A different kind of flower show

21st September 2021

For the first time in its history, this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show will be held in September instead of May.  Grounds Manager Ric Glenn says it will pose challenges as well as opportunities.

A unique set of challenges 

While competitors are considering the plants they can use at an autumnal flower show, the Royal Hospital’s gardeners are concerned with the implications for the grounds, as Ric explains:

“It’s the end of the season and what flowers are around then will be a consideration – although flowers can be flown in from around the world. 

From our perspective, what will be interesting is what happens afterwards – as after big events like this the ground takes a fair bit of wear and tear. Reinstatement of the grounds will start at the beginning of October and like so much in horticulture it will be totally dependent on the weather. 

A very wet autumn will cause a lot of damage and if it’s suddenly very cold we might find that it’s difficult to germinate grass, so it gets green again for the very next flower show which is the following spring. On the plus side, there will be fewer issues with watering – there’s no doubt there will be more moisture in the ground.”

New opportunities 

From a creative point of view, Ric agrees that it will be interesting to see the impact of autumnal flowers, foliage and fruits in this year’s gardens. He also believes that measures to ensure the occasion is safe may well enhance the visitor experience:

“Having to be mindful of social distancing might lead to a better flower show experience for the visitors to the show. My experience is that it can be very crowded, so if there are some measures to space people out a little bit more that ultimately lead to better flower shows in future for guests.”

As far as the weather prospects are concerned, Ric is looking on the bright side:

“I’m an optimist and I think it’s going to be an absolutely beautiful autumn, but I’m not going to be held to that!”

Royal Hospital Chelsea Newsletter

Stay up to date with what's going on at The Royal Hospital by signing up for our e‑newsletter.


View the archive

Ranelagh Gardens & Rotunda
From prehistoric marsh to a college that never opened – uncovering the story of our site

The Royal Hospital dates back to the late 17th century, but the story of the land where it stands has been traced back still further. Research from the Museum of London Archaeology has thrown light on the site’s varied past.

Salisbury Court Gardens - Royal Hospital Chelsea
Royal Hospital's Hidden Show Garden

This year a new garden was successfully installed in Salisbury Court, the private courtyard within the Margaret Thatcher Infirmary.


Follow @RHChelsea