Gardens and Parks of London
RHS - Chelsea Flower Shows

The first Royal Horticultural Society Great Spring Show was held in 1862, at the RHS garden in Kensington.
Before this date the RHS had held flower shows from 1833 in their garden in Chiswick, which themselves had been preceded by fetes.  The Kensington Garden was chosen as a site because the flower shows in Chiswick were experiencing falling visitor numbers due to problems such as poor transport links.

The Great Spring Show
was held at Kensington for twenty-six years but in 1888 the RHS decided to move the show to the heart of London.  The site chosen was the Temple Gardens, situated between the Embankment and Fleet Street, which had a recorded history dating back to 1307 and which were said to date from the time of the Knights Templar.  The roses for which these Temple Gardens were famous were alluded to in Shakespear’s Henry VI Part 1.  Using two marquees requisitioned from the old Kensington shows the 1888 show was a success with exhibits from both amateurs and commercial firms.  By 1897 five marquees were being used with many of the best known plant and seed merchants being attracted to the event.

Royal International Horticultural Exhibition
In 1912, the Temple Show was cancelled to make way for the Royal International Horticultural Exhibition.  Sir Harry Veitch, the great nurseryman, secured the grounds of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, for this one-off event.  It proved such a good site for an exhibition that the Great Spring Show was moved there in 1913, where it has taken place almost every year since, except for a break during the Second World War.

The Chelsea Flower Show today
The Chelsea Flower Show receives a lot of publicity.  It is attended by 157,000 visitors each year (a number limited by the capacity of the 11 acre ground), and all tickets must be purchased in advance. From 2005 the show was increased from four days to five, with the first two days only open to RHS members.  The show is extensively covered on television by the BBC.  Several members of the British Royal Family attend a preview of the show, as part of the royal patronage of the RHS.  The area of land devoted to show gardens increased steadily between 1970 and 2000 and the show has become an important venue for watching trends.  New plants are often launched at the show and the popularity of older varieties revived under the focus of the horticultural world.  It is the garden design equivalent of a catwalk at a fashion show.

There are four grades of award presented, gold, silver-gilt, silver and bronze, in each of the categories listed below.
Bronze grade exhibits do not actually receive a medal.

Awards categories
  • Flora Gardens and floral exhibits
  • Hogg Exhibits of trees
  • Knightian Exhibits of vegetables, including herbs
  • Lindley Exhibits of special educational or scientific interest
  • Grenfell Exhibits of pictures, photographs,floral arrangements and floristry

Special awards
  • Best Show Garden    • Best Courtyard Garden    • Best Chic Garden    • Best City Garden
  • RHS Sundries Bowl    • RHS Junior Display Trophy     • RHS Floral Arrangement Trophies
  • RHS Floristry Trophies     • Show Certificates of merit    • Certificates for Junior displays
  • RHS President's Award