Our first RHS Chelsea Flower Show – Take home inspiration and lessons learnt

‘Chelsea Chelsea’. We used to go and see the Fratelli’s, but now we go and see the flowers.

We talked about going along to Chelsea Flower Show last year, and the year before, and I guess it’s just one of those things we may have always wanted to do but kept putting off. That happens when you have kids doesn’t it? Until 2019 that is. The year we started putting a little more us to the top of the list again, and seizing the day, even if that is a flower show as opposed to a rock festival, lol.

As ‘old before our time’ avid gardeners, everything about Chelsea appeals. A day out in the sunshine, without the kids (sorry not sorry), a day date and a chance to eye up some serious garden goals.

We picked up our tickets back in the depths of winter, signing up to the RHS for a discounted ticket rate with a years membership and access to the country wide RHS gardens.

So this Saturday we dropped the kids of with Nanny and Grandad bright and breezy, grabbed the train to Victoria and opted against the three quid shuttle bus in favour for a leisurely stroll through Belgravia and feeling like Millie and Hugo off of Made in Chelsea. We needn’t have worried too much about directions as it was fairly obvious to spot the standard demographic and follow the florals all the way to the Royal Chelsea Hospital entrance.

Before heading in we grabbed coffee, cake and a brochure at the Hospital cafe, which has some lovely gardens of it’s own. It was a great place to relax, gather our thoughts and do some carb loading before the onslaught that is mass viewing of show gardens, artisan displays and a lot of stuff you wish you could afford.

The layout at Chelsea is a mix of small display, commerce and information stands, floral displays and show gardens. There are focal displays by flower type and gardens following a theme by organisations such as Facebook, M&G, Montessori and even Silent Pool Gin. As well as plants and florals there is a huge amount of inspiration in outdoor living, as well as creative displays for gardens, from premium glass art to giant sculptures in a wide array of mediums.


One of the most striking gardening styles at Chelsea which recurred throughout the show was that of cottage gardens; tall foxgloves and Hollyhocks, Lupins, Delphiniums, Alliums, grasses and daisies intermingling with more structured plants to create a packed border brimming with colour, texture and…bees!

Talking of visitors to the garden, we signed up to the RSPB at Chelsea, an unplanned but valuable hand in wallet exercise which will help encourage our kids outside and ensure that the creatures that we grew up seeing in the garden, continue to do so throughout their lifetime and beyond.

It occurred to me whilst strolling around that they had truly demonstrated how you can plant in literally anything! I’m definitely going to recreate this wheelbarrow spotted in the gin bar, partly because I’m all out of trucks, old cash registers and vintage cars…all of which were spotted at the show. The mix of industrial textures alongside the natural was a recurring theme, as well as the relaxing trickle of water which of course every Chelsea garden must have.

Our one and only investment purchase at Chelsea was one of the product of the year finalists – an ornamental iron composter with an obelisk by Wlstone. It serves a few purposes for us – it’s a piece of art, it’s practica (it feeds the garden) and it also means we finally get to have a composter in the garden again – something we had put off since we moved eight years ago because, well composters are so damn ugly aren’t they? At around £100 for the pair (or £39 for just the composter) we felt this was a piece that would last a lifetime and decided to go for it instead of plants.

Outdoor living

We have been toying around for a while now with how we could remodel the back half of our garden to optimise the living and storage space. Between Dad Muddling Through and I we have a few ideas buzzing around and RHS Chelsea was the perfect place to seek out inspiration for the unusual and I guess, high end versions for what can be achieved in a small space with a bit of creativity (and a small fortune).

Clearly we are not in the high brow clientele of Chelsea, but we did realise that there is sense in waiting, thinking, saving and maximising this opportunity to get it right, rather than going in for a half hearted job. So it may be a year or four away, but we can make it a project worth waiting for.

So far, with a little help from RHS Chelsea the vision looks something like this…

Removal of the wendy house to make space for sweeping steps from the lower half to the upper half of the garden. A wooden pergola shading over a seating area, preserving and supporting the existing wisteria. An outdoor living space comprising of a corner sofa (that seats more than two bums), bordered by a vertical fencing panel and finished with pops of bright colour. I have a vision of a neon sign in there…a girl can dream right?

Adjacent to the living space would be a shed, replacing the existing out building for storage of all the necessary garden crap. Nested in beside the shed, a glass house / potting shed.

Somehow, by hook or by crook, I’ll squeeze a living wall / roof into the design if it’s the last thing I do. In fact, I’m not sure I can wait that long to get one cracking…

Indoor plants

Regular readers of this blog will know that Dad Muddling Through and I (mostly DMT) have a penchant for indoor plants, with the current kitchen count nearing the 22 mark. It’s not quite here, but it’s getting there…

We did bring home a little living piece of Chelsea Flower Show; an air plant which reminded us so much of our recent trip to the U.S. We laughed with the designer about how this ‘pest’ in the States has such different value here, and we parted with ten of our english pounds all the same. What can I say, the beauty of his Pandora-esque display had me at hello…

Another striking ensemble caught our eye in the marquee area was a display of house plants on a white shelving unit, with pops of (one of my fave) accent colours, mustard yellow. This fun and eclectic design could be easily recreated at home, in fact, I can’t believe we haven’t thought of it before…

We did also pick up a mustard macrame hanger from the RHS shop which we mistakenly thought was half price (all the RHSCFC merch was on Saturday). The hanger wasn’t half price, but until I learn how to make my own, we are still pretty happy we bought it.

The 4pm Sell Off

Attending the show on the last day is huge if you are planning on buying plants. As newbies we were a bit bewildered by the whole reserve, 4pm sell off thing, and we made a sharp exit in search for pub grub at around 3.45.

From our window table however we watched with envy as people laden with ferns, trees, hollyhocks and armfulls of flowers passed by. I have no idea how it works in terms of value for money, but I guess if you have your heart set on something spesh, then that is how to do it. Suddenly our one little air plant felt a bit, well, disappointing!

I think we were just a bit overwhelmed by the scale of everything, but we see in hindsight that if Ferns, or roses, or Iris’, or Lilies, or any other plant for that matter, are your thing, then Chelsea is the place to pick up something a bit special…at 4pm on the Saturday. Perhaps we missed a trick there.

Our day at RHS Chelsea was memorable for so many reasons…the unforgettable sights, the comedy moments we were almost laughed off stalls that sold furniture worth half the value of our house.

You don’t need to be rich, old, knowledgable or even have a garden to love Chelsea. If you love flowers, then I can’t encourage you enough to experience the show, just once, or perhaps more. I have no doubts this won’t be our last visit, and next time, I’m taking a fold up trolley…


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