RHS Chelsea Flower Show (Paperback Edition)

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Text of RHS Chelsea Flower Show (Paperback Edition)

  • BRENT ELLIOTT

    CHELSEA FLOWER SHOWTHE FIRST 100 YEARS: 19132013

    RHS

  • BRENT ELLIOTT

    CHELSEA FLOWER SHOWTHE FIRST 100 YEARS: 19132013

    RHS

  • CONTENTS

    INTRODUCTION ..... 1

    1BEFORE CHELSEA

    18271913 ..... 5

    2FIRST FLOWERING AT THE ROYAL HOSPITAL

    191316 ..... 15

    3BETWEEN THE WARS

    191939 ..... 37

    4FROM AUSTERITY TO A BRAVE NEW WORLD

    194760 ..... 71

    5THE TREND TOWARDS POPULISM

    THE 1960S & 1970S ..... 91

    6IN THE GLARE OF THE MEDIA

    THE 1980S & 1990S ..... 125

    7THE ASCENDANCY OF STYLE

    20002013 ..... 159

    8BEST IN SHOW

    2013 ..... 188

    INDEX ..... 205ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ..... 210

    Frances Lincoln Ltdwww.franceslincoln.com

    RHS Chelsea Flower Show The First 100 Years: 19132013Copyright Frances Lincoln 2014Text copyright Brent Elliott 2014Photographs copyright see page 210

    First hardback edition: 2013This updated paperback edition: 2014

    Brent Elliott has asserted his right to be identified as the author of this work in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (UK).

    All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without either permission in writing from the publisher or a licence permitting restricted copying. In the United Kingdom such licences are issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency, Saffron House, 610 Kirby Street, London EC1N 8TS.

    A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

    ISBN 978-0-7112-3578-6

    Printed in China

    9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

    PREVIOUS PAGES Crowds at the Chelsea Show, 1934. RIGHT The Ecover Chelsea Pensioners 2005 garden, designed by Julian Dowle.

  • CONTENTS

    INTRODUCTION ..... 1

    1BEFORE CHELSEA

    18271913 ..... 5

    2FIRST FLOWERING AT THE ROYAL HOSPITAL

    191316 ..... 15

    3BETWEEN THE WARS

    191939 ..... 37

    4FROM AUSTERITY TO A BRAVE NEW WORLD

    194760 ..... 71

    5THE TREND TOWARDS POPULISM

    THE 1960S & 1970S ..... 91

    6IN THE GLARE OF THE MEDIA

    THE 1980S & 1990S ..... 125

    7THE ASCENDANCY OF STYLE

    20002013 ..... 159

    8BEST IN SHOW

    2013 ..... 188

    INDEX ..... 205ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ..... 210

    Frances Lincoln Ltdwww.franceslincoln.com

    RHS Chelsea Flower Show The First 100 Years: 19132013Copyright Frances Lincoln 2014Text copyright Brent Elliott 2014Photographs copyright see page 210

    First hardback edition: 2013This updated paperback edition: 2014

    Brent Elliott has asserted his right to be identified as the author of this work in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (UK).

    All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without either permission in writing from the publisher or a licence permitting restricted copying. In the United Kingdom such licences are issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency, Saffron House, 610 Kirby Street, London EC1N 8TS.

    A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

    ISBN 978-0-7112-3578-6

    Printed in China

    9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

    PREVIOUS PAGES Crowds at the Chelsea Show, 1934. RIGHT The Ecover Chelsea Pensioners 2005 garden, designed by Julian Dowle.

  • 1RHS CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW

    INTRODUCTION

    Every May, the horticultural world descends on a 12-hectare site in Chelsea. In the week before the Spring Bank Holiday, nurserymen, garden designers and contractors, television gardeners, celebrities, dignitaries and the royal family all pass through the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, where dozens of model gardens and hundreds of exhibits of plants have been prepared for their attention. For a week, gardening makes it on to the front pages of the major British newspapers, and the television schedule is filled with daily commentary.

    The event is, of course, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Chelsea is not the worlds largest flower show the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, which the RHS has been running for the past twenty years, is considerably larger but it is without doubt the most prestigious. Honoured and emulated around the world, it has been the peak event of the British gardening world for generations, even before the television cameras encroached and it developed an additional audience among those who did not themselves venture through its turnstiles.

    Chelsea is now one of those names which, like Goodwood, denote both a place and a time. The time is now the third week of May. Although in its early years the date of the show varied somewhat, it soon settled down to the week before the Whitsun Bank Holiday (since 1971, the less fluctuating Spring Bank Holiday). The place is the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, home of the Chelsea Pensioners; but it is not the Royal Hospitals show. The show is the work of the Royal Horticultural Society, which has been holding flower shows of one sort or another since 1827.

    This year, 2013, is the centenary year for the Chelsea Flower Show, but it is a centenary rife with ambiguities. There have not yet been a hundred Chelsea Shows: after criticism for continuing to hold a show largely devoted to ornamental horticulture at a time of wartime privation, the RHS cancelled the show for the years 1917 and 1918, and, warned by experience, cancelled the show for the whole of the Second World War, staging it again only in 1947. So the 2014 show will actually be the 93rd Chelsea Show.

    LEFT The Brewin Dolphin garden at the 2012 Chelsea Show, designed by Cleve West.

  • 1RHS CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW

    INTRODUCTION

    Every May, the horticultural world descends on a 12-hectare site in Chelsea. In the week before the Spring Bank Holiday, nurserymen, garden designers and contractors, television gardeners, celebrities, dignitaries and the royal family all pass through the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, where dozens of model gardens and hundreds of exhibits of plants have been prepared for their attention. For a week, gardening makes it on to the front pages of the major British newspapers, and the television schedule is filled with daily commentary.

    The event is, of course, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Chelsea is not the worlds largest flower show the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, which the RHS has been running for the past twenty years, is considerably larger but it is without doubt the most prestigious. Honoured and emulated around the world, it has been the peak event of the British gardening world for generations, even before the television cameras encroached and it developed an additional audience among those who did not themselves venture through its turnstiles.

    Chelsea is now one of those names which, like Goodwood, denote both a place and a time. The time is now the third week of May. Although in its early years the date of the show varied somewhat, it soon settled down to the week before the Whitsun Bank Holiday (since 1971, the less fluctuating Spring Bank Holiday). The place is the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, home of the Chelsea Pensioners; but it is not the Royal Hospitals show. The show is the work of the Royal Horticultural Society, which has been holding flower shows of one sort or another since 1827.

    This year, 2013, is the centenary year for the Chelsea Flower Show, but it is a centenary rife with ambiguities. There have not yet been a hundred Chelsea Shows: after criticism for continuing to hold a show largely devoted to ornamental horticulture at a time of wartime privation, the RHS cancelled the show for the years 1917 and 1918, and, warned by experience, cancelled the show for the whole of the Second World War, staging it again only in 1947. So the 2014 show will actually be the 93rd Chelsea Show.

    LEFT The Brewin Dolphin garden at the 2012 Chelsea Show, designed by Cleve West.

  • RHS CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW

    2

    RHS CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW

    3

    Nor was 1913 the first time the RHS had been involved in holding a show in the grounds of the Royal Hospital. The year before, the Society had cancelled its Great Spring Show, held for the previous quarter-century in the Temple gardens, in order to work together with other organizations on the Royal International Horticultural Exhibition; it was the success of that collaborative show that persuaded the Society to move the show from the Temple to Chelsea henceforth. And that fact hints at yet another: Chelsea is the current incarnation of the RHS Great Spring Show, first held in the Societys short-lived Kensington garden in 1862. A quarter-century at Kensington was followed by a further quarter-century at the Temple, before the show came to rest in what appears to have become its permanent home; it was often said in the 1980s that the show had outgrown the capacity of the Hospital grounds, and should move to another location, but no equally suitable location was ever found, and the show has managed to adapt itself to its Chelsea lodgings.

    Over the past hundred years, there have been close to 6,000 exhibitors at the show, not counting all those people and local societies which have taken part in competitions at Chelsea, whether for window boxes, hanging baskets or flower arrangements. Of these, over 200 exhibitors have been foreign; Chelsea is an international event, and every continent and most major groups of islands have contributed a display to the show in the course of its history. The show is now twice the