The Chelsea Flower Show is the lasting title of an exhibition with a history of over 140 years. Chelsea Flower Show started in 1913 and takes place in the grounds of the Royal Hospital, designed by Sir Christopher Wren. The Show was originally held for three days only - from Tuesday to Thursday - until 1925 when it was kept open for five days. This arrangement proved unpopular with exhibitors and it was decided to open the Show to the public for three days with a private viewing for RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) Members on the preceding day.
Today, of course, the Show is open to RHS Members on Tuesday and Wednesday and the public on Thursday and Friday. Over almost a century, the Chelsea Flower Show has witnessed numerous changes in horticultural fashion. Show Gardens, over the years, have mirrored the changing enthusiasms of garden designers - from the Japanese and topiary gardens of the early days (Japanese dwarf trees, now known as bonsai, were seen at the first Show in 1913), through the rock garden craze during the war years, the paved back yards and cottage gardens of the 1980s, to the contemporary sculptural gardens of the present day.
Now the Chelsea Flower Show is the first event of the London 'season' and heralds the start of the British summer. In fact, it's a good idea to limit Show purchases, unless you have the ideal spot for a new plant variety that you fall in love with. That's the theory anyway, and most plantaholics can't resist temptation. Chelsea is different - unless you go on the last day of the show, plant purchases mean placing orders - delayed gratification! For many gardeners Chelsea Flower Show is the high point of the show season.
In the last few years, design ideas at the Chelsea Flower Show have tended to illustrate our reluctance to look forward when it comes to garden design - a sort of collective gardening nostalgia. Still, it's worth looking closely at the details. This is where ideas are found. Plant combinations, colours, and use of materials, container choices, individual features - something will invariably catch the eye. This is where cameras come out ? it's usually impossible to take pictures of whole gardens amongst the crowds - and pick up plant lists, mark the ones that interest you, or jot down notes. And it's not only the show gardens that can give you inspiration. Garden design for lots of people is about grouping plants and the way the different nurseries do this on their stands in Chelsea and elsewhere provides a fantastic lesson. You can see how much difference grouping plants by their height, shape and leaf colour makes when it is done well, and this really is something you can easily reproduce at home.
There are four grades of award presented on Chelsea Flower Show, gold, silver-gilt, silver and bronze, in each of the categories. Bronze grade exhibits do not actually receive a medal. In general, there are several shows in one. The most popular show is the Orchid show. They have got 15 medals over the 45 years of exhibiting at the show!! In 2002 they won 6 gold medals in several categories.
The Chelsea Flower Show is still viewed as the most important event in the horticultural calendar. Garden designers from around the world compete for space at the most famous of flower shows. With new trends constantly appearing - illustrated in the changing face of garden design - it is certain that the Chelsea Flower Show will continue to mark this country's ever-changing horticultural history.