The Chelsea Flower Show is the most hotly-anticipated date in the British gardening calendar. Unfortunately the recent lockdown forced the cancellation of the 2020 show. Ever since the decision was announced, the Royal Horticultural Society team have been working hard to move the whole experience online, and today saw the launch of Virtual Chelsea: six days of interviews, demonstrations and tours. Nothing will replace the experience of walking among gardens designed by the world's most accomplished gardeners — but this year we can all join in the conversation online.
Garden designers block out months in their calendar to plan and plant their Chelsea Flower Show exhibitions. Although this year they've had to improvise how they showcase their work to us, their creations will still be inspirational. On Friday, garden designer Tom Massey will take some of the plants that would have gone into his Chelsea garden, and plant them out in his own front yard. As he does so, he'll walk us through how to create a wildlife-friendly garden haven for bees, bugs and butterflies.
Ian Drummond from Indoor Garden Design takes us indoors for tips on using houseplants to create the perfect sanctury in your garden building or shed.
From the socially-approved distance of his own courtyard garden, 2019's Best in Show designer Andy Sturgeon will hand out advice for gardening in small spaces on Saturday. The tutorial comes at a perfect moment. Garden centres are now open again, so those of us who have been wondering how to spruce up our outdoor spaces will get some ideas to put into practice. Look out too for a pair of familiar faces: plant design experts RoCo will be giving an in-depth tutorial on how to propagate your own indoor plants.
On Wednesday, Matt Keighley, designer of the 2018 Chelsea Feel Good garden, will be on hand to discuss plants, gardens, heath and well-being. His talk is bound to be popular: a recent RHS poll found over 70% of people with gardens and outdoor spaces believe they've helped with their mental health during the lockdown. Alice Vincent, Telegraph columnist and author of balcony garden memoir 'Rootbound', is hosting a Q&A on Saturday. She'll talk through our plant queries with her characteristic insight and enthusiasm. Finally, just like every other year, BBC 1 will host a Chelsea Flower Show special every night at 8pm. Presenters including national treasure Monty Don will guide us through the best in show, past and present.
Saturday is traditionally a big day at Chelsea, where show-goers can pick up award-winning plants on sale at the end of the day. The lockdown means we won't get the chance to shop this year, but the RHS has listed all the Chelsea exhibitors in a new online directory, so we can source our plants direct from award-winning suppliers.
Virtual Chelsea begins today, Monday 18th May, for RHS members only, and is open to the public for free from Tuesday 19th — Saturday 23rd May.