RHS Chelsea Flower Show
Royal Hospital Chelsea
Until Sat May 24
© Royal Horticultural Society
Time Out says
Posted: Thu Nov 8 2012
In 2014 Chelsea Flower Show celebrates its 101st birthday. Londoners need something to get them through the dark days of winter (now Christmas is no more than a dent in their wallets and a bulge round their waists) and what better way to lift the spirits than by dreaming of colour and life and drama and planning a jolly spring outing?
It might seem a bit early to be filling in your diary for May but in this case planning is essential because tickets for Chelsea sell out in advance every year. It was part of the London Season, when that was actually a thing and it's still one of the most celebrated events in the capital's calendar.
Admittedly, it can get very crowded and the coaches loaded with WI parties that clog up the streets around the venue – the Royal Hospital Chelsea – for the event’s duration reflect the fact that this isn’t exactly London’s coolest annual event. But the show gardens are spectacular. They're created specially for the event and dismantled just five days later, yet they're astonishingly established-looking, often on a grand scale, with complex planting. And the virtuoso artistry in evidence in the vast floral marquees is quite something. Getting those extravagant displays to bloom in unison at exactly the right time takes a unique combination of slog and creativity. Then there's the controversy: every year there's something guaranteed to get the traditionalists hot under the gardening gloves. A temporary relaxing of the show's rules last year, for example, saw an invasion of garden gnomes, painted by celebrities including Elton John Dolly Parton – and Maggie Smith (crikey, you'd think that would have got her drummed out of Downton Abbey, but it was for charity).
There are myriad opportunities for horticultural retail therapy, whether you're after an elaborate, extortionately priced structure in which to take tea in your garden, a book on begonias or a pair of state-of-the-art long-handled loppers. But if you like a bargain, book for the final day: the show closes at 5.30pm and from 4pm the exhibitors start to sell off their plants.
Tickets on the first two days (Tuesday May 20 and Wednesday May 21) are reserved for Royal Horticultural Society members only (at the moment there's still time to take out an expedient membership, which will allow you to buy discounted tickets and to see the displays at their freshest). Prices for tickets on the public days range from £30 to £58, depending whether you opt for all-day, afternoon or evening passes.
RHS Chelsea Flower Show by Twilight on Friday May 23 is an evening of light opera, courtesy of Opera Holland Park. Tickets include entry to the show at 5.30pm and a glass of champagne before the concert, which starts at around 8.15pm (£70 public tickets, £63 RHS members).