Chelsea Flower Show returns to May slot with bee garden and jubilee displays


he Chelsea Flower Show returns to its traditional May slot for the first time since the pandemic struck, with themes including wildlife, wellbeing and the Platinum Jubilee.

Celebrities and members of the royal family will get a first look at the Royal Horticultural Society’s showpiece event on Monday, before it opens to members of the public.

The Queen is hoping to attend the event at the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London, with a decision being taken on the day as to whether the 96-year-old monarch, who has mobility issues, will be able to go.

The show, which she has attended on many occasions over the years, will feature displays to celebrate her 70-year reign, including a floral sculptural portrait in the official Platinum Jubilee shade of purple.

Garden designer Joe Swift in the BBC Studios Our Green Planet and RHS Bee Garden he designed, a space filled with plants for pollinators (RHS / Luke MacGregor/PA)

It will be covered on both sides with an assortment of native British-grown tree branches with connecting inner shelves arranged with 70 terracotta pots, hand-made in Warwickshire, and planted with lily of the valley, one of the Queen’s favourite plants which featured in her coronation bouquet.

Another installation will transport visitors to one of the Queen’s favourite places, with a canopy of flowers including fresh delphiniums, emulating the colours and planting of the Scottish landscape near the royal family’s Balmoral Castle estate in Aberdeenshire.

In the show’s Great Pavilion, the monument will be surrounded by a photography exhibition of the Queen visiting the show throughout her reign.

As well as the jubilee, “planet-friendly gardening” will be a feature across the show, organisers the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) said, with exhibits and displays promoting sustainable practices.

BBC Earth has teamed up with the RHS for a garden designed by Joe Swift featuring a raft of species that help to sustain bees, which are in decline in the UK and more widely.

Andy Stogdon deadheads roses on the Peter Beales Roses exhibition stand (RHS / Luke MacGregor/PA)

The BBC Studios Our Green Planet and RHS Bee Garden design features the silhouette of a bee wing as the centrepiece for planting including salvias, hardy geraniums, and euphorbias as well as shallow water for insects to drink from, mud for bees to make nests and a dismantlable bee hotel.

Brewin Dolphin’s show garden focuses on how to create a new environmentally sustainable landscape on a former 1900s industrial brownfield site – in a nod to how those living in new homes built on brownfield land can create gardens that thrive.

It will showcase a range of plants that actively restore polluted soil and absorb carbon dioxide at higher rates to clean the air, as well as shrubs and perennials that do not need much maintenance or flower for a long time to provide food for bees and other pollinators.

Elsewhere at the show a 15-tonne ice cube will be a visual reminder of the dangers of global warming, and an exhibit will highlight how seed saving can protect plant diversity.

Chelsea will also reflect the emerging trend for more naturalistic, meadow or “wild” planting, with blooms including hawthorn, buttercups and achillea expected to take their place alongside more traditional spring and early summer favourites such as lupins and hostas.

Another focus of the show will be mental health and wellbeing after two years of lockdowns in which many people found solace in gardens and green spaces, with gardens focusing on new mothers, cancer sufferers and families of service personnel.

A member of the team works The Mind Garden designed by Andy Sturgeon during build up to the show (RHS / Luke MacGregor/PA)

And 25 gardens will live on in their entirety after the show, while the rest will distribute plants and flowers to good causes, the RHS said.

Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, schools in London, and even a prison in Suffolk are among the organisations receiving displays from the event.

The world-famous flower show was cancelled in 2020 in the face of the first pandemic lockdown and was moved to September last year, for the first time in its history.

Sarah Poll, RHS head of shows development, said: “It has been three years since we’ve been able to hold RHS Chelsea Flower Show in the spring, and we couldn’t be happier to see the show return to its traditional May slot.

“The glorious weather we have had in the last few days means that the plants will be at their best as we see our spring favourites at RHS Chelsea once again.

“With a bumper crop of 39 gardens, the return of a spring RHS Chelsea will set the gardening season off with a bang.”

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