In the UK, we are home to some of the world’s best flower shows, all of which succeed in bringing together gardeners from all areas and provide boundless inspiration for our own outdoor spaces. Not only are the show gardens a feast for the senses, but these events allow interaction with small businesses and expert nurseries, providing plenty of opportunity for you to bring part of the show home with you in one of the iconic plant trolleys which everyone takes from show to show. Not only that, but there is also the chance to interact with garden designers who created the amazing and complex gardens, and if you’re lucky you may even catch a glimpse of your favourite gardening celebrity. This is truly gardening at its most spectacular; the atmosphere at flower shows is unmatched, particularly when there is so much to see and you are surrounded by so many likeminded people.
You cannot discuss flower shows without first mentioning RHS Chelsea Flower Show, perhaps the most universally famous of these events which takes place in the heart of London each May. The grounds of the Royal Hospital are transformed for a few weeks each year, welcoming thousands of visitors dressed in their best floral dresses! Chelsea is the place to see the biggest, the best and the most prestigious: from award winning nurseries to award winning designers, this show pulls together all the highlights of the gardening world. With numerous show gardens of all themes and sizes, it is important to arrive early to avoid the crowds and ensure you get the best view. The plant sell off on the final day of the show is perhaps the moment of the most heightened anticipation – nurserymen begin to sell off their amazing displays which have been purchased earlier in the week – the countdown to sale time and frenzied people with armfuls of plants is truly a sight to behold. Chelsea is certainly not one to be missed, with trade stands, specialist nurseries, designers, and gardeners alike all agreeing it is the highlight of the gardening year. But if you can’t make it to Chelsea, then the extensive coverage by the BBC (with all the favourite Gardener’s World presenters) is just as good as being there – and you certainly will get an excellent view of the show gardens.
The younger sibling of the Chelsea Flower Show is the Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival, the world’s biggest flower show geographically. Set in the picturesque, historical grounds of the royal palace, this flower show is full of sights and smells to die for. The extensive floral marquee, the show gardens, the food market and the plant village all compete for your attention, and new and exciting categories and displays (such as the Allotment gardens) mean there is something new to enjoy every year.
But if lots of people and too much to see is less your thing, then that does not rule out flower shows for you altogether. In fact, the opposite is true, and smaller shows such as Malvern Spring Festivsal, RHS Tatton Park and Wisley Flower Show offer just as much interest. In these smaller shows, it is easier to get closer and appreciate the floral displays, and the National Dahlia Society’s exhibit at the Wisley Flower Show each September is certainly not to be missed.
Last but by no means least, Gardener’s World Live is a flower show of an entirely different sort, and it is all the better for it. Held each year at the Birmingham NEC, this show is brimming with inspiration, and brings together gardeners from across the country, creating a warm, friendly and open atmosphere. Perhaps the best part of the show is the chance to hear your favourite presenters from the TV show speak live, including Q&A sessions and book signings, this is certainly an unmissably unique opportunity. You might catch Monty Don talking about Longmeadow, or maybe Adam Frost discussing gardening in a changing climate – the inspiration provided is detailed and exciting, so much so it will make you want to take notes! Also in the show: the gardens, Beautiful Borders, plant village, nurseries in the Floral Marquee and the trade stands all provide excellent opportunities to get inspiration and to make purchases that your garden back home will thank you for.
Overall, flower shows provide a unique opportunity to connect with other gardeners, explore new ideas, and broaden your perspective in terms of different aspects of design, and new and exciting varieties introduced by specialist nurseries. While they only remain in place for a couple of weeks, the shows all remain firmly in gardener’s memories, plants in their gardens, and pictures posted on their Instagram!
Written by Becky Buxton