It’s one of the year’s most beloved events and the date in the calendar that usually signals the start of the British summer season, but thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, this year the Chelsea Flower Show has been cancelled. This marks only the second time the event has been called off since its debut in 1862, the first being during the final two years of the First World War, and then for seven years during the Second. But green-fingered fans need not panic – for the first time in its history, the show is being held virtually all this week.
Hosted through the Royal Horticultural Society’s website from 18 – 23 May, nature lovers will be able to tune into the Chelsea Flower Show from the comfort of their own homes, with the biggest names in gardening all present. The digital coverage will include special behind-the-scenes videos and tours of private gardens, as well as the chance for viewers to enter their own garden to be judged for an award by Chelsea’s experts.
New videos will be released on the RHS website each day, with every morning kicking off with a tour of a well-known designer, florist or gardening personality’s garden – gold-medal-winning designer Sarah Eberle, Adam Frost, Anne-Marie Powel and Andy Sturgeon will all be opening up their private gardens for viewers to look around. There will also be daily floristry digital masterclasses, with hosts including Larry Walshe and Nikki Tibbles, and behind-the scenes tours of award-winning nurseries, with growers on hand to share their tips and techniques for novice gardeners.
Several of the show’s exhibitors have taken the opportunity to highlight the importance of green public spaces, something that has been thrown into stark relief during the current lockdown, when so many in towns and cities have little or no access to outdoor space. Charlotte Harris, one half of design duo Harris and Bugg, will be cycling to public gardens near her east London home, such as the Olympic Park and Beech Gardens at the Barbican, to point out robust plants that would work particularly well in urban gardens.
Keen horticultural enthusiasts will also be able to submit their own offerings for the first time this year, as part of the new My Chelsea Garden Competition, run jointly by BBC’s The One Show and the RHS. Viewers can enter pictures of their own gardens to be judged by One Show presenter Alex Jones and Gardeners’ World’s Monty Don, with prizes including a special RHS commendation and a chance to win tickets to next year’s show.
“We’re lucky to live in a digital age where we’re able to bring aspects of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show online so we can continue to share the world’s best in horticulture and bring garden design inspiration, breathtaking displays and horticultural knowledge for the nation to enjoy during this difficult time,” said the RHS Director General Sue Briggs. “We really hope the virtual show will help fill the gap caused by the sad but necessary cancellation of this year’s show and will inspire more people to get growing.”