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A glimpse of the most glamorous flower show in the world

Elisabeth Lang, special to eTN, reporting from London  May 25, 2016

LONDON, England - Getting a ticket for the preview of Chelsea Flower Show is like winning the lottery.

The preview on Monday is something like being part of an elite group that gets to preview the Oscars, but for the Flower Show it is journalists, judges, celebrities, the Royal family, and Queen Elizabeth who get to partake in this special preview.

Photo © Elisabeth Lang

Entry for the preview starts at dawn and even as early as 5:30 am on Monday morning. Other people - as in Hollywood types - arrive in rubber boots with heavy rucksacks, clumsy shoes, and rain coats.

Over 900 journalists arrive from all over the world from as far away as Australia, New Zealand, Asia, and South Africa, queuing up to be part of the preview and of the world's most prestigious flower show.

Most of the visitors and journalists have to disappear by 3 pm when the lilac carpets get rolled out all over the compound for the arrival of the Queen. She usually brings sunshine with her, something that is beyond miraculous.

But this year is a special year, and this Royal Horticulture Society (RHS) patron, Her Majesty the Queen of England, is celebrating her 90th birthday. To mark the occasion, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show feature includes photographic exhibits and a floral arch.

Photo © Elisabeth Lang

This year will include other special delights:

• The British Eccentrics Garden featuring bizarre garden gadgetry that comes to life every 15 minutes

• An acoustic garden inspired by world-leading percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie that will play musical notes to visitors

• Horticultural inspiration from around the world, including Jordan, The Netherlands, Cambodia, Japan, Chile, Australia, and more

• The memorable poppies tribute by Phillip Johnson at the entrance to the show

• Horticultural showman Diarmuid Gavin is back with exceptional garden designs

During the week of the Chelsea Flower Show, prices for a traditional English High Tea are, well, pricey, yet tables are booked many weeks ahead of time. Floral tea times are most popular and celebrated all over London’s luxury hotels which are spending a fortune in wonderful flower decorations; even the Burberry is marking its collection with floral designs.

Flower Power has taken over.

Photo © Elisabeth Lang

So what makes this Flower Show so different from others that have come before it? It is one of the most famous institutions of Great Britain and tickets for the Chelsea Flower Show Gala Night on Monday night are, again, pricey, and made for highly-appreciated Christmas gifts last year.

Monday is the day the judges are walking through the festival, and people wait nervously for their arrival. “Charlotte,” a new baby pink chrysanthemum bloom with green tips, named after the daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, is being exhibited and is sure to be a highly-sought-after flower on sale at the show. A huge bouquet of flowers was delivered by the breeder and Dutch company, Delifor, to Prince William and Kate on baby Charlotte’s first birthday on May 2, 2016.

Photo © Elisabeth Lang

Last year the Gold medal (first prize) was won by Thailand. Over 100,000 orchids were flown in to London from Thailand, and just the shipping alone cost over 1 million baht (close to US$28,000). Two million baht was spent in Thailand for the all preparations before that. More than 30 people and carpenters worked all week to build the Thai stand, and 9 florists worked day and night to create the most stunning orchid presentation of the show.

Photo © Elisabeth Lang

Photo © Elisabeth Lang

Coffee and Cardamom were some of the plants of the very first Arab garden, “Beauty of Islam,” designed by garden architect, Kamelia Bin Zaal of Al Barari, a charming young woman from Dubai. The garden was created in honor of His Highness Sheikh Zayed Sultan Al Nayan, the late President of the UAE, Kamelia said. The ancient Spice Route of the Arabic empire is evoked through the mélange of scents and colors. Fig and citrus trees and scents from ginger, rosemary, and cardamom plants represent the rich diversity of horticulture that Kamelia bin Zaal has chosen for her first Chelsea Show Garden, which was admired greatly by HE Ambassador of UAE.

Photo © Elisabeth Lang

Kamelia Bin Zaal of Al Barari / Photo © Elisabeth Lang

This year, many visitors were particularly moved by the stunning art installation on the grounds of the Royal Hospital: a field of poppies, made from thousands of knitted flowers, intended to honor members of the armed forces. The poppies have been beautifully handmade as a tribute to those who served in all wars, creating a thread of connection to servicemen and women in the armed forces, explained the Royal Horticultural Society.

“Each of the hand-knitted and crocheted flowers was individually crafted by people from a range of cultures and communities, and ages from 2 to 102 years old.”

The 5000 Poppies exhibit, which uses almost 300,000 individually-crocheted poppies, on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea / Photo by Yui Mok, PA Wire

It is going to be a fantastic year at the Chelsea Flower Show, where flowers will be enjoyed by sight and scent, and will even hopefully waft some magic about the showgrounds. Morgan Stanley Garden is leading the charge among the banks hoping their participation in the show will help to heal their damaged public image. The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden will participate, always highly regarded by the head gardener, and Chelsea’s Physic Garden is making its debut. There are also exciting new plants along with lots of oddities to see at the Health, Happyness and Horticulture Garden.

Photo © Elisabeth Lang

The Chelsea Flower Show, held by the Royal Horticultural Society, will run all week from May 24-28, 2016 on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London. London hotels are fully booked for the Chelsea Flower Show, and it will be difficult to find a room.

A glimpse of the most glamorous flower show in the world
Photo © Elisabeth Lang

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