There are around 168,000 visitors to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show each year, bringing inspiration, advice and a great day out to both RHS members and the general public alike – everyone keen to experience the latest and very best in horticulture.

RHS / Luke MacGregor

Here are key Chelsea Flower Show numbers that might surprise you.

The cycle of planning for the Show lasts 15 months. It takes 25 days to build the show from bare grass to the finished article and then just 11 days to break down the whole show.

It takes approximately 8,000 people to put flower show together, including roughly:

  • 130 RHS Staff
  • 30 Garden Designers
  • 1,200 Contractors
  • A catering crew of about 3,000
  • 438 Safety, security and maintenance professionals
  • 2, 800 plants people and trade stand personnel
  • Over 250 passionate RHS volunteers.

The Great Pavilion

The huge marquee is the centre piece of the show and home to over 100 exhibits.
It takes about 2,000 hours and around 50 staff members to erect the Great Pavilion structure, hardly surprising given that the whole structure is 12,000m2, that almost 3 acres and the average size of 3,230 British gardens.

Blackmore & Langdon, who specialise in begonias and delphiniums are the only nursery in the Great Pavilion who have exhibited at all RHS Chelsea Flower Shows. While Hilliers nursery hold the record for the most consecutive Gold Medal won at the show – a gold every year since Chelsea resumed after WWII.

Vegetable display by Medwyns of Anglesey inside the Great Pavilion at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019 © RHS/Georgi Mabee

Tens of thousands of plants make up the nursery exhibits in the Great Pavilion with some larger stands having as many as 8,000.

It takes 50 judges and 4 moderators 6 hours to judge all the exhibits in the Great Pavilion.

The Gardens

  1. There’s an average number of 3,670 plants in the gardens on Main Avenue and even the more compact and always popular Artisan gardens can include an average of 615 plants.
  2. Show Gardens are built from scratch in 19 days and dismantled in five days; Artisan Gardens are built from scratch in 11 days and dismantled in three days, and Urban Gardens are built from scratch in 16 days and dismantled in three days.
  3. 2,000 tonnes of earth is moved in preparation for the show.
  4. In awarding those much-anticipated medals, it takes 16 judges and 2 moderators, 25 hours to judge and assess all gardens at the show.
  5. And spare a thought for the show manager, who while on site, walks approximately 15km each day.

Cheers to Chelsea

The show is also a key social event with the great and the good of the horticultural world getting together to celebrate their world and its achievements. Visitors like to mark the occasion too, helping to consume 32,145 pints of Pimms, 9,051 glasses of Fortnum & Mason Champagne and revived by 42,328 teas and coffees.

Meeting points with canapes and champagne at RHS Chelsea Flower Show Gala 2019 © RHS/Georgi Mabee

The show must go on

BBC television coverage of the Chelsea Show began in 1958. More recently, approximately 15 hours of footage of the show is broadcast on BBC1 and BBC2 throughout show week with average audience figures for BBC1 primetime programmes alone reaching just under 3 million viewers.

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Sorrel Everton is deputy editor of Gardens Illustrated.