There had been rumours, with the world's finest horticultural experts and enthusiasts alike pondering just how Chelsea 2021 could go ahead in its usual May timing.
With lockdown restriction still in place and – despite admirable vaccination efforts – time seemed to be running out for the hugely popular show. Would lockdown lift before the show's familiar May opening? This morning – in a press release embargoed until 1minute past midnight last night – gardening fans questions have been answered: no show in May… but a new show in September.
So scratch 18th May to 23rd May from your diaries. Instead prepare for 21st September to 26th September.
The event will therefore have a new look – for the first time in its 108 year history – celebrating not spring (and summer) but focused instead on autumn horticulture, with new seasonal highlights such as Salvias, Asters, Dahlias, grasses, fruit and vegetables.
The RHS will be contacting anyone who has already purchased a ticked and are asking that ticket holders refrain from contacting them at this time.
We'll be updating this story with more comment and fact as we get it.
But – for now – here's the full text of the official RHS press release below.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) postpones 2021 RHS Chelsea Flower Show to September for first time in History
For the first time in its 108 year history, the RHS is postponing RHS Chelsea Flower Show to take place in the autumn instead of spring, due to the worldwide pandemic.
The 2021 Show, which would have taken place between 18 May and 23 May, has been moved to run from 21 September to 26 September. The RHS, the Show organisers, will still hold the world famous event at The Royal Hospital, Chelsea.
The RHS had done its utmost to ensure the Show could happen safely in May with numerous additional health and safety measures, such as reducing visitor numbers and spreading the Show over an extra day.
However, with the coronavirus infection rate currently so high across the UK and no guarantee on what tier London may be in over spring, we have a responsibility to our exhibitors and everyone involved in the Show, our visitors, partners, volunteers and staff, to delay the 2021 RHS Chelsea Flower Show to later in the year, when millions more people will have been vaccinated and it is more likely that the levels of infection will have reduced substantially.
This continues to be an unprecedented and difficult time for so many people worldwide and the health and safety of our members, visitors, exhibitors and staff remains our number one priority.
The RHS will be in touch with everyone who has purchased a ticket for the event to date. We are asking that ticket holders please refrain from contacting us immediately so that we can handle this situation as efficiently as possible.
Whilst the September Show will be very different to the usual spring event, the RHS believes it will celebrate the best of autumn horticulture, with many seasonal highlights including Salvias, Asters, Dahlias, grasses and fruit and vegetables. As well as looking back at its historic Great Autumn Show for inspiration, the RHS is excited about the ideas exhibitors will have to create spectacular autumnal gardens and displays. Exhibitors who were to take part in the cancelled May event will all be given the opportunity to be at the autumn RHS Chelsea Flower Show. We will also be opening up applications for new gardens, nurseries and content.
In addition to the autumn event, the RHS will once again hold its hugely successful RHS Virtual Chelsea Flower Show online, during the May show week, which millions of people across the UK and around the world tuned in to enjoy last year.
Sue Biggs, RHS Director General, says: “In these challenging times we have always followed Government advice and made difficult, responsible decisions with the health and safety of people our key concern.
“Whilst we are sad to have had to delay RHS Chelsea and are sorry for the disruption this will cause, we are excited that we are still planning to bring the world’s best loved gardening event to the nation at a time when more people are gardening more than ever.
“We know that the autumn dates may not be suitable for everyone, but with our fantastic industry partners we will do everything we can to support them and create a show that will be a moment in history. It will be exciting to see different horticulture and showcase the key autumn gardening season at the world’s most famous flower show. We believe many designers and nurseries will look forward to working with different plants that would not be available or at their best in May.
“Never have so many people gardened in recent times, nor needed the benefits of gardening more, so we will do our utmost to deliver a beautiful, uplifting and different RHS Chelsea safely in September 2021.”
As was planned for the event in May, RHS Chelsea Flower Show in September will be spread over six days instead of five, with the same reduced number of visitors, another first in its history. There are many further coronavirus safety precautions being put in place for exhibitors, everyone involved in the show, visitors and RHS staff and volunteers.
- Ends -
We hope that, as they are later in the year, the following RHS Shows will continue as normal, but we will continue to follow Government advice and will update if this changes.
- RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival, 6-11 July 2021
- RHS Flower Show Tatton Park, 21–25 July 2021
The RHS Chelsea Flower Show will be 108 years old in 2021. The first RHS Chelsea Flower Show was held in 1913.
‘The RHS Chelsea Flower Show was cancelled for two years during the First World War (1917-1918) and seven years during the Second World War 1940 - 1946). To date, since the first show in 1913 there have been 98 RHS Chelsea Flower Shows, 2021 will be the 99th. In the absence of the physical show last year the RHS brought the show online with the first ever Virtual RHS Chelsea Flower Show.’
Daniel Griffiths is a veteran journalist who has worked on some of the biggest home and entertainment brands in the world. He is a serial house-renovator and home improvement expert, taking on everything from interior design and DIY to landscape gardening and garden design.
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