19 May 2020 06:31
The Chelsea flower show has returned this week, but with one vital difference to previous years. It's not in Chelsea. Inevitably the lockdown has had an impact and so this year the Flower Show, which is usually held in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, cannot be held. However, rather than cancel it completely, the Royal Horticultural Society has, instead, moved it online. Today is the first public day after yesterday was reserved for RHS members.
What can we expect? A series of online events have been organised between now and Saturday. Virtual visitors can enjoy behind-the-scenes tours of award-winning gardens and Q&As with gardeners. Yesterday, RHS members were able to see unseen parts of Monty Don's Longmeadow gardens, while tomorrow BBC presenter and designer Adam Frost will do a walk-through of his garden in Lincolnshire. Also tomorrow, florist Nikki Tibbles will give a demonstration of her floral artistry, and Matt Keightley, who designed the 2018 Chelsea RHS Feel-Good Garden, will be taking part in a Q&A session. Is this the first time the flower show has been cancelled? The Chelsea Flower Show began in 1913 and the 1914 show took place before the start of the First World War. It was held in 1915 and 1916, but was then cancelled until the end of the war. The show was also discontinued during the Second World War as the RHS concentrated on its "Dig for Victory" campaign. The flower show returned in 1947 and has been held every year since until 2020. Not even the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001 stopped it. Why must the show go on this year? Because it's good for us? Gardens and gardening have turned out to be something of a safety valve in recent weeks. A poll carried out by the RHS has found that some 57 per cent of people who have gardens value them more now than they did before lockdown. And a striking 71% feel that gardens and outdoor spaces have helped their mental health in recent weeks. Meanwhile, seed firms have reported a huge rise in sales. Garden centres in England and Wales reopened last week and Northern Ireland allowed them to open yesterday. Which leaves Scotland the odd one out, with the First Minister suggesting we won't see an easing to lockdown before May 28. Where can we view this year's flower show? For online access visit the RHS website, rhs.org.uk. The BBC is also covering the flower show each day at 3.45pm on BBC One and 8pm on BBC Two.