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An insight into the history and traditions of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show
Although it may not seem only two minutes since the last show, 2013’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show is now only two and a half short months away.
Perhaps more intriguing to this is the fact that this year, the show shall be enjoying its 151st birthday, having first been held in 1862 in Kensington.
Added to that, 2013 is also the shows 91st year held on the grounds of the Royal Hospital.
If you plan on taking a trip to the UK this summer, not only is the show a uniquely brilliant opportunity for skilled horticulturalists to show what they can do in the garden, but perhaps more importantly, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is a great opportunity for people of all ages, skills and interests to see, learn and be inspired by some of the most creative and fantastic minds in horticulture.
Besides of course some of the gardeners themselves, there shall also be leading garden and environmental companies added to the roster. Companies including Hartley Botanic, a leading glasshouse manufacturer, shall be ready and waiting to give out helpful tips and advice – something that they have been doing at the show for decades.
With so many anniversaries happening during the 2013 RHS Chelsea Flower Show, just how significant is its history?
Although the name of the show is now prestigious, gaining both recognition and acclaim world-wide, the original name of the show was the ‘Royal Horticultural Society’s Great Spring Show’ and was held at the RHS garden in Kensington.
It wasn’t actually until 1913 when the first Chelsea Flower Show officially took place, having moved into the grounds of the Royal Hospital in Chelsea.
Although many things were cancelled in Britain during the First World War, the show held out for much of it before facing cancelation in the final two years of the war.
Thankfully by the time of the roaring 20s the show was back in full swing; royal visits continued and the celebrated tea parties were established.
Year on year the show was getting bigger, and by 1937, the famous Empire Exhibition was staged to celebrate the Coronation Year of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
Wattles arrived from Australia, Pines from Canada, a gladioli from East Africa and a huge pear from Palestine; covering all areas of the Empire.
Unfortunately due to the Second World War, the show was cancelled throughout, the land having been donated to an anti-aircraft site.
The show did not occur again until 1947, at a time when staff, plants and fuel were scarce.
The hero of the hour was Lord Aberconway, who with the help of special permits, was able to resurrect the show for a second time, and as before, to a huge success.
The show in 1953 proved to be one of the biggest years of all with the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, a fact that was noted by the majority of the Royal Family who were in attendance that year; even if the Queen herself was not.
In 1959, the famous Times ‘Garden of To-morrow’ also took place, complete with a radio controlled lawn mower.
The swinging sixties offered a fabulous new age for the show as horticulturalists began experimenting and with the increasing availability of air travel, more and more people began to attend the shows from all over the world.
Designer John Brookes introduces minimalism in the garden with space-saving designs. This was a huge step for garden fashion throughout the world and kickstarted garden socialising in the United Kingdom.
The show enjoys a huge boost in popularity as tickets have to be restricted for the very first time in 1987 thanks to the huge amount of public demand.
1994 featured possibly the most controversial year in the shows history with Paul Coopers’ Cool and Sexy garden, complete with air jets to blow up the skirts of unsuspecting female guests.