Being part of the BBC1 presenting team for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is one of my favourite jobs in the year – in fact I’d go as far as saying it’s the jewel in my presenting crown! Chelsea is such a heady mix of glamour and celebrity, drama, art and most importantly world class horticulture. Here are a few things I would recommend you don’t miss this year from our eleven hours of coverage…
We try to capture each and every aspect of the show throughout the week starting with the great build (filmed over the past 4 weeks or so come rain or shine) the official royal opening on the Monday afternoon, medals, tears and tantrums through to the individual designers, growers, plants men and woman and the teams and teams of horticultural experts and enthusiasts who make such a lasting impression on us all.
My week actually starts on the Saturday when I get a chance to walk along Main Avenue, marvel at the Artisan and Fresh Gardens and the explore exhibits and nurseries of the Great Pavilion, trying to ignore or perhaps pacify the odd stressed designer and have a very privileged view as everything begins to flourish and take shape. To me, a
passionate and enthusiastic amateur, it looks like organised chaos but in actual fact there’s precision behind the madness which is revealed first thing on a Monday morning.. but more of that later…
Over the coming week around 157,000 people will walk through the Gates of the show, but if you choose to watch from the comfort of your own home you’re certainly not going to miss out.. The screen team include Monty Don, Joe Swift, Sophie Raworth, Carol Klein, Rachel de Thame, Chris Beardshaw and Andy Sturgeon. I’m delighted this year to be joined by James Wong, garden designer and botanist for our daily afternoon show at 3 pm on BBC1 who, I’m hoping, will sharing plenty of ‘take home’ advice as well as his expert knowledge.
The highlights of the week would start with Monday which is the Official Opening of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Before the Royals arrive, in fact first thing, you can spot many a celeb and VIP person perusing the grounds. Dame Helen Mirren, Ringo Starr, Rod Stewart… the list goes on. Monday is a very hot ticket. Tuesday is RHS Members Day but also Medals Day – I would say the true high point and it’s a very early start. The judges have decided and it’s time to see the results. Arriving at the grounds around 6 am in morning, I’ll head towards the Show Gardens in my best outfit and heels with my camera team ready to capture the moment as the RHS ladies tear around the site giving out those all important medals.. will it be a gold, will it be silver or a disappointing bronze?? Over the years we’ve seen every emotion from the recipients, with many a tear too – often from the men!
This year there’s plenty of anticipation as designing doyen Dan Pearson returns to Chelsea after an absence of 10 years, Prince Harry’s charity Sentebale will be exhibiting a design to draw attention to the plight of vulnerable children in Lesotho, Chelsea first timer Kamelia Bin Zaal aims to provide sanctuary to reflect the beauty of Arabic and Islamic cultures and Adam Frost, a particular favourite designer of mine, returns once again aiming for another gold medal.
I have to mention the expert floral designs and arrangements. Every year I attempt on my programme to improve my skills with a little help from the experts. I make up with enthusiasm from what I lack in talent. As a patron of NAFAS (floral design with excellence) as least I should get a gold for effort. These ‘attempts’ are much to Joe Swift’s amusement might I add..
By the end of the week I’ll either have been bronzed by the sun or soaked to the skin, I’ll have walked countless miles around show grounds and will have fought off the hay fever coughs and sneezes but who cares, because it will have all been worth it for the Greatest Flower Show on Earth.