100 Years of the Chelsea Flower Show

National Mall and Union Square; credit: Rendering produced by: Methanoia

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) Chelsea Flower Show. At LAN we are extremely excited to have secured a press pass for this prestigious event. On Monday the 20th of May I shall be roving ‘back stage’ getting all the top stories and gossip about the show prior to the doors opening to guests on Tuesday. But what can we look forward to this year, and how has the show changed in its long history? Origins There has been an RHS flower show on the grounds of the Royal Hospital at Chelsea for 100 years, but the roots of the show date back even further to 1862. Originally called the ‘Great Spring Show’, the RHS originally held their flower show in their own gardens at Kensington. After the RHS Kensington garden was closed they were forced to find another venue. Eventually, in 1913 they settled for the grounds of the Royal Hospital, where it has been held almost every year since. After establishing its new residence, the Great Spring Show became ubiquitously known as the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, and an icon of the international horticultural scene was born. A Horticultural Zeitgeist….. Chelsea has always been a lavish, extravagant affair, displaying the very best and most modern horticultural delights the world has to offer. In 1937 when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth celebrated their coronation year, the show took on an ‘Empire’ theme with plants from all over the British Empire, including pines from Canada, gladioli from East Africa, and prickly pears from Palestine. During the Second World War the show was cancelled as the land was needed for the war effort, but even this didn’t stop the show for long. In 1947 the Chelsea Flower Show resumed again amidst the struggles of rationing and plant and labor shortages.. Since the show’s beginnings, fashion has played an ever more critical role in the expression of the show gardens. From the early influences of empire in the show’s early years , through to the iconic evergreen planting of the 1970’s and cottage gardening of the 1980’s, to the sculptural and dramatic show gardens of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s; Chelsea Flower Show has always served as a snap shot of the horticultural Zeitgeist. 100 Years On….. This centenary year promises to be no exception of the show’s continuing reflection of popular culture. Sustainability is the buzz word for 2013; with many of the exhibitors keen to ostentate their design’s eco-credentials. Many of the gardens are planning to feature British native species, such as the Brewin Dolphin Garden by Robert Myers. This year’s centenary will be marked by an unprecedented collaboration between the RHS and artist Marc Quinn. Quinn has created an installation entitled ‘The Rush of Nature’ which explores the garden as an artistic medium and aims to raise £1 million for the next generation of horticulturalists. This Year’s Show….. Throughout the RHS Chelsea Flower Show’s long and esteemed history, art and fashion have come together to create some of the world’s most outstanding show gardens, that push the boundaries of horticulture and garden design. From the influences of empire in its beginnings to the world wide influence of sustainability that underpins many of today’s designs; Chelsea has always served as both a snap shot of the current pop culture, and a sign post to the future of horticulture. This year is certainly no exception! If you cannot be at Chelsea this year to celebrate its 100 years, don’t worry. LAN will be bringing you all the news direct from our website. If you can’t wait that long, follow us on Twitter @LATweets4U for regular updates throughout the Press Day on Monday, and be sure to read our review article published later this week. Article written by Ashley Penn

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