With 32,145 pints of Pimms, 15 months in planning and 25 days of building and setting up to showcase the best in gardening － welcome to the annual floral display that is the Chelsea Flower Show.
- The Chelsea Flower Show averages about 168,000 visitors annually
- It takes 25-30 days to set up and 11 days to dismantle the show
- More than 8,000 people are involved in the show
- 438 safety, security and maintenance professionals are employed
- 2,800 nursery professionals exhibit at the show
- The Great Pavilion feature more than 100 stands and features tens of thousands of plants
- There is enough space in the Great Pavilion to park 500 London buses
- About 2,000 tonnes of soil and earth is moved in preparation for the show
- The show manager walks about 15km each day on-site
- Visitors consume 32,145 pints of Pimms, 9,051 glasses of Fortnum & Mason Champagne and drink around 42,328 cups of tea and coffee
- Ticket prices start at £37.85 for RHS members and £48.85 for non-members for Chelsea 2023.
- 2023 is the 110th Chelsea Flower Show
Read on and discover the show’s magic, all the facts and figures from 2022, plus a taste of what garden lovers can expect from the 2023 edition.
Chelsea Flower Show Facts
First, let’s dig into a few interesting facts and numbers. While it takes almost a month to set up the show and its show gardens, it takes a mere 11 days to dismantle it entirely.
Just over 8,000 people are involved in putting on the show. Of that total, it includes:
- More than 250 passionate RHS volunteers
- 130 RHS Staff
- 30 Garden Designers
- 1,200 contractors
- A catering crew of some 3,000
- 438 safety, security and maintenance professionals
- 2,800 nursery growers and trade stand personnel.
Let’s move on to how the show is laid out and structured.
The Great Pavilion
The huge marquee that is the Great Pavilion takes the central place of the show and contains more than 100 exhibits. 50 staff take about 2,000 hours to set up the Great Pavilion tent, which measures 12,000 square metres.
That is almost 3 acres － the average size of 3,230 British gardens.
For another perspective, there is enough space to park 500 London buses.
More than 20,000 plants are planted and potted up for the nursery exhibits in the Great Pavilion with some larger stands showing 8,000 plants. Judging takes about 6 hours by 50 judges and 4 moderators to judge exhibitions in the Great Pavilion.
2022 featured many interactive displays which highlighted the practices that support healthy plants and biodiversity, showing the many ways plants and gardening can help to protect and restore our natural world.
Practices such as seed saving, crop rotation and carbon offsetting or sequestration were top themes aimed at encouraging home gardeners on what they can do to combat climate change and mitigate its effects.
Once again the Great Pavilion was a feast of flowers and petals － both visual and a fragrant experience. One of the all-time favourites is the annual dazzling display of dahlias.
Then there are the garden exhibits themselves.
In the main avenue, 3,670 plants are displayed. The compact and smaller Artisan garden may include an average of 615 plants.
Show gardens are built up in 19 days and dismantled in 5. For the Artisan gardens the figures are 11 (the build) and 3 (dismantle) respectively.
About 2,000 tonnes of soil and earth are moved in preparation for the show.
16 judges and 2 moderators take more than 25 hours to judge and assess all gardens at the show.
Food & Drink At Chelsea
The show is also a key social event, and where there are people, there is food and drink.
Visitors consume 32,145 pints of Pimms, 9,051 glasses of Fortnum & Mason Champagne and drink around 42,328 cups of tea and coffee. And if you can’t actually make it to the show, garden lovers can watch more than 15 hours of broadcast on BBC1 and 2 throughout the 5-day show.
Themes & Trends At Chelsea in 2022
The 2022 show between 24-28 May was a welcome return for gardening enthusiasts following Covid-19 restrictions. It attracted around 168,000 visitors during it’s 5-days, and almost 30,000 pairs of feet daily.
The 2022 theme was wildlife-friendly with an emphasis on attracting and nurturing wildlife, beneficial insects and pollinators. Designs were more relaxed using a mix of common and rare native species to promote biodiversity. Wildflower meadows, lush woodlands and blossoming hedgerows featured prominently.
BBC Studios – Our Green Planet and RHS Bee Garden proved a hit with its aim to inspire home gardeners to grow bee-friendly plants and educate people about the ability of plants to assist threatened pollinators.
While some species of British bees are severely threatened, many English wild bees are in decline. This is not just a problem in Britain but a global crisis. The BBC Studios Our Green Planet stand in the shape of a bee’s wing featured hundreds of nectar- and pollen-rich plants.
There were also HousePlant Studios and a clinic for the many who live in apartments and grow houseplants and gardens on their balconies. These cater for both experienced growers and newbies with trailing, vining and epiphytic plants potted up and artfully displayed.
Space does not allow us to list all the winners, but they can be found in Good Housekeeping for those who are interested.
On-Trend Plants At The 2022 Chelsea Flower Show
Let’s turn to some of the on-trend plants that emerged at the 2022 show.
Although prone to aphids which put some gardeners off, Lupins are back in a big way. These colourful spires should be mixed with plants of similar heights such as Irises, foxgloves and frothy grasses. Showgoers saw this mix together with the lower-growing California poppies providing a pop of electric orange.
Another trendy plant is the false indigo plant or Baptisia australis. This member of the pea family is much loved by pollinators and they add valuable nitrogen to the soil. With their beautiful grey-green foliage, they companion well with alliums and poppies.
The big round heads of purple alliums remain a firm favourite, as do Irises and Anchusa azurea with their deep blue pollen-rich flowers.
Waterwise and drought-resistant succulents never go out of style. The Chelsea Plant of the Year for 2022 was the hybrid Semponium ‘Destiny’ with its gothic almost black fleshy leaves in a rosette.
Other on-tend plants included the dainty but pollen-rich aquilegia and poppies. Sticking with the letter P, those delicate but stylish Peonies are at their peak in May in England. So they featured in many plantings.
Chelsea In 2023
The 110th Chelsea Flower Show will take place from Tuesday 23rd to Saturday 27th May this year at its historical home for many years, the Royal Hospital, Chelsea.
Tickets are currently available at prices starting at prices starting at £37.85 for RHS members and £48.85 for non-members.
A first for this year’s show is the Children’s Picnic scheduled for Monday 22nd May (which is also press day). Over 100 children from some of the most disadvantaged ages in the UK will be invited to attend, where they will enjoy great food and visit and play in the gardens.
While the Chelsea Flower Show does have its detractors and opponents who argue the show is ecologically problematic and elitist, its popularity doesn’t appear to be waning. In fact, organisers are acutely aware of the climate crisis and are actively seeking ways of using the show to educate the public on how they can minimise the effects of climate change in their own backyards.
With well-being such a big issue following the effects of the pandemic and lockdowns, observers are predicting that many show gardens will be specifically designed with the benefits of mental well-being in mind. Think restorative, rejuvenating, relaxing and sustainable. Organisers will be focusing on inclusive green spaces for disadvantaged communities in which to soak up nature, as well as gardens for patient recovery.
It was announced earlier this year that for the first time, the show gardens will be judged on their green and ecologically-sound credentials.
Sustainable gardening is a key concern these days. The uses of sustainable materials in the building and following renewable gardening practices will be prerequisites for show participants.
The Chelsea Flower Show has something for everyone. But don’t delay in buying your tickets as it’s a crowd pleaser.