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Homage to Chelsea: RHS Virtual Chelsea 2021

As you know, the live 2021 Chelsea Flower Show has been pushed back until September, meaning that there’s every chance it will go ahead this year. Therefore, we thought this would be a great time to reflect on the past. Here’s our Homage to Chelsea!

We have approached some of our favourite bloggers and asked their thoughts, memories and associations to RHS Chelsea over the years. Read more to find out what they had to say about their homage to Chelsea but also comment on our blog to tell us yours!

What We Asked

What do you, our favourite gardening content creators, make of this annual event? We want to know which category you find the most exciting, inspiring and interesting from the below?

Homage to Chelsea

Which Chelsea Flower Show category is most important for gardeners? 

  • Best Show Garden
  • Best Space to Grow Garden
  • Best Artisan Garden
  • Best Construction Award (Show/Space to Grow/Artisan Garden)
  • The People’s Choice Best Show Garden
  • The People’s Choice Best Space to Grow Garden
  • The People’s Choice Best Artisan Garden
  • The Diamond Jubilee Award
  • The President’s Award
  • RHS Chelsea Plant of the Year Award
  • Best Discovery Exhibit
  • New Design Award

And if you have a few minutes to write a slightly longer reply, we’d love to hear why. Alternatively, tell us about your favourite Chelsea Flower Show memory from over the years, or something that has particularly resonated with your own gardening journey.

What the Bloggers Say

Homage to Chelsea - Laura, Elaine and Caroline

Laura, Elaine and Caroline

Plant category result: “Now as regards your poll, after a bit of loud discussion, we decided the most exciting and inspiring category for us is the Best Show Garden. Of course, this might be because it dominates the TV coverage, or because these exhibitors get the biggest creative space or because their designs tend to range from very modern to very traditional (while the artisan gardens tend to be mainly focused on the Romantic period of garden design), but whatever the reason this award is the one we remember the most. We do also love the trade stands in the marquee and are very interested in how they fare but I don’t think this was one of your categories”.

Memory: “We have very many fond memories of Chelsea and every year write a blog about the conversations we overheard and what plants we liked the most etc. Our blog last year reprised some of these moments – I’ll give you a flavour here:

Laura: Best moments? well in the past these have tended to involve visits to the sanctuary of the ladies’ loos, set up as they are with water fountains and gratis hand lotion, but in recent years I’ve taken to waking Caroline up early on the final Saturday, driving up through the still streets of Battersea, and being one of the first through the gates at 8 am. That first walk around, clasping a cup of coffee and a croissant (up until which point C has only communicated in grunts), as we take it all in before the crowds arrive at the showground, really takes some beating.

Elaine: It’s hard to pick the greatest moment – I love our girls’ lunchtime picnics in Ranelagh Gardens, I love the huge shared fun of the Saturday sell-off, and then traveling back on the train with our flowery treasures like Burnham Wood coming back to Dunsinane. A strong candidate was when the armed police looked like they might arrest Laura and we might get a bit of peace……………how we cheered! Yeah, I’ll go with that one”.

Read more here –

Karen & Rich

Plant category result: “Rich and I have never actually had the opportunity to visit the Chelsea Flower Show, it’s on our bucket list though! After some thought we feel the Best Show Garden category important for gardeners to visit – it’s one of the areas we would absolutely love to see!”.

Alan E Down

Plant category result: “My choice would be the People’s Choice Best Show Garden.
My reasoning is simple as it is in the name – it’s what the majority of gardeners like and vote for!”.

Alexandra Campbell

Plant category result: “I think both the ‘Best in Show’ garden and the ‘People’s Choice Best In Show Garden’ are jointly the most important for gardeners. That’s because the ‘Best in Show’ garden is usually an example of ‘haute couture’ in garden design, sometimes pushing the concepts to their limits, while the People’s Choice is a reflection of what people really want in their gardens at the moment. I think it’s really interesting to look at the two together, especially as many of the public who visit RHS Chelsea are themselves very knowledgeable and experienced gardeners. So their opinion is a good reflection of garden trends today, while the Best in Show is more likely to be an indication of garden trends in the next few years”.

Memory: “As I walked out in to the garden today, I saw that the first iris was out – a purple one called Sable, that was used by Tom Stuart Smith at RHS Chelsea Laurent Perrier garden, and which I bought for that reason. It reminded me that the Chelsea Flower Show is, above all, a brilliant place to discover plants. Seeing plants in show gardens is always inspiring, but what has impressed me about this plant is that it’s also resilient, long-lasting and an all round ‘good doer.’ Every year it reminds me of ‘Chelsea’”.

Alison Levey

Plant category result: “I need to cheat when answering this poll as there is not one clear cut category that excites me most. If forced I would say that I find the Best Show Garden and the People’s Choice Best Show Garden the two most exciting categories as individual categories and the interplay between them. The Best Show Garden is always exciting as it points to the one that is considered the most technically outstanding. It will match the design brief, it will have been constructed to the highest level of quality and all the blades of grass will point in exactly the right direction. The People’s Choice Best Show Garden might be exactly the same garden, but often it is not. This will be the garden that has caught the imagination of the people who have visited/viewed it. It might not be ‘perfect’, but it has made them smile and resonated with them at an emotional level. The People’s Choice will often be the garden that they can identify with the most. It will be fascinating to see which gardens win which category this year in particular. After spending so much of 2020/21 under covid restrictions limiting us to what we have as our garden/outdoor space; the People’s Choice might be the one that captures the hopes and emotions of us all as we emerge into a hopefully better time”.

Memory: “I think what has resonated most with me in my personal gardening journey has been that you can make a big impact in a small space. The various gardens at Chelsea are not as big as they appear on the TV and when you look at them you can find some inspirational planting combinations that I can copy at home that I may not otherwise have considered. Most of all though I think what Chelsea has inspired me to do more is use ornaments such as nice climbing supports, an obelisk for a clematis or a stone cat lurking in the borders. It has broadened my horizons on what is possible in my gardening space”.

Mandy Watson

Plant category result: “It’s definitely the Plant of the Year Award for me. I love to see what’s new on the plant growing front, as it’s a real pointer to how our gardens will look in the next few years. After all, people can afford a plant, rather than entire landscaping!”.

Memory: “The plant that sticks in my mind most is the hydrangea and the rise in popularity after Runaway Bride and Miss Saori won in 2018 and 2014. They were transformed from fuddy-duddy 1970s front garden plants to varieties anyone could use”.

Adrienne Wild

Plant category result: “I think it’s important to take note of all the People’s Choice categories. The best Space to grow and Best artisan gardens provide visitors with realistic ideas that they can take home so always worth a look. 
The Awards are worth noting, especially the discovery award, plant of the year and the design and construction awards. 

I have visited Chelsea over 40 times and always look out for design trends and plant associations – even though plants are out of season, the colours and texture combos are worth noting. 

Of the ‘Show’ gardens I like to see a story behind the design and perennials used in containers. I have been impressed by the way Chelsea has evolved and we have moved away from banks of rhododendrons and rock and water gardens. I like to be surprised at the Show, even if the designer has gone off piste. It’s good to see new plants ‘showcased’ and innovations on the construction materials and techniques used.  Wild plants and eco ideas are always on my mind”.


Plant category result: “I’d say that the ‘Space to Grow’ is the most relevant for gardeners, but everyone wants to see who wins the ‘Best Show Garden”.

Memory: “One of my favourite memories of Chelsea (2016) was watching Mr Motivator* (rechristened as Mr MOWtivator especially for the show) light up the Bosch stage in a blur of flailing limbs and rainbow coloured lycra. It was certainly a contrast after emerging from the tranquil surroundings of the flower tent”.

For this recent Suttons poll of 77 garden bloggers, 67% of respondents think that ‘Best Show Garden’ is the most important category at the Chelsea Flower Show. This is followed closely by the ‘People’s Choice Best in Show’ category and ‘Plant of the Year’. 

tell us your homage to chelsea!

We would love to hear what our Suttons’ customers and viewers have to remember and say about RHS Chelsea through it’s 108 year history! You can do this by commenting on our blog or sharing your thoughts on our social media pages below!

In addition to our Homage to Chelsea, you can view our 2021 Chelsea homepage here, with everything you need to know about the Virtual and September show! Plus, information on Plant on the Year, Product of the Year and Suttons Guide to Chelsea.

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