Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Sunday, 22 May 2016

RHS Chelsea Sneak Preview: Away from Main Avenue

It makes a nice change to highlight some of the features set to grace RHS Chelsea Flower Show this year which aren't show gardens. They'll still bring a strong floral theme to the show, and I look forward to seeing them tomorrow...

5,000 Poppies at RHS Chelsea Flower Show collage
Top left: Artist's impression of the installation at RHS Chelsea Flower Show (Credit: Colin Jackson)
The rest: The 5,000 Poppies installation at Federation Square, Melbourne in 2015 (Credit: Patrick Redmond)
The bottom right photo shows designer Phillip Johnson with Marg Knight and Lynn Berry of 5,000 Poppies


Judging by what I saw RHS Malvern earlier this month, poppies are set to be the flower of the year, probably inspired by Paul Cummins's famed installation at the Tower of London in 2014 and its continued tour.

A parallel strand of remembrance was the 5,000 Poppies project in Australia, which started as a humble bid to crochet 120 poppies for a memorial in Melbourne, and culminated in Phillip Johnson's design for the centenary of Anzac commemorations using almost 300,000 hand-crafted poppies donated from around the world.

As you can see from the above, Phillip's design is set to grace RHS Chelsea, and will be reformatted to provide a poignant link between the showground and the Royal Hospital. NB Phillip is no stranger to Chelsea; his show garden was awarded Best in Show in 2013 - so much for my Fond Farewell!

Floral arches and tunnel

Floral Arch design for the Bull's Gate
Design for the Bull Ring Gate entrance
Picture courtesy of The RHS

Chelsea's main entrances are set to be much grander this year, with floral arches gracing the Bull Ring and London Gates in celebration of The Queen's 90th birthday. Royal florist Shane Connolly has designed the arch for the Bull Ring gate, and - hurray - it will feature all British blooms.

Rosa tunnel installation design
Picture courtesy of The RHS
Then the tunnel by the Rock Bank once again plays host to an intriguing floral feature as shown on the left.

Award-winning artist Joseph Massie's 'Rosa' hanging installation will feature over 5,000 fresh rose blooms,which will dry during the Show to provide a fresh perspective each day.

The blooms will be recycled at the end of the Show.

A floral debut

New Covent Garden Flower Market exhibit design for RHS Chelsea
Picture courtesy of New Covent Garden Flower Market

Meanwhile in the Great Pavilion, New Covent Garden Flower Market makes its debut at Chelsea with their Behind every great florist exhibit. I had the good fortune to meet the designer Ming Veevers Carter on my early morning tour of the Market recently.

Why the debut? Well, the Flower Market is due to relocate soon, and wants to reassure everyone that it's business as usual and the strong bond between wholesaler and florist will not be broken with the move.

Ming Veevers Carter - designer of the New Covent Garden Market's exhibit
Ming Veevers Carter at the Flower Market
- spot the flower buckets!
Ming told me she's excited about the exhibit and the challenges she's had to overcome in the process. Building a full mock-up prior to the show has helped to iron out problems and to prove the concept works.

The exhibit is 3 metres high, so one of the main challenges was to make it strong enough, without losing the effect of the signature Market-style buckets - in black instead of their usual pink - on the Market side.

To my mind, this side is the real design challenge too - it needs to look wonderful, not just a pile of buckets stacked on top of each other. When I looked at Ming's website, I found all kinds of mind-blowing creations, so I think the exhibit's in safe hands on that score.

On the other side, we're promised a rainbow burst of colour to represent the florist's side of the partnership, with the actual design of this part being kept secret until the very last minute possible. Anyone who visits the Show today may get an even sneakier peek than I have.


  1. Those poppies make a fabulous splash of colour as well as being touching concept. I just hope that it doesn't rain on them.

  2. Hopefully they'd dry again without much shrinkage, Anna. They looked fab yesterday and were graced by a cat picking its way through them!


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