With the temperamental weather and changeable skies, there’s one constant sign we can always rely on to tell us summer is here: the Chelsea Flower Show.
That’s right, it’s that special time of year when floral enthusiasts flock to the Royal Hospital Chelsea for the nation’s most prestigious flower show; running from Tuesday 24th – Saturday 28th May.
To celebrate this gardener’s paradise, we caught up with our Chelsea Show-going guests to get an inside scoop on what it’s like to attend, compete and win!
Claire Austin has over 25 years’ experience of growing perennials under her tool belt and her own range of beautiful flowers available here at QVC. The gardening guru has an impressive history with the show, having won a Chelsea Gold in 2010 and again in 2015.
Growing perfect blooms is a tricky and technical task, Claire explains: ‘I have been exhibiting irises and peonies at the Chelsea Flower Show for many years. These are some of the most difficult plants to bring into flower as each plant only produces one flower spike or flower bud. To force peonies to bloom three weeks before they should takes three months of ‘heating’ in the polytunnel.
With irises it’s just over two months, if they grow too quickly because of hot weather, the plants are rushed back and forth to a shady spot to stop them blooming too soon.’
The expert will be back again this year and is hopeful with a change to her plans compared to previous years: ‘This year should be less demanding as we are including other spring plants, which have lots of blooms, including geraniums and astrantias.’
Like Claire, Michael Perry has a similarly glorious history with the event with Thompson & Morgan and loves how much the company gets involved with the event: ‘Each year, Thompson & Morgan put a massive amount of energy into the Plant of the Year contest. It is the ultimate accolade for any new plant in the UK, and our hard work was all paid off back in 2012 when our very own Foxglove Illumination Pink was awarded the trophy!
To be in with a chance of winning Plant of the Year, a plant has to demonstrate that it really is the first of it’s kind, and our Foxglove was just that! Our Illumination flowers for almost five months, it has colours that have never been seen before in Foxgloves, and is reliably perennial.’
After such an exciting time at the Chelsea Flower Show in the past, Michael has been working hard to make sure his entries are up to scratch this year: ‘I have been working for months to ensure a range of new plants are in flower and looking tip-top for the show. It’s one huge task, and not everything makes the grade. This year has been particularly difficult, and our special crops in Spain were even a bit behind, thanks to unseasonably cool weather. I will be handing over three entries, but I’m keeping their identity under wraps at the moment; watch this space and see if we rise to victory once more!’
Rupert Precious is the managing director of Mont Rose of Guernsey and has a sentimental love for the event that goes back for decades, he remembers: ‘Since I started going to Chelsea as a teenager, it has always had a special place in my heart. I really enjoy the long-standing traditions that surround the event and I love to see what the new designers and exhibitors bring each year.’
For Rupert, the best part of each show is making time to have a leisurely wander around the Great Pavilion: ‘From a professional point of view, I’m always on the lookout for new, specialist suppliers to work with. But, on a more personal note, I am always so impressed with the colourful, meticulous displays, which seem to get more impressive each year!’
Take a look through Rupert’s Chelsea Flower Show album from over the years; his young sons pictured are now 19 and 22!
Plants2Gardens founder Ken Evans has a gorgeous range of plants, both large and small, and garden decorations on offer with us. Ken’s team try to get to the show as much as they can: ‘The Plants2Gardens team always visit Chelsea Flower Show to inspire new ideas and plants for the next season. I personally have attended the show every year since 1984. We are very privileged to have such a wonderful event with stunning displays and such an electric atmosphere. It truly is the best flower show in the world.’
A popular favourite for our guests is the Press Day, a preview of the event when famous faces and journalists get to visit the show before the gardens are open to the public. As Rupert says, even with the distinguished guests, ‘the plants and flowers are the real stars.’