Celebrating 100 years of Chelsea

This year the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is celebrating 100 years. Here's a selection of key moments through the decades.



Chelsea Flower Show timeline

We note some of the key moments in the 100 year history of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.







1913 First Chelsea Flower Show opens on 20 May for three days.

1926 The General Strike threatens to disrupt the show, but in the end only delays it for a week.

1951 A series of small tents is replaced by the Great Marquee, recorded by the Guiness Book of Records as the world’s largest tent, at 3.4 acres.







1950s RHS Secretary Mr A Simmonds is alleged to have evicted scantily clad models from a rock garden, on the grounds that ‘livestock of any kind’ may not be exhibited at the show.

1959 The Times becomes the first newspaper to sponsor a garden. The Garden of Tomorrow features ‘the most modern aids to horticulture’, including a radio-controlled lawn mower.

1962 Designer John Brookes presents his first Chelsea garden.

1977 Carpet bedding makes a comeback, with a display by the Royal Parks. Increasingly ambitious bedding displays soon become a popular annual feature.







1988 Admissions are limited to 40,000 a day (cutting total admissions from 250,000 to 160,000) and for the first time, RHS members are charged for tickets (though they do get a members-only day). 10,000 members resign in protest.

1989 Horticulture Week asks: ‘Why don’t Chelsea gardens ever have sheds, dustbins or washing lines?’

1993 An antique gnome protests against the ban on his brethren by holding a demo and blocking the entrance to the show.








2001 A new category for small gardens, ‘Courtyard’ gardens is introduced, followed by the ‘Chic’ and ‘City’ gardens in 2001 – categories continue to evolve.

2002 A new rigid pavilion replaces the Great Marquee, which is cut up and made into 7,000 jackets, aprons and bags.

2009 James May exhibits a garden made entirely of Plasticine.

2011 The first garden since Babylon to hang in the air – Diarmuid Gavin’s ‘Irish Sky Garden’. 

Words: Ambra Edwards (see issue 197 for full feature)
All pictures: credit RHS Lindley Library


• See Issue 197 for our exclusive coverage of the show including previews of some of the best show gardens with interviews from the designers, our pick of unmissable plants and keeping you up to date on the hottest trends - PLUS Ambra's feature on the show's history.
• Full details of the 2013 RHS Flower Show can be found on the Royal Horticultural Society website


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