History of the Royal Chelsea Flower Show

The first ever Royal Chelsea Flower show was held in the grounds of the Chelsea Hospital in 1913. The only time the flower show has not gone ahead was during the two World Wars.

The flower show contains both nursery exhibits and model gardens and there are three firms that were part of the first exhibit that still continue to this day and they are McBean’s Orchids, Blackmore & Langdon and Kelways Plants.

Chelsea lower show
Image Source: visitlondon.com

The Chelsea Flower show is organised by the Royal Horticulture Society which was founded in 1804.

With previous Great Spring Shows being held in the now vanished Royal garden in Kensington in 1862 and in Temple Gardens between 1888 and 1911, finally settling in its current site at Chelsea Hospital since 1913.

In 1912 a Royal Internation Horticultural Exhibition was held at Chelsea hospital and was such a success that they decided to hold further horticultural shows there ever since.

There was a Great Marquee erected in 1951, and was consequently named the world’s largest tent (at 3½ acres) in the Guinness Book of Records.

When the Marquee was taken down and replaced by the modular structure in 2000 the old tent was cut up and used to make 7000 bags, aprons, and jackets.

The Great Pavilion is about 11,775 square metres or 2.90 acres.

In 1937, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth celebrated their Coronation Year. An amazing Empire Exhibition was staged and featured wattles from Australia, pines from Canada, brilliant gladioli from East Africa and even a big prickly pear from Palestine.

Although flower arranging exhibits did not exist until 1948 in the show, they have increased so dramatically over the years that in 1956 they had to put up a separate tent just for them to be displayed.

There is also a rule at the Chelsea Flower Show that it is forbidden to use any coloured sculptures, so garden gnomes etc are not allowed, but Jekka McVicar who is a regular exhibitor would always try to smuggle in a gnome to place on her exhibit.

The popularity of the Royal Chelsea Flower Show has grown over the the years so much that in 1988 they had to put a cap of 157,000 tickets sold.

There are over 500 exhibitors from around the world that come to exhibit at the Show Gardens, Artisan Gardens and Fresh Gardens.

With approximately over 100 exhibits are set up in the Great Pavilion, which are from nurseries and florists, with around 270 trade stands.

The Chelsea Flower Show really is an amazing floral spectacle and any plant lover looks forward to the annual event with great excitement.