This week the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea are the setting for the world’s greatest flower show. Discover Britain photographer Arnhel de Serra was there with his camera…
The RHS Chelsea Flower Show has been held in the grounds of the hospital every year since 1913, apart from gaps during the two world wars, and this year is a particularly special one with the 90th birthday of the RHS patron, HM The Queen, marked in photographic exhibits and a floral arch.
Although Chelsea is no longer Britain’s largest flower show – it has now been overtaken by Hampton Court – it is still the most famous, and it’s certainly the flower show most closely associated with the royal family, who attend the opening day every year.
Highlights this year include the striking poppies tribute by Phillip Johnson at the entrance to the show, a 60-foot carriage from Belmond British Pullman in the Great Pavilion, the return of celebrity garden designer Diarmuid Gavin with the British Eccentrics Garden, with revolving beds and dancing topiary, and an acoustic garden inspired by world-leading percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, which plays musical notes to visitors.
The theme of this year’s show focuses on the health and wellbeing benefits of greening-up our grey spaces, with designer Ann-Marie Powell creating the official RHS Garden for the 2016 Chelsea Flower Show, with that theme in mind. Powell’s design features colourful borders to lift the spirits, with benches to relax and have a chat on and soothing water features.
She says: “Gardens and gardening do more good to heart and soul than they are ever given credit for and I’m delighted to be helping the RHS shout about this at a world-famous flower show… I hope it will inspire visitors and viewers to get involved in Greening Grey Britain. Too many people are paving over their front gardens but anybody can have a beautiful front garden.”
The healing theme is incorporated in several designs at RHS Chelsea this year, with award-winning organic gardening expert and author Jekka McVicar designing A Modern Apothecary Garden, the guiding principle of which is the quote by Hippocrates: “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.” Chris Beardshaw’s collaboration with Morgan Stanley, meanwhile, has produced a show garden that will be relocated to Great Ormond Street Hospital after the show as a therapeutic space for parents, while Alison Doxey and Stephen Welch have designed “The Garden Bed” as a green space for hospice patients.
The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is famous for its remarkable garden design, with spectacular show gardens showcasing the talent of a handful of the most exceptional garden designers. This year’s Best in Show winner is the Telegraph Garden, designed by Andy Sturgeon, with Viking Cruises Mekong Garden, designed by Sarah Eberle, winning the Best Artisan Garden and the Marble and Granite Centre – Antithesis of Sarcophagi, designed by Martin Cook and Gary Breeze, winning Best Fresh Garden.