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RHS Chelsea Flower Show 100 not out

Published on 20 May 2013 10:30 AM

It's been a firm favourite among older people for decades, now the Chelsea Flower Show is marking its centenary this week.

The world-famous annual show, celebrating a hundred years of gardening and plants, has taken place nearly every year since 1913 when the Great Spring Show was held at Chelsea's Royal Hospital.


Today the festival's popularity shows no sign of diminishing, with 157,000 flocking to the 11-acre grounds each year.

The first event was held in a lone tent, included 244 exhibitors - fewer than half of this week's numbers - cost the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) £3,365 to stage and made a profit of £88.

The show survived the first two years of the First World War, but was cancelled in 1917 and 1918.

It returned in full swing by the roaring 20s, coming complete with Chelsea tea parties and a resumption of Royal visits.

But it was held a week late in 1926 due to the General Strike.

An empire exhibition was staged in 1937 to commemorate the coronation year of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

This featured pines from Canada, wattles from Australia, gladioli from East Africa and a prickly pear from Palestine.

The event was cancelled again during the Second World War as the site was required for an anti-aircraft base.

The Royal Family attend in 1953

Its post-war resumption came in 1947, despite doubts caused by low plant stocks, depleted staff and scarcity of the fuel needed for greenhouses.

Some people may remember that most of the Royal Family attended the 1953 show, which reflected the country's celebratory mood caused by the Queen's coronation.

She was unable to attend herself because of a heavy schedule of commitments.

In 2002, Prince Charles planned a show garden with Jinny Blom, who this year has designed the B&Q Sentebale garden that backs Prince Harry's charity.

Chelsea has highlighted fluctuating fashions in horticulture over the last century. These range from the interest in Japanese and topiary gardens in the show's infancy, through the craze for rockeries in the war years to the paved back yards and cottage gardens of the 1980s.

RHS president Sue Biggs has pledged that this year is an event for people who love plants.

The centenary is being celebrated with the public being asked to vote for their top bloom from each decade of the last century.

Copyright Press Association 2013

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Last updated: Dec 05 2018

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