Stop and smell the roses at the RHS 2018 Chelsea Flower Show  

If you love all things plant-like, the prestigious RHS Chelsea Flower Show is an experience that will no doubt be on your must-do (fertilizer-filled) bucket list.  The garden design event equivalent to Paris Fashion Week, it attracts over 150,000 visitors a year, including members of the esteemed Royal Family. Here’s our guide to why, how and when you should plan your 2018 visit.


Formerly known as the Great Spring Show, the five-day RHS Chelsea Flower Show is hosted by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) every May in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London.  The most famous flower and landscape garden show in the UK, it attracts visitors from around the globe and invites world-class florists, nurseries, plant specialists and garden designers to exhibit their artistic sculptures, cutting-edge garden trends and inspirational floral exhibits.

 From Wonderful London, volume II, edited by Arthur St John Adcock, published by Amalgamated Press (London, 1926-1927). (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)
From Wonderful London, volume II, edited by Arthur St John Adcock, published by Amalgamated Press (London, 1926-1927). (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)

Early History

The RHS Great Spring Show was first held in 1862 at the RHS garden in Kensington, and was moved to the Royal Hospital in Chelsea in 1913 at the suggestion of eminent English horticulturist, Sir Harry Veitch. The show continued until 1916 despite the First World War, and although it was cancelled in 1917 and 1918, by the Roaring Twenties was back in full swing with the Royal visits resuming and the famous Chelsea tea parties being established.  

To mark the celebration of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation Year in 1937, a superb Empire Exhibition was staged, featuring pines from Canada, gladioli from East Africa and patriotic wattles from our own Aussie backyard.

The show was cancelled again during the Second World War, positively bloomed with Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, and went onto increase in popularity throughout the second half of the century.

As the 70’s progressed, attendance continued to climb to the extent that in 1979, crowding became so severe upon opening that the turnstiles were temporarily closed. Opening hours were changed and a reduced price for after-4pm entry offered to try and draw people away from the morning time slot. 1980 saw a ceiling on the number of tickets sold, but numbers continued to increase and in 1987 turnstiles were closed again.

A limit of 40,000 visitors per day was imposed in 1988 and members were charged for tickets for the first time, however the immediate response was a fall in attendance, so the ban on gate ticket sales was rescinded. Alternative venues were explored in the coming years, however after a number of feasibility studies it was decided that the Show would remain at Chelsea. The area of land devoted to the event has increased steadily since the early 70’s and in 2005 the Show was increased from four days to five, with the first two days only open to RHS members.

chelsea flower show
Credit: Photographed by Jo Rodgers

Today’s Show

Attended by 157,000 visitors a year (a number limited by the capacity of the ground), all tickets are required to be purchased in advance, and demand is at an all-time high as the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is now considered a must-visit experience for those that love all things botanical. New plant varieties are launched each year and the popularity of older varieties is often revived under the spotlight of the entire horticultural world.

There are four grades of awards presented at the event – Gold, Silver-gilt, Silver and Bronze – and in six categories, which include Flora (gardens and floral exhibits), Hogg (tree exhibits), Knightian (vegetable exhibits including herbs), Lindley (special education or scientific exhibits) and Grenfell (exhibits of photos, pictures, floristry and floral arrangements). A number of Special Awards are also given including for the Best Show Garden, the Best Courtyard Garden, the Best Chic Garden, the Best City Garden and a number of Floral Arrangement Trophies.

Highlights from the 2017 event included the floral-arched London Gate, the spectacular Great Pavilion, the BBC’s 2 Feel Good Gardens and gold medallist, Miracle-Gro’s, Ecotherapy Garden.

Credit - Photographed by Jo Rodgers
Credit - Photographed by Jo Rodgers

2018 Show

The RHS 2018 Chelsea Flower Show will be held from the 22nd to the 26th May 2018 and is expected to be bigger and more impressive than ever. The event will once again combine the very best floral displays, ‘green’ artistic works, water features, and show, courtyard, city and rooftop gardens from around the world.

With a cap of 157,000 visitors once again, tickets for next year’s green-thumbed, flower-filled extravaganza will be in high demand, so contact your Orbit World Travel consultant today to book.  

Why not combine your bucket-list visit to the Chelsea Flower Show with a leisurely visit to England’s most stately homes, or a blockbuster tour of Europe’s most lush springtime destinations? We can help fine-tune your trip by accessing the most cost-effective flights and suggesting a range of accommodation packages that will guarantee your holiday is more than just bloomin’ marvellous.

Register now and one of our expert consultants will be in touch with you shortly to discuss all of your travel needs.

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