RHS Chelsea Flower Show: How to get the best out of your day

Michelle Chapman

Chelsea Flower Show is the best garden show in the world. However, it can get crowded and there’s so much to see. Our garden blogger Michelle Chapman, shares her top tips for getting the most out of your day at this year’s show.

It may seem the BBC’s coverage alone has all you need; plenty of airtime, aerial views of the show gardens and lots of peeping at the thousands of plants and blooms in the Great Pavilion. That’s exactly what I thought until I went to see for myself.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the television coverage, but there’s nothing to beat being there for real. The scents and aromas; the tiny details not picked up on camera; and the ability to focus on what’s of interest to me, not what the programme producer’s chosen. 

My first time at Chelsea was an afternoon ticket and I found it was still possible to see everything as long as I did the following...


Get there early or stay late

The quieter times are 8 to 10am and after 6pm. The light tends to be better for taking pictures at these times too.


Pack as lightly as possible

If you have luggage, then take advantage of Plant Heritage’s cloakroom. The smiling volunteers there will look after your belongings for a small donation to a good gardening cause.


Wear your usual comfortable gear

You’ll be able to move faster and can nip in and see everything ahead of all the posh ladies in frocks tottering along.

Be prepared for changeable weather; wear layers and pack a small mac or umbrella for those rainy moments. If it does rain, seek alternatives to the Great Pavilion where everyone else congregates. It could be the perfect time for a chat with the people on the trade stands and possibly strike a crafty bargain.


Buy a programme and find the locations of the main things you want to see

A pre-Chelsea walk-through the RHS website will also help you plan your time at the show.


Take plenty of water and a snack or picnic

The cafes are hideously expensive and it’s easy to get dehydrated very quickly on a hot day. If you suffer from hay fever or asthma, bear in mind the London Plane trees are usually raining down their pollen at Chelsea time and the Great Pavilion is stuffed with flowers.


Don’t expect to come home laden with plants

Unless you’re there for the exhibition sell-off which starts at 4pm on Saturday. Exhibitors can’t sell plants, they can only sell seed or take orders. It means the nursery owners are usually more relaxed at Chelsea as they don’t have to divide their time between serving people and those asking how to look after their plants.


Avoid the TV cameras as this is where the crowds gather

Image via The Telegraph

If you’re into celeb spotting, don’t worry, you’ll often get the chance to see them in between filming.

Be patient

There’s often a good-natured and chatty crowd looking at the gardens and exhibits and you’ll get to the front... eventually. I’ve also found the side views of the gardens are usually less crowded and they often provide a more pleasing photograph.


Enjoy the show

And remember, if a garden’s not to your taste, there can still be something there which may spark an idea for your own garden. Chelsea has something for everyone; it’s up to you to go and find it for yourself. And remember, no matter how much you’ve planned your day; Chelsea Flower Show is always full of surprises!


Michelle Chapman is a gardener, freelance writer and garden blogger from Wiltshire. She writes the award winning blog, Veg Plotting, where her small town garden is a regular feature alongside any topic which springs to mind whilst at her allotment. 

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