The Chelsea Flower Show is an event my Mum has wanted to do for many years, Dad has never been very keen so Mum and I thought we’d go it alone!
We booked our tickets with relative ease, I had always heard it was hard to get tickets but I found them easy enough. We decided to make a weekend of it so opted for Saturday tickets – the last day of the show in which they sell everything off! After scouring the internet we decided to give Airbnb a go and booked our stay at ‘Michael’s Apartment’ in a new apartment block called Chelsea Creek, a 10-15min walk from Fulham Broadway Tube Station. We found Airbnb to be a fair bit cheaper than a lot of the hotels we were looking at so if you are finding a short break to London pricey give it a go!
We arrived in London at around 7.30pm and started our journey to our apartment, after reacquainting ourselves with the tube (we got on the wrong one at first – my fault!) we soon found our way to Fulham Broadway Station and exited through the barriers into a shopping centre. We hadn’t eaten dinner so stopped in a Nandos before collecting our apartment keys. Once we had filled ourselves with chicken we opened up Google Maps (our best friend for the weekend!) and followed the dots on the map towards our destination, a short walk straight on, right then straight on, easy! Soon we were faced with a huge new, fancy looking apartment block which split off into different sections, our keys had been left with the concierge and they helpfully showed us where we needed to go. Thankfully the apartment was exactly as it looked in the pictures, it was clean, modern and had everything we needed.
We sorted out our luggage and soon headed to bed hoping to get an early night ready for what was bound to be a long day the next day!
Our alarm clocks started chiming at 6.30am, signalling the start of our day, we wanted to get there early to avoid the huge crowds that were sure to be there later on! We got up, showered, ate breakfast and ummed and ahhhed about what to wear that day, the weather was forecast sunny and warm but with showers, we both went for summery dresses and made sure to pack our brollies! A little bit later than planned we headed out of the door and on our way.
We took the tube from Fulham Broadway to Sloane Square which took no time at all, we headed out of the station and asked a Chelsea Pensioner the way we should go, although it was sign posted we weren’t quite sure, she was a great help and told us a little short cut, along with a few other ladies, so off we went! It had started to rain while we were on the tube but nothing to grumble about, as soon as our umbrellas went up they were back down again.
We entered the show through the London Gate entrance and were met with the beautiful Royal Hospital Chelsea it really is a stunning building, it is now home to the Chelsea Pensioners. They offer accommodation, comradeship and the highest standards of care for veterans, in recognition of their loyal service to the Nation. Any former solider of the British Army over the age of 65, who is facing spending their advanced years alone can apply for residence here. To read more about them you can visit the website here – Chelsea Pensioners
After we had finished marvelling at the building we made our way towards the ticket gates. Because of the devastating events in Manchester a couple of weeks ago we were subject to bag searches and airport style security, something which we didn’t mind at all, I would rather they were cautious! Once our bags had been searched we were free to go in. We weren’t quite sure what to expect, how big things would be and how long it would take us to get around the site.
Our first stop was the Radio 2 Feel Good Gardens, there were five of them in total. We marvelled at Chris Evans and Mary Berry’s ‘Taste’ Garden, it was packed full of the type of fruit and veg you’d grow at home, voluptuous rows of cauliflowers and broccoli, lots of juicy ripe strawberries and rhubarb, it was all quite perfect, if not a little too perfect!
The next garden we came across was Zoe Ball’s ‘Listening’ Garden this one featured some copper coloured trough type shapes and they would make a deep vibrating sound on a loop and ripple the water, it was a sound that went right through you and really did get to all of your senses.
We wandered along squeezing through the crowds to look at the three remaining Radio 2 Gardens, the Anneka Rice ‘Colour Cutting’ Garden, Jeremy Vine ‘Texture’ Garden and Jo Whiley’s ‘Scent’ Garden.
We carried along and marvelled at everything along the way, we got to one stand where a chap had mastered the art of Stone Balancing, if you have never seen this before I would highly recommend a You Tube search, we couldn’t understand how he did it! The standard of some of the things exhibitors were selling was phenomenal, you would need a big hefty bank balance and a fairly big garden to house some of the things for sale, that didn’t stop us taking it all in though, a girl can dream!
After being distracted by all that was on offer for sale we decided to take a pit stop and rest our toes, we grabbed a quick cup of tea and some shelter from the blazing sun and tried to re-charge for a few minutes before making our way back out. We tried to work out what we had seen and what was on our list to see, the site is big enough that we weren’t sure what we had and hadn’t done. We’d managed to see a couple of the Show Gardens while it was still a little early and not so crowed but by the time we stepped back outside the crowds had started to grow.
There was one garden that you could queue to get a birds eye view of and that was the Linklaters Garden for Maggie’s, it was designed as a secluded, calming and private space that gives beauty and respite for those suffering from Cancer. It really was a beautiful garden which I think could only be appreciated from above. It was full of boxed hedges and granite benches which were broken apart to symbolise and demonstrate how life can be blown apart and then put back together after a cancer diagnosis. It was very secret garden like with a little wooden gate at the front of the garden.
After a lot more walking and a quick pit stop in the Whistlefish tent to snap up some beautiful bargain cards (10 for £8!) We found a spot in the picnic area and sat down on the grass for an early lunch, I think we’d earned it! A tip if you ever fancy the Chelsea Flower Show and one that friends gave me, is buy your lunch and drinks before and take a picnic, as you can imagine prices were on the steep side for food and drink!
After we had re-fuelled we carried on with the rest of our afternoon, it was gone mid day and I don’t think we’d even done half of it! We walked on to find the rest of the gardens we wanted to see. I think I had two favourites, The Morgan Stanley Garden, with all it’s beautiful colours, contrasts of wood and stone and also the World Horse Welfare Garden, this garden stood there like it had been there for years and years and the attention to detail was more than you could imagine, the pictures really don’t do it justice!
After a few little purchases from a couple of cheeky chaps that made garden ornaments out of reclaimed metal we headed into the tent a lot of you will be familiar with from the T.V, the Great Pavilion! It has Great in it’s name because it really is huge! We were conscious that the afternoon was getting on and we hadn’t even started yet, we decided on the route we would take and went for it. As it was the last day of the show a lot of the plants get sold off at the end of the day, 4pm to be precise, we noticed while looking in awe at some of the stands that a lot of plants had tags on them or raffle type tickets stapled to them, it soon became apparent that we should have done this tent at the beginning of the day in order to reserve the best of the plants! We of course hadn’t gone there with the intention of lugging some huge bush home (photo to follow of this!) with us but you soon get sucked into the hype! We meandered past some truly beautiful plants, flowers, cactus and shrubs; some of the bonsai trees there were just works of art, one in particular dating back to the 1800’s!! How do you keep something alive for that many years?
After we felt satisfied we’d seen everything we wanted to see and made a mental note of anything we’d like to go back for once the sell of started, we went back outside to have another look at anything we’d missed, by this time it was 3.45pm so only 15 minutes until the big sell off! We looked back over a couple of the gardens which already had queues of people eager to take home a little bit of the show gardens. We visited the Sophie Allport Stand and both bought ourselves a souvenir Chelsea Flower Show Mug, which I am in love with!
Before we knew it a chap came over the tannoy and did a count down, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… it was sell off time!
It was craziness gone mad! People were taking home some of the strangest things (a square of moss anyone?) but also some beautiful things. It was also quite sad to see all of the gorgeous gardens pulled up and dismantled looking very sorry for themselves. Mum and I managed to bag ourselves a couple of bargains in a lovely little lemon coloured rose plant for a £1 each and a fruitful chill plant for £2 each. After going back three or four times we also both came back with a pretty Cactus type plant each too. At this point when it hurt our feet to walk any further, our legs had given up and our bags were so stuffed mine had literally started to come away at the seams we decided to call it a day! We didn’t do too bad having arrived early and leaving 15 minutes before the end of the show! We didn’t get to look around all of the trade stands but it was probably for the best seeing as we had no more arms to carry things! If ever we go again we shall take a trolley!!
All in all we both had a wonderful day at the show, seeing as neither of us knew what to expect and Mum more the gardener than me, I still had a brilliant day and came home inspired to bring some life into my gardens at home!
We even found this lady on the tube on the way home, what a beautiful Fuchsia, I guess she must have thought so too!!