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7 Highlights from Press Day at Chelsea

Chelsea had a renewed buzz today, and it wasn’t just from all the biodiverse gardens. Hundreds of visitors flocked to press day to immerse themselves in the variety of show gardens on display, and what a variety – designers this year have tackled everything from mental health and grief, from diversity to a colony in Korea, and from community gardens to insects. Sustainability was also an overriding focus this year, with some designers and contractors going above and beyond to make their garden as environmentally friendly as possible.  

This was the real return of Chelsea post-pandemic, and it’s seemingly stepping up a gear towards a greener and more inclusive future. Here are a few of our highlights from today: 

Sustainability was more important than ever 

Whilst there is always room for improvement, this year’s Chelsea was arguably the greenest yet. Take Jilayne Rickards’ The Fauna & Flora Garden. The pathway leads up a steep-ish incline to a waterfall cascading over boulders totalling 14t, and yet no cement was used to create its structural integrity. Or Sarah Price’s The Nurture Landscapes Garden, which boasts using reclaimed and ‘waste’ materials amongst its green credentials.

Wedding of Manoj Malde. RHS and Eastern Eye Garden of Unity. Credit: Neil Hepworth

Sustainability has also been woven into Chelsea’s application process, with all show gardens needing to be relocated in some form or another after the show. 

Chelsea’s first wedding took place 

Garden designer Manoj Malde gathered family and friends on The RHS and Eastern Eye Garden of Unity – designed by Malde to encourage diversity and inclusivity in horticulture – to witness him getting married to his long-term partner Clive Gillmor.  

Experiencing Andrew Wilson and Gavin McWilliam’s “final” show garden 

According to both designers, the Memoria & GreenAcres Transcendence Garden will be their last – and what a way to bow out. The large cantilevered canopy was unmissable at Chelsea this year. It will also, apparently, be the last show garden built at Chelsea by David Dodd. His company, The Outdoor Room, will continue to be a contractor at Chelsea, but Dodd himself says this is the perfect garden after which to hang up his Chelsea boots

New campaign launched for those living with loss 

Wilson and McWilliam’s garden also hosted the launch of the #DifficultConversations campaign by Jeff Brazier, who lost his former partner and mother of his children, Jade Goody, more than a decade ago, as well as his father at a young age. The campaign aims to help people open up about death, with the show garden representing a safe space for reflection. 

Kate Middleton visiting Samaritans’ Listening Garden, designed by Darren Hawkes. Credit: Dave Bird / Samaritans

Kate Middleton visiting the show before 3pm 

Typically, the press is ushered out of the showground ahead of the royals arriving at 3pm. This year, though, a large crowd gathered around Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, as she made her way down Main Avenue, stopping at each garden to engage with the designer two hours earlier than usual. 

Celebrating our new King, Charles III 

The RHS Garden of Royal Reflection and Celebration both recognises that this is the first Chelsea since the Queen has passed – as Queen Elizabeth II was an avid visitor of the flower show each year – whilst celebrating the coronation of King Charles III.  

Children being encouraged to be outdoors and gardening 

One hundred children were invited to attend the RHS’ first children’s picnic, introduced by new RHS director general Clare Matterson. It wasn’t the only way children were being encouraged to get back to nature, as Harry Holding’s The School Food Matters Garden sought to highlight the importance of food education in schools and a child’s right to access nature. 

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