Chelsea Flower Show: A Lessons Learned Review

To complete all the floriferous and designer gorgeousness I've shown you over the past few days, here's a few snippets and lessons learned I must tell you now before I forget them. That way you and and I are guaranteed a tippity top time when we next go to Chelsea...
I must cross entire continents to go and hear Roy Lancaster - thanks for the tip James, but sadly I was too late.
Gnomes and all sorts aren't hidden on just Jekka McVicar's stand, lots of the nurseries do it. I'm now imagining they all have a subversive competition every showtime to see who can outwit the RHS by hiding the largest and most tasteless object on their stand and not get caught. Shall we play a game next time and see what we can find?
It's great to go with someone to compare notes. It's even better when that person produces a packet of biscuits at just the right moment.
Lots of ordinary mortals like me go to Chelsea and if you wear your usual comfortable gear, you can nip in and see everything ahead of all the posh ladies in frocks tottering along.
No matter how hard you plan and try, you will still miss seeing something. For instance, how on earth did I manage to miss the Auricula theatre in the Great Pavilion?
Most of the TV gardening personalities are surprisingly small. Bear that in mind when you step back after taking a photograph like the one above, else you may flatten one of them like I almost did with Bunny Guinness in Sloane Square.
If you want to play Chelsea Celebrity Bingo follow the TV cameras: if you want to see the exhibits in more comfortable surroundings, do the opposite.
The people are the show's real highlights - so arrange to meet up with as many blogging buddies as possible and don't be shy about talking to any of the designers or exhibitors. The nursery owners are much more relaxed and chatty at Chelsea as they're not being pestered by people wanting to buy plants and asking how to look after them.
The RHS may have banned gnomes, but it doesn't mean bad taste can't be found at Chelsea. Each to his own I suppose and watch out for a prime example for this week's ABC Wednesday.
Buying a programme pre-Chelsea can be very useful if you know you're going to be pushed for time and/or it's your first visit. However, if you're sharing it with your friend(s), do make sure you photocopy enough copies of the maps beforehand. You will lose them (your friends that is) at some point and the Great Pavilion in particular can be most disorientating without a map.
If you are early for the show and you retire to a bench in the temporary car park over the road, DO NOT pick up the folder that looks like it's abandoned there, UNLESS you want a lot of attention from the security guard wondering why you're so interested in his security procedures.
The TV coverage is great, but there's nothing like being there for real.
Pretentious? Yes. Overblown? Sometimes. But here's the thing: when I watch Chelsea on the telly, I get so dissatisfied with my garden and want to rip it out completely and start again. I've come back from the show full of enthusiasm and completely energised. Chelsea has something for everyone, even me. It's up to you to go and find it for yourselves.


  1. Great words of wisdom! Perfect for a Chelsea virgin like me.

    I will be attending next year and I will bear all of what you said in mind. I may even try and sneak a gnome in!


  2. playing the gnome game sounds like fun!

  3. Wait, what? Are you telling me garden gnomes are... tasteless? Gasp! NOOOO! I love them and I think it's great to sneak them in. And people seriously dress up for a garden show? That is NOT the case here... comfy shoes are the way to go!

  4. More than a 'surviving' Chelsea guide.

    It's crowds that bring out the claustrophobe in me.

    That last para was spot on by the way.


  5. At least you didn't get arrested for folder interfering and miss the show!
    I got the show programme in advance this year - and will do it again. I only missed 5 percent of what I wanted to see instead of my usual 30 percent (when I've managed to miss whole stretches of gardens somehow).

  6. Good post - I am really seriously considering going next year

  7. Sounds as if you found Chelsea a thoroughly inspiring experience VP and I bet that you will be there next year :)

  8. Ryan - perhaps all bloggers attending should wear gnomes next year, so we can recognise each other!

    Petoskystone - I think it would be!

    Monica - Chelsea used to be the start of 'the season' a summer long society bash designed to find rich, titled husbands for young ladies. Whilst a lot of that's gone now, Chelsea is still perceived as being rather posh and so some people still dress like it's a society event. So on Tuesday there were quite a few women dressed in super high heels, nice frocks and large hats.

    Rob - looking at the telly coverage, I think Tuesday was a pretty quiet day compared with later on in the week.

    EG - I'll be buying the programme in future too and marking off what I've seen the next time, so I know which bits I've missed out!

    PG - it was Zoe (Garden Hopping) and Carrot & Kids' reports from last year which inspired me to go this year.

    Anna - most inspiring and who knows what it will lead to. Yes, I'll be there next year :)


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