making sure nothing is out of place and I get to appreciate the gardens without the crowds and talk to fellow workers.
Coffee and the sheer adrenaline gets me through the day. It’s so lovely chatting to all the visitors to the stand, finding out where they’ve come from and asking their favourite bits of the show. I find everyone has a story to tell (ever in you don’t ask) and it’s fascinating meeting all these different people with like-minded interests.
The days are long though and you have to be so careful in the heat to drink enough water and get enough shade.
My feet were burning by the end of each day and got very swollen being stood up all day. But it’s all such a high and I wouldn’t have it any other way.