Travelogue: the Chelsea Flower Show, Part I


Sorry I missed last Friday’s travelogue. My mom has been in and out of the hospital the past couple of weeks. She is currently “in” again. I’m a bit punchy today, but didn’t want to miss another opportunity to again travel to England with you. There is so much to tell you about the Chelsea Flower Show that I’m going to do parts I and II.

The Chelsea Flower Show was the entire reason we went on our trip in May. For gardeners, the Chelsea Flower Show is the epitome of garden fashion and design. It’s like a Catholic pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostelaor for Muslims, Mecca. I have always wanted to see the Chelsea Flower Show. Always.

As in F-O-R-E-V-E-R.

Below are my thoughts after going. It was an overwhelming and oh-so-charming experience. Because I have so many pictures, I’ll sprinkle the gardens throughout this post and use captions to tell you about them. If you click on the gallery, you can see larger images. There are also good garden descriptions on the RHS website.  Before you go, here’s some advice:

  • Get there early, as in when the doors open at 8:00 a.m. I waited for my group and was an hour and a half late. That was a mistake because the crowds became very thick very fast. I had trouble seeing any of the gardens after 10:30 a.m., and after lunch, things were impossible. See the featured photo at the top? That was one little roadway full of people in the afternoon. The entire show was that way by 12:30 p.m.
  • Wear your best, broken-in walking shoes. The show is huge, and there is much to see. There is also a great shopping area so plan on spending some money.
  • Only buy things you can comfortably place in your suitcase. I chose three pair of gardening gloves, a cute gardening hat I’ll wear to Garden Bloggers’ Fling next week, four kitchen towels with pretty prints, two hand tools and a scarf. All fit in my checked luggage, and I had some practical souvenirs of things I can’t get in the states. You’re probably surprised I bought gardening gloves. Well, the ones in England are prettier than ours. I found some lovely weeding gloves with flowers. Sorry, I didn’t take a photo before I used them. As for the tools, I bought another hand weeder because I can’t get enough of those, and when I renewed my subscription to Gardens Illustrated, I got the coolest trowel. It has a sharp end. They were also offering a gorgeous coffee table book by Arne Maynard, but that was too heavy to carry around the show and to the airport. After so many trips, I’m a light packer, and I’ll be honest, I check my luggage. I love the airport, but I can’t people watch while lugging my world around with me.
  • Wear layers. It was quite cool in the morning, hence why I bought the scarf. By afternoon, it was very warm so I took off my sweater and scarf placing them in my bag. I always suggest a crossbody bag that’s not too big so it doesn’t dig into your shoulders, but still big enough to hold things. I bought this Kate Spade Cobble Hill Mini Ella in Bright Papaya before we left. My smaller Nikon 1 V2 digital camera fits in it, and the purse has an expandable zipper. It was perfect for my needs.
  • Try to see the gardens first and then shop. You have a chance at the very beginning of the day, or late in the evening, I hear, to see those gardens. Go through the main pavilion and out into the gardens beyond. Later, return to the Great Pavilion (big white tent) and out to the display gardens first thing.

I was exhausted by 2:30 p.m., and then Bill and I walked down to the Chelsea Physic Garden which I’ll profile in another post.

As I walked out the doors of the Great Pavilion to gaze upon the elegant display gardens, I saw a crowd of excited people gathered around one platform. I shimmied through the crowd, and gasped. Yes, I gasped. To see one’s heroes is always full of edgy excitement. Can you guess who I saw? I’ll give you a clue. He hosts one of Great Britain’s most famous garden shows.

Yes! Monty Don, and by the awestruck group gathered around him as he worked, the Brits are as fond of him as I. Can you imagine a garden writer and television personality in the U.S. being treated like one of the Kardashians? To get these shots, I had to thread my camera lens between many heads and shoulders and do a lot of cropping. Good thing I had a DSLR with me, isn’t it?

If you don’t know who Monty Don is, you don’t do much reading about Great Britain’s horticulture scene, and you must not watch Gardener’s World on Youtube the way I do. I stalked Monty and worked like a fiend to get these shots. I’m fortunate the English were so accommodating. They really are the nicest people.

It’s no wonder everyone was hanging on his every word as he did his interview. Every night on the news during the Chelsea Flower Show, there was an feature–either an hour or thirty minutes long–I can’t remember–profiling the show. Hosts interviewed designers. Other hosts made vignettes explaining about plant use and the history of gardening. Others discussed how you could achieve some of the elements of the display gardens in your own home. It was gripping television I tell you, almost like a U.S. sporting event. I found it all so charming. So did Bill.

Okay, that’s it for Part I. I have more surprises in Part II so come back by.

Oh, one more thing, I’m speaking in Tulsa on Monday, July 11 at 7:00 p.m., about Dream Patios, Balconies and Decks at the Tulsa Garden Center. The Tulsa Herb Society invited me to be their keynote speaker this year. The talk is free and open to the public. I hope to see you there.


  1. commonweeder says:

    I have a cousin who married a Brit and they are living happily in England. They’ve offered a bed if I want to go to the Chelsea show and I plan to take them up on it. Someday.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      You really should Pat. You would love it.

  2. Jenny says:

    What an experience and love your helpful hints for future visitors. I would have been right there with you stalking Monty Don. I would go so far as to say I have quite a crush on him. I love watching him on GW and followed every night of the Chelsea Show. He is more than charming although sometimes controversial. Have you read his Ivington Diaries? Hope your mum is soon home from the hospital. A very worrying time. I know.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Jenny, I had no idea he’s controversial. I’ll have to look into that. I have a crush on him too.

  3. VP says:

    Dee I’m so pleased Chelsea didn’t disappoint! Yes, there are crowds, but everyone’s so good natured. It’s still magical. You managed to get some great shots, including the greenhouses of one of my clients 🙂 (top left and bottom right of your first collage)

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Michelle, I think the English are the nicest people I’ve ever met. They are extremely good natured. Maybe it’s all that summer sunshine. I enjoyed the show so much. Glad i caught your clients’ greenhouse.

  4. indygardener says:

    What an experience, Dee. I envy you. Thanks for taking us along through your blog.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      It was quite an experience. It really was. Stay tuned for part II

  5. OMG you actually got to see and hear Monty Don. You lucky lady, oh yes and the Chelsea Show. 😉 I would love to see Chelsea. One of these days. I like your advise about how to go about it. I have read some of this in the past. It seems that even in the videos of Chelsea done by all the different garden people taped when the show isn’t open to the public it is a madhouse. Have you read that they are going to take Monty’s show off the air and just show sports? That will be a shame. Makes me quite sad and has the English gardenening world angry. I hope they reverse their decision. I can’t wait to see more of the Chelsea through your eyes.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Lisa, you simply must go. For a gardener, it’s the penultimate experience. Yes, I saw Monty Don! I also saw someone else I was even more excited about. Oh, and they aren’t taking GW off the air completely. People were just upset that it was getting bumped for sports. It’s still on. Whew! Aren’t you glad?

  6. Thank you for taking us with you–the pictures are just wonderful. #bucketlist Praying for your mom. Take care!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      You betcha Teresa. Thanks for the prayers. She’s still in the hospital, but getting better. I just wish they’d figure out what’s wrong.

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