London Etiquette Guide For The Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show

WHAT IS THE CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW?

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is the most well-known horticultural show in the world, attracting more than 150,000 visitors to the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea every year.

This year’s event will be no different, as gardening aficionados head to West London to enjoy floral displays, show gardens, flower-arranging demos and new gardening tools and gadgets.

If you’re going this year, here’s an etiquette guide to all things Chelsea.

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WHAT TO WEAR TO THE CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW

You won’t find a dress code for the show on the Royal Horticultural Society website because, strictly speaking, there isn’t one. But it’s a good idea to observe a few things:

  • The weather could be hit-and-miss, so dress accordingly.
  • Day dresses for women, a jacket-and-tie for men.
  • Wear flats or strong shoes as you’ll spend a lot of time walking.
  • Floral prints would be most welcome.
  • Make sure to carry something waterproof though, in honour of the Great British Weather.
  • Unlike other society events, hats, especially ones that block views of the gardens, are a big no-no – the gardens, after all, are the real stars of the show.
  • Selfie stick? We couldn’t possibly comment.

 

HISTORY OF THE CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW

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If it’s your first time, it’s a good idea to go to Chelsea armed with some knowledge of the show. So here’s a potted history:

  • The Chelsea Flower Show is one of the main events of what’s called the Season – the British social calendar that also features events like Royal Ascot and the Henley Regatta.
  • The show was first called The Royal Horticultural Society’s Great Spring Show, and was first held in 1862 at a now non-existent garden in Kensington. From 1888, it was held in gardens on the banks of the Thames, before in 1913 it moved to its current site at Chelsea Hospital. The only interruptions in its reign here have been the gaps in the two World Wars.
  • The Royal Family have a strong association with the Chelsea Flower Show and regularly attend. Last year, the Queen was joined by the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and Prince Harry.
  • The show awards gardens four grades of award: gold, silver-gilt, silver and bronze.
  • The heart of Chelsea is the Great Pavilion, where plants are exhibited.
  • Today, it is the most important horticular event in the world, attracting thousands of visitors and generating major media attention.

 

CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW FOOD AND DRINK

Despite its regal outlook, food and drink is a big part of a Chelsea Flower Show experience. Last year, 6,000 sandwiches were served, 43,447 cakes and pastries were consumed and 23,823 glasses of Champagne were drunk!

There are plenty of places to grab a bite to eat and enjoy a drink in the sunshine, including restaurants, Champagne lounges, food courts, picnic areas and vendors.

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CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW FACTS

Astound your companions with some fun facts they probably didn’t know about the event…

  • Want to take a gnome to the show? You can’t – show rules prohibit the use of coloured sculptures.
  • The show’s Great Marquee was named in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest tent at 3-and-a-half acres.
  • In the 1920s, a campaign to ban foreign exhibits at the show was waged. The RHS refused, saying: ‘horticulture knows nothing of nationality’.

 

WHEN IS THE CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW?

The 2017 Chelsea Flower Show is held Tuesday May 23rd – Friday May 26th from 8am to 8pm, and on Saturday May 28th from 8am to 5.30pm.

The nearest tube station is Sloane Square, buses 11, 137, 211, 360 and 452 all stop near the show and the nearest mainline train station is London Victoria.

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Tuesday and Wednesday are RHS members days, so you’ll need to be signed up to the Royal Horticultural Society to attend the event. Ticket costs range from £28 to £70, depending on the time you go.

Both members and non-members can attend on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with prices for the public starting from £35. The cost will depend on the time you go. Full ticket prices can be found here.

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