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A crowd of visitors in the Great Pavilion at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019.
Photograph: Courtesy of RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Smashing pumpkins: Chelsea Flower Show is happening in the autumn this year

Spring flowers are out, grasses, and autumnal fruit and veg are in

Written by
Chris Waywell

Loads of people have taken up gardening over the last 18 months, but what about all those pros who’ve been deprived of showcases for their horticultural flair. No weird suggestive vegetable competitions. No bitterly contested prod stalls at local fêtes. Chelsea Flower Show didn’t happen in May 2020 for the first time since WWII (though it did go online), and although it was meant to go ahead earlier this year, it was then postponed under ongoing lockdown restrictions. Now, though, it’s finally happening, but in a way that poses all kinds of new challenges for those taking part.

The show, now 108 years old, has traditionally happened in the late spring, meaning that flowers and shrubs have predominated in the designs of the competing gardens. Moving it to the London autumn means that all sorts of plants won’t be at their seasonal peak, so a lot of planning will have to change. On the other hand, autumn is the perfect time for ripe fruit and vegetables, so visitors can expect plenty of Harvest Festival vibes, including – no doubt – a ton of pumpkins and other squash-type flora.

Highlights this year include a COP26-themed garden, to reflect the all-important climate summit in Glasgow in October (featuring themes of Decline, Adaptation, Mitigation and Balance), a Nordic Heritage Seaside Garden, and one slightly disturbingly called the ‘Lost Soul Garden’. It’s not clear whether the Queen is going to attend this year, as she usually does, given the death of Prince Philip back in April. There’s a lot of speculation, anyway. Especially at the Daily Express. Go green, London!

RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Sep 21-16. Book here.

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