helsea Flower Show has been cancelled only once before in its 107-year history, during the Second World War. But now, cancellation due to coronavirus means “the greatest flower show on earth” will notch up a historic first – it is to be held virtually, via the Royal Horticultural Society website.
This week, fans will be able to tour this spectacular event from their own homes, with the RHS providing access to the biggest names in gardening. There will also be behind-the-scenes videos, online tours of celebrity gardens and plenty of BBC coverage.
The Queen sent a message of support to gardeners involved in the “unique” event and said her grandmother Queen Mary, who first visited Chelsea Flower Show in 1916, would be delighted that gardening is still such a popular past time.
Here’s what’s happening at this year’s show…
When is the RHS Chelsea Flower Show on?
This year’s virtual RHS Chelsea Flower Show will be held online from Monday May 18 until Saturday May 23.
Monday is Members Day, with exclusive online content for members only, while the BBC will also show footage from Sunday May 17 to coincide with this year’s event.
Where can I watch it?
Virtual Chelsea will be hosted online at rhs.org.uk from May 18 - 23.
From May 17-24, clips from the past 10 years of Chelsea coverage will air in a series of BBC programmes presented by Sophie Raworth, Joe Swift, Monty Don and Nicky Chapman. There will also be new footage from various presenters and advice from top gardening and design experts including Adam Frost, Carol Klein, Rachel De Thame and Toby Buckland.
Viewers can vote for their favourite Garden of the Decade during the daily episodes.
RHS Director General Sue Biggs, said: “I’m also delighted that despite such challenging circumstances the BBC are producing a special series of programmes celebrating the World’s Greatest Flower Show which will air throughout Virtual Show week on BBC One and Two.”
How will it work online?
New videos will be released on the event’s website each day with online coverage and highlights celebrating the past decade of the show.
Viewers will be encouraged to take part interactively in a number of competitions and to post images of their outdoor space using the hashtag #mychelseagarden. Please note entries have now closed.
Dedicated Chelsea fans who don't want to miss out on meeting or following up on the show's exhibitors can find further information for each, including website and social media details, on the listings page.
RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2020 highlights
Virtual Chelsea will kick off each morning with a garden tour, when well-known designers, florists and gardening personalities will open up their own gardens for viewers to take a look around.
Big names including some of the world's leading designers and plant experts will share their top design tips, favourite planting combinations and gardening trends with online viewers.
Meanwhile, behind-the-scenes video tours of award-winning nurseries will reveal how some of the world’s best-quality plants are grown.
Growers will be on hand with potting bench demonstrations as they share their techniques, tips and advice with novice gardeners during this segment, while some designers will replicate the spectacular plant displays they were due to exhibit in Chelsea’s Great Pavilion.
For keen have-a-go amateurs, this year’s show brings the new My Chelsea Garden competition, run jointly by the BBC’s The One Show and the RHS. Viewers were asked enter their own gardens to be in with a chance to win tickets to next year’s show, plus a special RHS commendation.
Judges included The One Show presenter Alex Jones, Monty Don and the RHS's James Alexander Sinclair and Sue Biggs. Entries have now closed, but you can view some of the gardens here.
Further competitions to look out for include Product of the Year, which will focus on garden designs with sustainable elements.
Judged by Dragons’ Den star Deborah Meaden, gardening writer Peter Seabrook and chair Chris Harrop, ideas include using natural materials and technology in the garden.
In another first for the show, and to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Chelsea’s Plant of the Year competition, viewers will be given the chance to choose their Plant of the Decade in a people's choice vote.
Voting will be open from Monday May 18 until Friday May 22 and the winner will be announced on Saturday May 23.
What else is on at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show?
Amateur gardeners can take advantage of the lunchtime Q&A sessions, where RHS advisers and their special guests will offer practical advice and top tips.
Meanwhile, a daily school gardening club will be aimed at getting families together to play, dig, grow plants and connect with nature.
Sue Biggs adds: “We’re lucky to live in a digital age where we’re able to bring aspects of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show online so we can continue to share the world’s best in horticulture and bring garden design inspiration, breathtaking displays and horticultural knowledge for the nation to enjoy during this difficult time.
“We really hope the virtual show will help fill the gap caused by the sad but necessary cancellation of this year’s show and will inspire more people to get growing.”