Some of us are old hands at visiting flower shows - I have been going to Chelsea Flower Show for over thirty years and have been judging shows for at least ten - so know all the tricks. This year, however, we are in uncharted territory as Chelsea Flower Show 2020 is coming to a sofa near you. Rather than having to battle through crowds we will each be in our houses or, possibly, enjoying the unpredictable WiFi signal in our gardens. This is my rough guide to the Dos and Don’ts of Virtual Chelsea.
Have a notebook at hand
This is a golden rule no matter what you are visiting - the great Christopher Lloyd was very short with people who asked questions when not in possession of one. This is quite right as, unless you are some kind of miraculous magic memory man or Roy Lancaster (who knows everything already), you will quickly forget plant names or inspirational moments if you do not write them down.
Don't forget Twitter
The RHS is embracing all social media channels as well as stuff on their website. There will be designer led garden tours, question and answer sessions, advice on plants for every situation and delicious walks around some of the best nurseries in the world (including Raymond Evison’s amazing clematis and Jekka McVicar’s herb garden).
Avoid being a wallflower
If looking at garden tours or talks on social media make comments and join in: it makes it much more fun for everybody. We are all eager for conversation and this is the perfect time to talk to like minded strangers: all gardeners are generous souls who are eager to share their knowledge.
Enjoy the scruffy bits
On a normal year the BBC broadcasts about fifteen hours of television during Chelsea week. This year there will still be a cavalcade of gardening: Monty Don, Joe Swift, Nicki Chapman, Adam Frost and innumerable others will be popping up in their own locked down gardens. This gives us the chance to be nosy and exult in the fact that their scruffy bits are just as bad as ours. There will also be a lot of the greatest hits (gardens and plants) from the past ten years. Look out for old favourites and new inspiration.
Any visit to Chelsea requires a pocket full of things to keep us going. I always try to take Haribo and nuts to keep landscapers going during buildup. Participating in virtual Chelsea will be exhausting but fortunately the kitchen is within easy reach. Baking is becoming increasingly popular in lockdown - look out for @stromabakes on Instagram for details of her specially invented Chelsea Floral Fancy.
We must not let standards slip. You may not be visible to others but this is the Royal Horticultural Society after all and the Queen is apparently unamused by people only wearing pants. Better yet, join in with Gardens Illustrated's #DressUpForChelsea and look fabulous. Don't forget to share a picture.
It will not be the same but it is the best we have at the moment so lets make the best of things - gardeners are good at adapting - we have lived through enough wet and miserable summers and our enthusiasm is difficult to quash. All the RHS Shows are special and we will miss them hugely this year but I promise you that next year’s Chelsea will be a stonker. Roll on 2021.
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