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RHS Chelsea Flower Show - Did You Know?

Posted on Friday, 08 February 2013 02:25PM by
RHS CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW DID YOU KNOW?
  • The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is one of the ways that the RHS funds its charitable activities, which range from transforming communities to helping children to benefit from growing plants and delivering scientific research that helps thousands of gardeners across the UK every day.
  • Here are some things you might not know about the world’s most famous flower show...
  • The RHS Chelsea Flower show is organised by the Royal Horticultural Society which was founded in 1804.
  • The show has been held on the grounds of the Chelsea Royal Hospital since 1913.
  • The first Chelsea Show was staged in a single large tent.
  • The first RHS Chelsea Show was officially called ‘The Great Spring Show’, however the name ‘The Chelsea Flower Show’ quickly caught on.
  • The first show consisted of a total of 244 exhibitors, under half of what you would find today.
  • The first Chelsea show cost the RHS £3,365 to stage and made a profit of £88 (£150,000 and £4,000 respectively in today’s money). The profits were distributed to gardening charities.
  • Japanese dwarf trees, now known as bonsai, were first seen at the first show in 1913.
  • Despite the First World War, the show was held in 1914 – 1916, but cancelled in 1917.
  • In 1927 there was a campaign to get the RHS to ban foreign exhibits from Chelsea to reduce competition with British firms. The RHS refused saying, ‘horticulture knows nothing of nationality.’
  • In 1932 the rain at the Chelsea Show was so severe that a summer house display fell to pieces. One very wet year an exhibitor named it ‘The Chelsea Shower Flow’.
  • The Chelsea Flower Show was cancelled during the Second World War, and the site of the show was used by the War Office to station anti-aircraft guns.
  • In 1947, to help fill the space left by exhibitors still recovering from the War, a portion of the marquee was devoted to flower arrangements for the first time. Flower arranging became a regular feature. In 1956 it was allocated its own separate tent.
  • The Great Pavilion at RHS Chelsea Flower Show, which in 1951 replaced a number of smaller tents, is roughly 11,775 square meters / 2.90 acres, enough room to park 500 London buses.
  • In 2000, a new pavilion replaced the large canvass marquee which was cut up and turned into over 7,000 handbags, jackets and aprons, by the Old Chelsea Marquee Company.
  • Of the firms that exhibited at the first Show in 1913, only three are still showing: McBean’s Orchids, Blackmore and Langdon and Kelways.
  • Chelsea was almost cancelled in 1926, because of the General Strike, but in the event it was merely delayed for one week.
  • In 1949 the invitations issued to professional gardeners said they would admit ‘the gardener and his wife’ to the Show.
  • The 1951 Chelsea Show featured a gigantic Himalayan garden made up of 23 lorry loads of plants from RHS Garden Wisley.
  • BBC television coverage of the Chelsea Show began in 1958. Today the BBC screens 11 hours dedicated to the Chelsea Show
  • In 1959, The Times was the first newspaper to sponsor a garden, ‘The Times Garden of Tomorrow’. It wowed crowds with its radio controlled lawnmower.
  • The first ‘celebrity garden designer’ at RHS Chelsea Flower Show was David Stevens in 1970.
  • In 1979 the Chelsea Show became so crowded that the turnstiles had to be closed and people turned away.
  • Today Chelsea is a shoppers’ paradise but it was not until 1976 that trade stands could actually sell items at the Show. Before that they could only take orders.
  • A cap was placed on the number of visitors to the showground in 1988.
  • Every year, the RHS Plant committees vote on RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year. The competition is open to any plant on display at the show which has never been exhibited at a show for gardeners before.
  • In 2002, Prince Charles designed a garden at the Show with Jinny Blom.
  • In 2004 the Show was extended from four days to five.
  • In 2008 fashion designer and passionate gardener, Manolo Blahnik, designed the Show’s creative.
  • In 2009 James May, the Top Gear presenter, created a Plasticine Show Garden. He was presented with a special Plasticine Gold Medal.
  • In 2009 HRH the Queen presented her son, Prince Charles with the Victoria Medal of Honour at the Show.
  • The biggest Chelsea Show Garden (so far) was the Eden Project Garden in 2010 which covered 590 square metres.
  • In 2012, the RHS introduced Pot Art! Actresses, actors, comedians, fashion designers, sports personalities, pop stars and TV presenters decorated plant pots which were displayed at the show and then auctioned online to raise money to support the RHS Campaign Flower School Gardening.
  • In 2012 visitors to the show drank 1,068 bottles of champagne and 15,887 cups of tea, and ate 8,734 sandwiches.
  • At the 2012 Show, The Queen was presented with a brooch from the Royal Horticultural Society to commemorate her Diamond Jubilee.
  • The tallest ever exhibit at Chelsea was ‘The Westland Magical Garden’ in 2012. It was designed by Diarmuid Gavin and featured an 80ft high pyramid.
  • In 2012, tickets sold out in record time.
  • Over the century, there have been well over 5,000 exhibitors, ranging from nurseries
  • to gardening product companies to amateur gardeners.
  • Proceeds from the RHS Chelsea Charity Gala go directly to the RHS Campaign for School Gardening.
  • All the Show Gardens have been built from scratch in just 19 days and will be dismantled in only 5 days.
  • Over the past 100 years there have been over 250 exhibitors from other countries. Holland has sent the highest number of exhibitors.
  • The Hilliers tree and shrub nursery has won an RHS Gold Medal every year since Chelsea resumed after the Second World War.
  • Gnomes and other brightly coloured mythical creatures are banned from the Show.
  • Displays at Chelsea Shows have been influential in bringing back into fashion otherwise forgotten plants, like old roses and auriculas.
  • Chelsea is the flower show most associated with the Royal family, who attend the opening day every year.
  • There are around 100 exhibits in the Great Pavilion, mainly from nurseries and florists.
  • There are almost 250 trade stands across the site.
  • The showground covers 11 acres which, for the rest of the year, are playing fields.
  • A Show Garden at RHS Chelsea can range in size from 10mx10m to 10mx22m.
  • The cycle of planning for the show lasts 15 months.
  • It takes 800 people 33 days to build the show from bare grass to the finished article.
  • 161,000 visitors visit the show each year.
  • The Queen is the patron of the Royal Horticultural Society, and during her reign has attended all but 12 shows.
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