For decades, the renowned Chelsea Flower Show has captivated society’s attention, drawing celebrities and even members of the royal family to marvel at the vibrant displays of peonies and roses. However, this year’s event is set to be even more groundbreaking as the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) endeavors to make the show and horticulture itself more inclusive.
With a focus on accessibility and community engagement, the RHS has organized special events for children and encouraged the creation of gardens with accessibility themes. In a historic first for the show’s 110-year history, a picnic will be held exclusively for children from ten schools in economically disadvantaged areas of London. Following the show, some of the exquisite show gardens will find a new home within schools that lack green spaces, aiming to ignite a love for the outdoors among children who otherwise have limited access to nature.
Breaking barriers once again, the Chelsea Flower Show will also witness its inaugural wedding ceremony, uniting garden designer Manoj Malde and his partner, Clive Gillmor. The couple’s nuptials will take place in the garden Malde himself designed for the show, themed around unity and diversity. With James Alexander Sinclair, another prominent garden designer, serving as the celebrant, this milestone celebration challenges any notion of elitism within the RHS.
Malde’s garden will be a celebration of his Indian heritage, boasting a vibrant color scheme of orange and pink. Adorned with marigolds, revered in Hindu worship, and featuring a display of colorful spices, the garden will also showcase Asian fruits and vegetables. The event promises to be a testament to the RHS’s commitment to community engagement and breaking down barriers.
This year, the Chelsea Flower Show highlights the invaluable contributions of female gardeners, with a dedicated display within the Great Pavilion. Remarkably, more female designers are participating in the show than ever before, marking a significant shift in the show’s history and promoting gender equality within horticulture.
In line with the overarching theme of accessibility, many of the gardens featured address this crucial aspect. One notable example is Horatio’s Garden, a charity dedicated to creating wheelchair-accessible and sustainable gardens in spinal centers. This particular garden will be relocated to the Princess Royal Spinal Injuries Centre in Sheffield after the show, bringing solace and joy to patients on their healing journey.
Other gardens, such as the Choose Love Garden, draw inspiration from refugee migration routes across Europe and the concept of desire lines. This garden cultivates crops and herbs enjoyed by asylum seeker communities in the UK and will later find a new home at Good Food Matters in Croydon, a community initiative empowering marginalized groups by providing space and support to cultivate and cook their own food.
Designed with children in mind, the School Food Matters garden offers child-sized paths that encourage imaginative exploration. Children can wander amidst vibrant flowers, clamber over boulders, and encounter an array of crops, including radishes and beans. The garden’s design aims to inspire the creation of similar spaces in schools across London and Liverpool.
One garden that holds a profound significance is the Memoria & GreenAcres Transcendence Garden, specifically designed to provide solace to those who have experienced loss. Towering trees and serene flowing water intertwine to create an atmosphere of tranquility, offering a space for reflection and healing.
As the RHS’s director of shows and gardens, Helena Pettit, emphasizes, making gardening accessible to everyone remains a top priority. This year’s show represents a dedicated effort to manifest this ethos, ensuring that the Chelsea Flower Show is genuinely open and welcoming to people from all walks of life. With each garden destined to continue its impact beyond the show, whether in hospitals, schools, or community spaces, the transformative power of gardening will touch the lives of thousands for years to come.