Chelsea Flower Show Guide 2017

RHS Chelsea Flower Show is back for another huge year. From 23-27 May, Chelsea will be transformed into a world of colour and delight as the brightest new ideas, plant trends and design go on show.

Each May the gardens of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, the home of the Chelsea Pensioners (retired soldiers of the British Army known for their distinctive red uniform called the Scarlets), opens as the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Celebrating its 104th show this year, the show has been held on the grounds of the Royal Hospital since 1913.

Around 165,000 visitors are expected to come through the gates during the five-day show, but only after members of the Royal Family, including HM The Queen has had her special first-look preview. The gardens are an absolute feat – it takes 800 people 33 days to build the show from bare grass to the finished article – and this year will feature eight Show Gardens, nine Artisan Gardens, the Fresh Gardens, Feel Good Gardens and more than 100 floral displays.

Not-to-be-missed is the Great Pavilion, which will play host to over 100 nurseries and the Discovery Zone, an area dedicated to highlighting the very cutting edge of technology in the world of horticulture.

For an in-depth look at the history of the show, read our article: History of the Chelsea Flower Show

Queen Elizabeth visits the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016 in London. Credit: RHS/Luke MacGregor
Queen Elizabeth visits the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016 in London. Credit: RHS/Luke MacGregor

Here is our pick of the exhibition highlights:

ARTISAN GARDENS – Commonwealth War Graves Commission: Centenary Garden

Commonwealth War Graves Commission Centenary Garden, RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Credit: David Domoney
Commonwealth War Graves Commission Centenary Garden, RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Credit: David Domoney

In 2017 the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) celebrates 100 years since its foundation by Royal Charter. A visit to a CWGC cemetery often has a strong impact, leaving a lasting impression, as each person contemplates the enormity of the lives lost and gains an appreciation of the freedoms that today’s generations enjoy.

The Centenary Garden is accessed through an imposing circular arch. Portland stone steps lead to a raised platform offering a view over the garden as a whole. To the front are multi-stemmed trees, the canopy of which provides an area for quiet contemplation. Globe-headed flowers nestled in the floral landscape of silver, mauve and blue hues remind us of fallen soldiers. Inside the garden visitors can see their reflection along the garden walls.

Other gardens in this section include:

Gosho No Niwa, inspired by the Kyoto residence of Japanese emperors and expresses the communal spirit which allowed the imperial family to continue for two millennia
Viking Cruises Garden of Inspiration, this garden is an homage to the work of Gaudi, his organic art nouveau style and his use of mosaic, stone and colour.
Hagakure – Hidden Leaves, inspired by the atmosphere and nature of the Saga region in Japan where the designer grew up
The IBTC Lowestoft Broadland Boatbuilder’s Garden, aiming to emulate the colours and textures of the Broads and show the beauty of the marshland.
The World Horse Welfare Garden, inspired by the work of The World Horse Welfare Charity and their desire to highlight the plight of abandoned and neglected, so-called ‘invisible horses’ around the world
The Seedlip Garden, a conceptual garden, a celebration of alchemy, this garden is inspired by the story of Seedlip, the world’s first distiller of nonalcoholic spirits
The Poetry Lover’s Garden, inspired by Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Romantic poem “This Lime Tree Bower My Prison”, this is a tranquil retreat in which to sit outside in the late afternoon sun reading poetry near the sound of water.
Walker’s Wharf Garden, inspired by the designer’s own experience of existing industrial sites being converted into useable garden spaces

SHOW GARDEN – 500 Years of Covent Garden

500 Years of Covent Garden supported by Capco, RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Credit: Lee Bestall
500 Years of Covent Garden supported by Capco, RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Credit: Lee Bestall

Inspired by the historic area of Covent Garden and its long floral heritage, ‘500 Years of Covent Garden’ is a celebration of the area that was originally the orchard garden of Westminster Abbey before it became a thriving hub and home to London’s iconic flower sellers. See this history reflected through the retired apple trees and planting evoking the colours of apple blossom, while iron structures reflect the distinctive arches of the Market Building in Covent Garden today.

Other gardens in this section include:

The M&G Garden, inspired by the principles of ecological sustainability
Breaking Ground, highlighting Wellington College’s ambition to break down education barriers
Linklaters Garden for Maggie’s, a secret garden that provides a welcoming and private green space away from clinical environments, especially for people with cancer and other illnesses
The Morgan Stanley Garden, highlighting the firm’s commitment to health and education
The Royal Bank of Canada Garden, inspired by the geographically vast and ecologically vital Boreal forests and freshwater lakes of Canada
Welcome to Yorkshire, inspired by the Yorkshire coastline, the garden will feature cliffs, a real beach and reconstructed sea, centred on a ruined abbey in celebration of one of the county’s many historic buildings
The Chengdu Silk Road Garden, which showcases some of the many plant species found in Sichuan Province, one of the most florally rich and diverse regions in the world

FEEL GOOD GARDEN – The Chris Evans Taste Garden

The Chris Evans Taste Garden, RHS Chelsea Flower Show
The Chris Evans Taste Garden, RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Inspired by Mary Berry, The Chris Evans Taste Garden is a celebration of the tastiest plants growing in UK gardens, by growers on allotments and in many communities.

But it’s not just about the flowers, here is our pick of the local food and drink options.


Chelsea Flower Show dining options:

Champagne & Seafood Restaurant
Enjoy fresh and sustainable seafood with a glass of Champagne, as you take in the views across the bandstand– they’re also offering a special Chelsea Brunch with Champagne and a delicious amuse bouche

The Rock Bank Restaurant
With fabulous views over ‘The Triangle’, the Rock menu features locally-sourced meats, sustainable fish and the finest seasonal vegetables. On offer is full English or Continental breakfast and lunch matched with a selection of fine wines

The Drawing Room
From the award-winning team at The Dorchester, head pastry chef David Girard and designer florist Philip Hammond have collaborated to create an exquisite offering of delicate and elegant pastries

Wedgwood Tea Conservatory
Don’t miss this pop-up offering delicious food and tea in a relaxing conservatory space (there is another installation at nearby Peter Jones department store in Sloane Square). The pop-up will tour all of the leading RHS flower shows this summer with the first Wedgwood Show Garden at the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show (7-11 June 2017)

The Phoenix, Chelsea

Other nearby options:

The Phoenix
Just south of the Kings Road, on Smith Street, colourful The Phoenix has created a specially designed menu, and thoughtful range of drinks, including the delicate Whispering Angel and jugs of Pimm’s.

The Surprise
Only three minutes from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show on ChristChurch Terrace, The Surprise is offering a 3 course set lunch for £30pp throughout Chelsea Flower Show week and all served in the charming and relaxed ambience. Bookings recommended

The Pig’s Ear
In celebration of spring and the Chelsea Flower Show, and in keeping with The Pigs Ear’s ethos of sourcing seasonal fresh produce, head chef Gavin Barbour has created two dishes that encompass the flavours of spring. Launching on 23 May, guests can now enjoy a delicious risotto with asparagus, pea, mint, Cornish Brie cream and chervil or the rump of lamb, fricassee of asparagus, broad beans, courgette and dauphinoise potatoes with a red wine sauce.

Bluebird Chelsea
This Chelsea favourite is also getting in on the action with their Bluebird in Bloom Afternoon Tea from 23rd-28th May served in the courtyard and restaurant. The tea will feature a bespoke Bluebird in Bloom Maître Choux éclair, specially created by Michelin starred pastry chef, Joakim Prat, alongside an array of elegant bites from Bluebird. In honour of the Chelsea Pensioners’ 325th anniversary, Bluebird will be donating a percentage of the sales back to the Chelsea Pensioners. From £28.50

The Botanist at Sloane Square
In celebration of the show, the Sloane Square restaurant will host a pop-up bar with the theme of Safari, so polish off your binoculars so you can spy one of the special botanical cocktails created for the occasion.

Ritorno Chelsea
The Italian kitchen and bar is also joining in the fun with head barman Paolo Viola’s fun floral cocktail and inspired by the words of the famous bard William Shakespeare. Featuring a Gin Monsieur base made from red rose petal and lavender botanicals, Viola has combined Fiorente Elderflower Liqueur and home-made apricot and Sicilian “Zagara” flower syrup with freshly squeezed bergamot juice and a home-made watermelon and peach soda top. From 23 May to 4 June 2017. £14.50

Download your FREE Chelsea Flower Show guide, in association with The English Garden.

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