Chelsea Flower Show may be closed for 2020, but here we bring you our highlights from its brilliant virtual offering.

For the first time since the Second World War, The Chelsea Flower Show’s fragrant doors have remained closed this year on account of the coronavirus pandemic. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a dose of floral beauty, inspiration or instructional tips straight to your home for, like so much else this year, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show has gone online.

Its virtual offering has brought together all those who would usually tread its verdant paths, from the garden designers themselves to royalty, and the unique circumstances mean that you can peek behind closed doors at all your favourite gardeners at home. Plus there are recipes from the likes of Raymond Blanc, kids clubs to join, and advice from the experts.



Chelsea, we’ll see you next year. Until then, these have been our highlights so far. And don’t forget to tune into the RHS website tomorrow to see what’s up for the final day of this momentous year of the festival.

The Welcomes


The Queen
It wouldn’t be Chelsea Flower Show without an appearance from Her Majesty. While coronavirus is no respecter of royal status and The Queen, like the rest of us, must stay at home, such details would hardly prevent her from making her customary appearance. We love her message, read by Sir Nicholas Bacon, President of the RHS. ‘I’m sure that my grandmother, Queen Mary, who first attended the Chelsea Flower Show in 1916, would be delighted that many people today have an enthusiasm for horticulture and that gardening remains a popular pastime in the United Kingdom,’ she said. After all, if lockdown has proved anything, it is what a nation of garden obsessives we remain.

Sir Nicholas Bacon
The outgoing President of the RHS welcomes you to the event from his glorious greenhouse, setting out everything on offer in the first-ever virtual Chelsea Flower Show. As he says, ‘We will be bruised and battered by this pandemic, but we will emerge alive and kicking.’ Hear, hear.



The Prince of Wales
The Prince of Wales’ particular fondness for gardening is well-documented (he famously even talks to his plants to bring them on). In this video, he tells us, ‘I am delighted to join you in this somewhat discombobulated virtual form to enjoy the word’s greatest online flower show.’ He goes on to talk about how lockdown has brought out our collective appreciation for local green spaces, horticulture and local food production, as well as reminding us not to forget the climate crisis in the midst of the corona crisis, extolling the value of healthy trees and plant in mitigation. As he says, ‘Hence many governments’ emphasis on and commitment to tree planting and wetland restoration to sequester carbon dioxide.’ But he also highlights how, while we deal with a virus of our own, our native plant life too is threatened by disease and pathogens; never has the reminder been more apposite, with 2020 having been designated the International Year For Plant Health. ‘Plant health and bio-security are a mainstream issue,’ he warns, saying that we must all be more cautious, more vigilant and more demanding in tackling this environmental risk. Listen in to find out what you can do to help.

Highlights


The Chelsea Pensioners Get Growing
Along with its flower show, the red-coated pensioners are a Chelsea institution. In this heart-bursting video, a handful of the 300 residents of the Royal Hospital – a retirement and care home for veterans – talk about the health and happiness benefits they’ve found in their allotments, and the inspiration they have taken from The Chelsea Flower Show, which (usually) takes place annually in their grounds. ‘It’s hard work, don’t rush it as you go along, get a few books, speak to the older people and get out there and get involved,’ are just some of the gems of wisdom imparted here to newbie gardeners. We love them.



Monty Don Feeds The Chickens

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Path

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The end point of this lovely, calming video sees our beloved Monty Don feeding his chickens. But really, the point of watching this insight into the Don’s morning routine is to get a sneaky guided tour around the garden he has cultivated for some 30 years, accompanied by his dogs. The alliums! The tulips! The walled gardens! Expect an excess of sublime beauty in this short video.

Assiette Anne-Marie with Raymond Blanc


Raymond Blanc, proprietor of Le Manoir aux Quat’Saison is no stranger to cooking with garden produce. In fact, having cultivated an envy-inducing kitchen garden at his legendary Oxfordshire hotel, it is his signature. This lovely, fresh recipe is full of spring zing and produce (you can substitute to suit what you have/ have grown) and named after Anne-Marie Owens, his long-time head gardener. The recipe is absolutely showstopping – after all, who can resist a courgette flower? We could listen to him talk all day. Heaven.

Rethinking Urban Gardens With Charlotte Harris

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Tropic Night doing her thing

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Charlotte Harris would have been the co-designer of Chelsea Flower Show sponsor M&G’s garden for 2020. The design she and her partner created was intended to help people escape the rigours of hectic urban life. In lieu of that, here she delivers the spirit of it, walking us through Olympic Park, while picking out the wildly varied habitats to give us ideas that may be relevant to our home gardens. Impassioned, invaluable, brilliant.

An Exclusive Nursery Tour of David Austin Roses


David Austin is a name so synonymous with the most superior roses in the land that even gardening neophytes tend to be familiar with it. You may well have ordered from its catalogue of unbelievably beautiful breeds of rose, but have you ever ventured to the Wolverhampton nursery to see them all growing in one place? Us neither. Here you can right that wrong as head gardener Steve guides us round the roses he was growing for Chelsea. Joyous.

Ask A Gardening Advisor
There are multiple ‘Ask A Gardening Advisor’ videos on the RHS website. This one, chaired by Paul Hervey-Brooked, is just shy of an hour-long and tackles all manner of garden-related questions, such as how to prune and care for wisteria, and how to deal with non-flowering spring plants. Invaluable.

How To Make a Seed Bomb pinata



Something we especially love about RHS Chelsea Flower Show is the onus it is putting on getting children interested in the garden. After all, the environment relies on each new generation caring as much as the last, and never has that been more important than now. What’s not to love about this instructional video for making a seed bomb pinata with Lee Connelly, aka the Skinny Jean Gardener? As he says, it has to be fun. And this assuredly is. Want more activities for your kids? Why not try Lee’s guide to making a mini allotment?

A Cut Flower Garden Tour With Sarah Raven
Sarah Raven is the go-to woman for cut flowers. Here she guides us round her very favourite Chelsea flowers and how to prep them for the vase. Alliums, lupins, euphorbia, and viburnum opulus: are all plants she discovered at Chelsea and now talks us through here. We could watch and watch. Want more Sarah Raven? Do look out for our guest edit with her next week.



Kazuyuki Ishihara’s Garden Paradise


We love Monty Don and Sarah Raven’s classic English gardens. But for something completely different, why not transport yourself to Nagasaki courtesy of Gold medal award-winning landscape designer Kazuyuki Ishihara. We adore how we meet him immersed in his pond, and from there are taken around what must be one of the most peaceful and verdant places on earth. Do turn the sound on for the calming trickle of water, and to listen to him talking about how and why he’s created this garden to last forever – and what he loves about moss. He incorporates elements from each of his Chelsea designs back into his own garden; if you’re a regular, why not see if you can spot them?

How To Create A Bouquet Inspired by Chelsea With Nikki Tibbles


Nikki Tibbles, founder of Wild at Heart, broadcasts straight from her beautiful orchard to show us how to bring a slice of Chelsea into our homes. Guelder-rose and peonies: was there ever a more delightful combination?

May 2020
By Nancy Alsop

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