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What we loved about the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2021

For the first time in the show’s 108-year history, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show was held in autumn this year. The sun shone all week and the whole experience was one of relaxed, late summer contentment. We popped along to discover more about how the greatest flower show on Earth offers an unparalleled platform for good causes to tell the world about their work.

Written by:

Jennie Spears

Published on:

October 1, 2021

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For the first time in the show’s 108-year history, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show was held in autumn this year. The sun shone all week and the whole experience was one of relaxed, late summer contentment. We popped along to discover more about how the greatest flower show on Earth offers an unparalleled platform for good causes to tell the world about their work.

In late September when the grounds of the Royal Hospital came alive with the unique sights and sounds of the flower show, there was a real sense of eagerness and joy from visitors, the media and everyone involved that Chelsea was back after the hiatus enforced by the pandemic. Among the exhibitors were a range of charities and good causes looking to tell their stories to a global audience. And with fewer gardens and floral exhibits this year, it was a great opportunity for them to make their story stand out. 

On Main Avenue, the only large show garden with a charity connection was ‘The Florence Nightingale Garden: A Celebration of Modern-Day Nursing’ designed by Robert Myers to mark the bicentenary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. With many strong links to the critical role nurses play in modern-day healthcare, the garden told a clear story and drew attention on press day with a photocall starring ‘Call the midwife’ actress Helen George. After the show, the garden is being installed in its permanent home at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital to offer a place of respite and recovery for patients and staff.

One of just two Artisan Gardens at the show, the Guide Dogs’ 90th Anniversary Garden was designed by Adam Woolcott and Jonathan Smith. It was a charming sensory wildflower garden with dog-friendly planting, telling the story of how the first official guide dogs were given to First World War veterans. Demonstrating that not all publicity can be planned, one of the biggest media splashes for the guide dogs during the week came when BBC weather presenter, Carol Kirkwood was toppled to the floor during a live on-air weather report by an enthusiastic guide dog named Flash. Unexpected and light-hearted, it shows anything can happen on press day! 

Health and wellbeing was a recurrent theme of the show, particularly relevant in these post-Covid times. One of the Sanctuary Gardens celebrated the unwavering work of the NHS in providing care and support during the pandemic. ‘Finding Our Way: An NHS tribute garden’ was designed by Naomi Ferrett-Cohen to represent all the many different people that keep the NHS running and applaud their hard work over the past 18-months. 

Over in the Great Pavilion, an exhibit by Bees for Development highlighted the crucial role of honey bees and other pollinators in the survival of the planet. As a charity with an international reach, its display included a fascinating demonstration of different beekeeping methods around the world. 

Community, another popular theme, was the focus of the Co-op’s super colourful ‘Communities in Bloom’ exhibit, showcasing its Fairtrade flowers and seasonal British blooms to carry the message that when communities come together, they can change the world around them for the better.

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2021 will go down in the history books as the first - and probably only – time the show was held in autumn, and the unanimous verdict seems to have been that it was a great success. A chance to get out and about again after a challenging 18 months and for the wonderful horticulture industry to get back to doing what it does best. The palette of plants and feel of the gardens may have been different, but that magic that makes Chelsea unique was there without a doubt.

If you were inspired by the gardens for good causes at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show and want to find out more about Project Giving Back, contact us.

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