Chelsea Flower Show: The prettiest floral events across London to visit this season
Traditionally, the arrival of May in the capital means just one thing: the Chelsea Flower Show will soon be upon us. This spring the capital is set to be filled with a host of floral tributes, from the much-lauded In Bloom festivals in Chelsea and Belgravia to a flower-filled wonderland at Mayfair’s most-Instagrammed restaurant and verdant exhibitions at some of the city’s top museums. Here we’ve rounded up the finest floral events in London to add to your diary this summer.
Chelsea Flower Show
23 – 27 May
Known as the world’s greatest flower show, the Chelsea Flower Show is the highlight of any horticulture lover’s annual calendar. The mood at this year’s show is likely to be a bittersweet blend of celebratory and reflective – while there will be nods to the recent Coronation of King Charles III, the late Queen’s absence will be keenly felt. Her Majesty was a long-time fan of the Flower Show, having visited more than 50 times during her reign. There are set to be a number of floral tributes dedicated to the Queen, including the Garden of Royal Reflection and Celebration designed by Dave Green, which will feature a topiary depicting Emma, the Queen’s favourite fell pony.
Other highlights of Chelsea Flower Show 2023 include the unveiling of the exhibition’s first wheelchair-accessible garden, Horatio’s Garden, designed by Charlotte Harris and Hugo Bugg of Harris Bugg, and its first ever insect laboratory in The Royal Entomological Society Garden. Designed by Tom Massey, the lab will study the number of insects visiting the garden during the show, in a bid to highlight the importance of the biodiversity created by planting. Renowned chef Skye Gyngell will also be curating a series of menus for the show, set within a herb garden that guests are welcome to explore and forage from. Every day will focus on a different herb, from sorrel and sage to fennel, with dishes created around the freshest of ingredients.
Chelsea in Bloom
22 - 28 May
Coinciding with the Flower Show is Chelsea in Bloom, London’s largest floral festival that sees the Royal Borough’s chicest shops and restaurants adorned with whimsical floral installations. This year’s theme is ‘Flowers on Film’, so you can expect show-stopping flowery sculptures celebrating all movie genres and legendary stars that have graced the silver screen.
Alongside this you’ll also find special events and pop-ups taking place throughout the neighbourhood, including an enchanting secret garden at Lavender Green and a mini exhibition of award-winning floral oil painters from Floris Fine Art at the Chelsea Fire Station.
Sketch in Bloom
Until 29 May
Known for their captivating installations, Sketch has been transformed with a spectacular floral display as the focal point of Mayfair in Bloom. Created in honour of King Charles III and Queen Camilla’s historic Coronation, the exhibit takes inspiration from Their Majesties’ Highgrove Gardens and features bespoke installations by long-time collaborators JamJar Flowers, Rebel Rebel and Ricky Paul, as well as a newly commissioned piece by designer Moritz Waldemeyer.
Visitors will arrive by walking through a dreamlike passage by JamJar that’s been created as a modern interpretation of an ancient ‘Holloway’, where a wood of twisted trees meet in a circular canopy planted with moss and pockets of ferns. Dotted around you’ll find ethereal butterflies by London-based Studio Waldemeyer, while Rebel Rebel’s installation in The Glade is inspired by the Carpet Garden at Highgrove, which King Charlesbased on one of his own rugs. Finally, Ricky Paul has installed a two-metre-high floral crown above the East Bar Dome, taking centre-stage in the infamous Pod loos. The crown is filled with an array of the King’s favourite flowers, including a stream of delphiniums cascading down the staircase, for a final regal flourish.
All the flowers are for me at Kew Gardens
Until 17 September
As part of Kew’s summer programme, award-winning Pakistani-American contemporary artist Anila Quayyum Agha is holding her debut UK show featuring two spellbinding sculptural works. The first, All the flowers are for me, is a large, laser-cut steel cube suspended from the ceiling that fills the space with elaborate floor-to-ceiling floral shadows. The piece draws inspiration from patterns used in Islamic art and architecture, and invites the viewer to explore cultural connectedness and peaceful co-existence in our increasingly fractious world.
The second work, Stolen moment bouquet I and II, is a wall-mounted piece constructed from mirrored stainless steel that was inspired by the botanical artist Albrecht Dürer’s watercolour painting Great piece of turf, which depicts a variety of wild plants in meticulous detail. Agha’s piece, which was created 500 years after Dürer’s, highlights how traditional botanical painting remains a key source of inspiration for contemporary art.
Belgravia in Bloom
22 – 29 May
Alongside Chelsea, the nearby neighbourhood of Belgravia will also be having a floral spruce up in honour of the annual Chelsea Flower Show. Some of the area’s finest local florists, including Royal Warrant holders Moyses Stevens and Neill Strain, will be producing intricate floral sculptures to be displayed across SW1. As part of this year’s ‘Into the Wild’ theme, you’ll find fantastical floral tigers, colourful butterflies and proud peacocks adorning the streets, while a partnership with the London Wildlife Trust will ensure all of the installations are created using biodiversity-boosting flowers.
Plenty of the local businesses and restaurants will be getting in on the act, too. The renowned Judith Blacklock Flower School will be creating a tunnel of exotic orchids to transport visitors into the wilderness; meanwhile, Peggy Porschen will be creating special underwater-themed cakes to accompany their sea garden-inspired installation and there’ll be DIY biscuit icing workshops at Biscuiteers.
British Flowers Week exhibition at the Garden Museum
8 – 12 June
If there’s one place that knows a thing or two about hosting floral-themed exhibitions, it’s the Garden Museum. Their latest show is being held in honour of British Flowers Week and has been designed to unite florists, flower growers and horticultural fans alike in a celebration of British-grown flowers.
Five of the country’s top florists – Botanical Tales, Lucy Vail Floristry, Mahal Kits Flowers, Sage and Yinari – will be creating show-stopping floral installations and sculptures to turn the museum into a five-day immersive wonderland filled with heavenly scented British blooms, all arranged with environmentally friendly materials and methods. Responding to the theme ‘New Beginnings’, the floral creations will explore budding new growth, changing seasons and an optimistic step forward for the floral industry.
The School of Garden Inspiration at Petersham Nurseries
16 May – 24 September
Following on from the success of its inaugural event last year, the bucolic haven that is Petersham Nurseries in Richmond is harnessing its green-fingered expertise once again to deliver a series of classes and workshops as part of their School of Garden Inspiration initiative. Devised by their Director of Horticulture Thomas Broom-Hughes, the events have been created for both veteran and novice gardeners, with the hope of inspiring creativity and promoting a more sustainable approach to gardening and floristry.
First up is their Stylish Summer Containers workshop on 16 May, where guests will get the chance to re-create Petersham’s wistfully wild and romantic planting style to add a touch of colour to window-boxes, patios and balconies. Another highlight is A Celebration of British Flowers on 27 June. During this session you’ll learn how to arrange your own bouquet using British flowers from local growers, as well as stems and foliage grown on-site at the Nurseries.
Chelsea Barracks Spring Fair
24 - 27 May
Situated just across the road from the site of the Chelsea Flower Show, Chelsea Barracks will be joining in the celebrations by hosting its second Spring Fair, designed to champion British craftsmanship and design. In a nod to their famous floral neighbours, they’ll be hosting a series of interactive nature-themed workshops, as well as their popular food and beverage market and annual sculpture trail, which this year showcases a variety of work from world-class female artists.
Highlights include a series of seminars curated in collaboration with renowned garden designer (and Chelsea Flower Show gold medallist) Jo Thompson, which will bring together gardening experts and design talents for panel talks on everything from growing flowers for your home to the nature-inspired process of jewellery design. Alongside that you’ll find an Artisans’ Market curated by Chelsea Barracks and House & Garden, which will showcase independent makers and sustainable artisan crafts such as ceramic pots, vintage jewellery and naturally-inspired gardening accessories.