RHS Chelsea Flower Show moved to September for first time in 108 years

The Royal Horticultural Society has moved the Chelsea Flower Show from May to September, the first time it has ever switched from its traditional spring date.

The 2021 show would have taken place from 18-23 May, but has been moved to run from 21 September to 26 September. It will still be held at its usual venue, in the grounds of The Royal Hospital, Chelsea; you can see more details at www.rhs.org.uk.

It’s the first time in the 108-year history of the world’s most famous garden show that it will be held in September.

The RHS had been hoping to run it as normal, with numerous additional health and safety measures in place — among them reducing visitor numbers and spreading the show over an extra day. But with the pandemic still widespread and unpredictable, a switch to the autumn seemed the best bet.

‘With the coronavirus infection rate currently so high across the UK and no guarantee on what tier London may be in over spring, we have a responsibility to our exhibitors and everyone involved in the Show, our visitors, partners, volunteers and staff, to delay the 2021 RHS Chelsea Flower Show to later in the year, when millions more people will have been vaccinated and it is more likely that the levels of infection will have reduced substantially,’ the RHS said in a statement.

Ticket holders don’t need to contact the RHS — they will be contacted in due course with their options.

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Cape Town image at 2018 Chelsea Flower Show

While it’s a shame that the show won’t take place at the height of spring, the prospect of an autumn show does raise all sorts of interesting possibilities for exhibitors to use plants which might not normally have been at their peak in May.

‘It will celebrate the best of autumn horticulture, with many seasonal highlights including Salvias, Asters, Dahlias, grasses and fruit and vegetables,’ the statement continued.

‘As well as looking back at its historic Great Autumn Show for inspiration, the RHS is excited about the ideas exhibitors will have to create spectacular autumnal gardens and displays.

‘Whilst we are sad to have had to delay RHS Chelsea and are sorry for the disruption this will cause, we are excited that we are still planning to bring the world’s best loved gardening event to the nation at a time when more people are gardening more than ever,’ said Sue Biggs, the RHS’s director general.

‘We know that the autumn dates may not be suitable for everyone, but with our fantastic industry partners we will do everything we can to support them and create a show that will be a moment in history.

‘It will be exciting to see different horticulture and showcase the key autumn gardening season at the world’s most famous flower show.  We believe many designers and nurseries will look forward to working with different plants that would not be available or at their best in May.’