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Flower Power – It’s Time For The RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Create your own show-worthy florals at home with our expert tips!

The world’s most prestigious flower show is back for another year and to celebrate, TOAST’s takes a look at the history of the much loved RHS Chelsea Flower Show and talks to some of the UK’s top florists to hear their thoughts on this truly inspirational event, plus their top tips for creating show-worthy florals at home!



You don’t have to be gifted with green fingers to enjoy the stunning displays and fabulous florals that adorn the annual flower fest that is that the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show. The reliably sold-out garden extravaganza is one of the most prestigious horticultural events in the world; year after year it attracts the crème de la crème of garden designers, plant specialists, nurseries and florists who come to share their cutting-edge garden designs and inspirational floral exhibits with the thousands of international visitors that flock to show over the course of five busy days (23-27 May).

Formally known as the Great Spring Show that dates back as far as 1862 and has a suitably colourful past. The first Chelsea Flower Show was first held 1912, in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea - the home of the iconic red-coated Chelsea Pensioners who are all retired soldiers of the British Army. Despite the First World War the show still took place between 1914 and 1916 but was eventually cancelled in 1917 and 1918 as the war raged on; by the roaring 1920s however the Chelsea Flower Show was back in full swing and the famous Royal visits resumed. The show was cancelled once again during the Second World War as the land was required by the War Office for an anti-aircraft site but promptly resumed in 1947, despite low stocks of plants and sadly much-depleted staff. The Queen’s Coronation in 1953 inspired a truly celebratory flower show that year, and the event’s popularity has gone from strength to strength ever since.   

Today, the show is attended by a whopping 157,000 visitors each year and is considered one of the hottest tickets in town. Not only is it one of the most glamorous events in the British social calendar, but it also is the place for identifying current and future floral trends and gaining plenty of inspiration, whether you are a professional florist or a budding home flower arranger.

New plants are often launched at the show and the popularity of older varieties revived, there are hundreds of creative floral artworks and unusual displays to admire, as well as a vast array of premium horticultural products for sale, from gardening gadgets to elegant sculptures and of course top quality plants. In total there will be 28 gardens battling for a much-coveted medal this year, and over one hundred plant displays in the impressive Great Pavilion.

Whether you’re a blossoming gardener or not – there’s no denying that Chelsea is something of a British institution; as well as being an incredibly stylish and inspirational day out it’s also hugely glamorous and great fun, but if you can’t make it in person then fear not – you can catch up with all the action at home and online thanks to the BBC’s extensive coverage, and to further get you in to the green fingered mood - TOAST has caught up with some of the UK’s top luxury florists and floral designers to hear what they think makes Chelsea so special, as well as their top tips for creating a bit of your own RHS-inspired magic at home...

Foxgloves & Roses

Founded by self-confessed ‘life-long flower groupie’ Nicola Roberton, Foxgloves & Roses is a floral design studio providing gorgeous flowers for weddings and events across Oxfordshire and nearby counties. Moved by the organic beauty of a country garden, her designs take inspiration from the stunning colours, textures and perfumes to be found in nature. 

The Chelsea Flower Show is always an inspiration for those that love gardens and the beauty of nature,” enthuses Nicola. “This year I’m expecting a trend towards bold colour combinations – which is something I’m very fond of myself when designing florals for weddings.  This year many brides are choosing bright jewel-like colours instead of classic pastel shades.”

Nicola’s top Chelsea floral tips

“The blend of coral, pink and orange is one of my favourites and this the perfect time of the year to find gorgeous coral charm peonies at your local florist to experiment with. Pick up some pink and orange roses at the same time, but don’t let your sense of floral adventure stop there - arrange your beauties in a gold or turquoise vase and place them where you can admire them frequently, because I promise you’ll want to keep looking!

Nicola Robertson Foxgloves Roses

Nicola Robertson Foxgloves Roses (1)

(Imagery: Foxgloves & Roses)

Simon Nickell Design 

Simon Nickell works in London and throughout the UK as a luxury wedding and event florist. The beautiful setting of his native Cornwall inspired his floral career at the age of just 19 and continues to influence his love of English herbaceous style. Renowned for his dramatic floral installations and eye for colours and details, Simon is one of the most revered and watched florists in the UK.

 “The Chelsea Flower Show is so special because it feels so familiar and comforting! I feel like we all look forward to seeing it every year, and it doesn’t matter whether you visit the show ground itself or watch the coverage on television, there is something incredibly reassuring about its continuity and the way it reaffirms our continuing love of gardening.” enthuses Simon.

“It can be quite overwhelming to see the show-stopping gardens at Chelsea and imagine how they could translate into our own modest green spaces, so I think designs that inspire us to make the most of what we have will be popular this year. Creating a feeling of mindfulness and well-being is very prevalent at the moment, and as many of us have limited garden space, we increasingly want our home and outdoor spaces to contrast our busy work lives with intimate areas that instil a sense of calm.”

Simon’s top Chelsea floral tips

“I’m not a lover of trends, but I do know what I like! Whether in my garden or my work I like things to be unstructured and spontaneous. It’s all about creating that feeling of well-being and calm, and flowers are the perfect way to do that. So, there are certain places around my home where I love to have flowers which I call my ‘everyday’, ‘private’ and ‘showing off’ spaces, which give me enormous pleasure every time I walk into a room.

My kitchen is ‘everyday’, where I have the space to fill a vase with wild cuttings like rambling roses at this time of year. I also love to have a very small vase in the bedroom (private) next to a family photo, with one or two delicate blooms. My third space is the mantelpiece in the sitting room - this is my ‘showing off’ spot, where I combine special vases with accessories like scented candles, ornaments and tea lights. I recommend trying this at home.”

Simon Nickell Floral Designs

Simon Nickell Florals

(Imagery Simon Nickell Design)

Petalon

Florence Kennedy founded Petalon in 2013; a unique flower delivery service that delivers seasonal hand-tied bunches across London using her husband's handmade bicycles. As demand for her beautiful bunches grew so did her weddings and events styling service, and Florence has just released her first book - Flowers Every Day – which offers a unique, modern approach to flower arranging and some beautiful photographs too.

 “I can't claim to be able to predict what will happen at Chelsea this year but floristry in general is seeing an amazing democratisation,” explains Florence. “More and more people are having a go and bringing their own angle to it. For me, self-taught is the way forward, it's an amazing way of making sure you do things in an individual style.”

Florence’s top Chelsea floral tips

Vase selection is the biggest thing for me. A good rule of thumb is to make sure the stems you use are a length that's double the height of the container you're using, that way they don't feel too cramped. Obviously it's a guide rather than a hard rule!”

Florence Kennedy Petalon Flowers Spring Indoor

Florence Kenndey Patalon Flowers Spring

(Imagery: Petalon)

Westwood Design 

Georgia Westwood is a luxury wedding and event florist and stylist based in London; she describes flowers as her art form, enabling her to express herself, and in turn express others. Westwood Design offers both floral design and a full event design service in a style that is natural, free and romantic. Georgia and her team also specialise in large-scale botanical installations and set design for events, creating something a little more unusual that won’t easily be forgotten.         

“The thing I love most is not even the flower show itself, but more so the buzz that it creates around London. The shop windows adorned in beautiful and completely original installations are a way for floral designers to be as artistic and conceptual as they like, and it’s a time of year that can inspire many young people to choose flowers as their art form too.” Georgia enthuses.

“I think this year we will see a sense of movement in designs. Neutral colours with pops of darker tones for contrast and depth. More flowers, less foliage!”

Georgia’s top Chelsea floral tips

“I find inspiration in imperfections, I find it an oddity to control a life form in any way. I like to inspect each stem, really look at the way they have individually formed and have their own beautiful flaws. Keep things simple and stick to one colour or one flower type to make more of a statement. Add herbs to your arrangements to add to the scent, my favourite is rosemary and you can find it growing almost everywhere!”

Westwood Designs

Westwood Designs Floral Designs

(Imagery: Westwood Design)

Corner of Grace

Based in South West London, Corner of Grace provides floral design and styling throughout London and the surrounding areas of the South and South West, and beyond. Led by Floral Designer and Stylist Anth McLeod, the team specialise in designing natural, garden-inspired floral arrangements for weddings, special events or as regular subscriptions for the home. They use seasonal flowers – British where appropriate – combined with a profusion of foliage and herbs to create unique, elegant floral designs.

"Chelsea Flower Show is a source of inspiration to thousands of people, whether it’s by motivating them to get outside and be innovative in their own gardens; encouraging them to be more creative with plants and flowers, or just simply giving them a greater appreciation of the natural world around them.” explains Anth.  

“For me personally, the Flower Show is a very special, albeit brief, moment of outstanding beauty and positivity that always leaves me feeling uplifted and stimulated to try new things in my job as a florist and as an amateur gardener!”

Anth’s top Chelsea floral tips

“A big trend I’m seeing in floristry this year is the rise in popularity of using more and different types of foliage in floral designs, something that I think has been heavily influenced by Pantone’s 2017 colour of the year, Greenery. In recent years a popular style in floristry has been the more wild, garden-gathered look and with this movement towards foliage heavy creations this shows no sign of dissipating just yet - whether it’s for weddings and events or simple flower arrangements at home, I have clients asking me for foliage only arrangements, or foliage and herbs with just a sprinkling of flowers. I love this development as there are so many colours and textures to be found in the different varieties of foliage and by combining a wide variety of greenery and herbs you can create something really natural and beautiful.

When creating an arrangement at home think about where it is going to be positioned before you start. If it will only be seen from the front and sides then you don’t need to worry too much about what the back looks like. However, if the arrangement is going to be seen from all angles, the best way to make sure it looks good the way round is to keep turning the vessel after every few stems you add.

To create an on trend natural, garden-gathered arrangement with lots of foliage, if you have a garden at home - or even just a few plants and shrubs in pots - don’t be afraid to experiment with the foliage you have growing. It’s all about trial and error; some will last once cut and some won’t and you’ll soon learn which ones work. Depending on how much foliage you manage to get from your garden you can create a beautiful arrangement just with that, or you can supplement what you pick from the garden with a few additional flowers from your local florist.

When picking your foliage, try to choose a variety of textures and colours to add interest to your arrangement and look for intriguing shapes and lines. Your arrangement will look more natural if you use a combination of straighter and quirky stems, there is beauty to be found in the natural bends and curves!”

Corner Of Grace Arrangement

Corner Of Grace Table Arrangement

Corner Of Grace Floral Arrangements

(Imagery: Corner of Grace)


All the florists featured above can be found by their profile pages in TOAST's Little Black Book, listed below.

For more floral inspiration and vendors in your areas, take a look at TOAST's Floral section in our Little Black Book, and don’t forget to tag @ToastLifeUK in all your fabulous floral creations – we would love to see your photos! 

 

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