From a real flower fairy to a giant stone sculpture, here are some of the wonders on display at the 2023 Chelsea Flower Show.
As great as the 2023 Chelsea Flower Show gold medalists are, they’re far from the only show in town, as our pick of the best beats shows.
1. A real flower fairy
The most exquisite creations can be seen everywhere, yet the most striking photo of the week “man in a luxurious dress” was taken against the backdrop of a patch of wild parsley growing on the grounds of the Royal Chelsea Hospital. Surprisingly, the dress in question is made from grass roots sprouted in beeswax molds and then turned into a kind of natural textile by Zena Holloway, calling the material “both reality and metaphor.”
2. Inverted tulips
Exhibition gardens are fine for fans of thoughtful design, but the real mad scientists of the plant world can be found in the Grand Pavilion at the Chelsea Flower Show – a huge marquee commonly referred to as “the tent.” These stunning upside down tulips were our favorite example; you can see the flowers even struggle to straighten up.
3. Chelsea retirees steal the show
Beard, smile, many medals – this Chelsea pensioner won the hearts of everyone he met on the show.
4. The most colorful garden at Chelsea 2023.
Of all the florists, gardeners and gurus, this incredible display has been put together by the Birmingham City Council Parks Department.
5. Great and good everywhere you look
From top notch actors (not least Dame Judi Dench) to stars from previous generations that you wouldn’t even think of for years (former British 100m Olympic champion Linford Christie among them), celebrities are so numerous at the flower show in Chelsea that from weight alone, the numbers mean they can go about their business with just a glance in their direction.
Exception: Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales, whose appearance on the show caused a mini stampede on any garden she was heading to at any given time.
6. Limitless ways to empty your bank account
Chelsea is not only a flower show, but also a shopping opportunity, but this year’s “best in show” in terms of retail therapy was not close. Right at the top is this giant carved stone replica of the Sphinx and the 15 foot horse you can see in the background on the right. Both can be made to order by outdoor furniture manufacturer Andrew Martin; expect to pay around £20,000.
7. SW3 x Game of Thrones
If you don’t like modern reproductions of ancient sculptures of sphinxes and horses, how about James Doran-Webb’s floating animals? They are somewhat reminiscent of Chelsea and fans of the show are always eager to see what each new year brings. The answer in 2023 is an amazing dragon towering over the crowd with a wingspan of at least 20 feet. Amazing.
8. Everyone choked
It’s something we never saw as kids when we walked through Surrey Street Market in Croydon on a Saturday afternoon.
9. Chelsea Camouflage
Yes, there were people inside. Yes, they could still move. No, they weren’t swooped in by pollinators. And no, we did not manage to persuade them to go and pose near the stall in photo 10.
10. Your kiosk can be any color, but only pink.
11. Time to sit down
The dragons weren’t the only impressive wooden creations on display: these gorgeous benches in one of the balcony gardens looked as comfortable as they were beautiful. But have they been so polished and polished that they have begun to lose some of their natural joy?
12. Orchids you almost never see in the wild
The stunning orchids displayed at the 2023 Chelsea Flower Show were not just delicate and beautiful; they were also part of a reminder that orchid varieties are among the UK’s most endangered flowers.
13. Untouched natural beauty done right
Perhaps unsurprising, given that the weed and rubble garden named Best of Show in 2022—much to the chagrin of our columnist Alan Titchmarsh—had an endless supply of natural-looking flowers. Unfortunately, many of them were disappointingly similar: at least half a dozen seemed to be composed almost entirely of cornflowers, alliums, and daisies. However, the best, such as Sarah Price of The Nurture Landscapes Garden, managed to mix colors, textures and sizes into a great display effortlessly.
14. Mini Manhattan of flowers
The best single flower in Chelsea? It would be impossible to choose one, but this magical display of Manhattan Lights lupins was truly breathtaking, looking around the world like a miniature version of the Chrysler Building.
15. New life of Georgian (and Louis XIV) garden sculpture.
Several stalls at the 2023 Chelsea Flower Show were entirely dedicated to selling garden antiques. They were absolutely irresistible. Somehow weathered, battered, chipped and covered in lichen, a lion statue (or a birdbath of the same age, or a trough of water, or something similar). You can pay £6,000 for a beautiful piece from the 18th century; but that the garden centerpiece brings a smile every time you see it, we can fully understand if you choose to open your checkbook. (Note for those under 40: the checkbook is what we used before PayPal and VenMo were invented.)
16. Influencers do their thing
We are not joking when we say that this lady climbed her ladder and then leaned to the left at such an angle that we were sure she must have fallen. It was hard to watch, so we turned the corner for coffee and a salted caramel chocolate brownie. Fortunately, there was no rumble or scream of pain. She is a real pro.
17. Real Korean music
It’s amazing that the evolution of musical instruments on opposite sides of the world should give rise to a pair of ancient Korean instruments, which, if you look closely, are just a huge guitar and harp. As for how they sounded? Let’s put it this way, perhaps they weren’t tuned to the notes that Western ears might expect.
18. Garden thing on the theme of the coronation
Well, someone had to do it. And we mentioned that our rural life Is the Coronation Celebration Special still on sale?
19. Game lady
We told you we spotted Dame Judy.
20. Things that will make you think
Five full minutes of staring at it made it no less clear what was about to happen.
21. Royal Horse
Favorite horse worthy of a king.
22. Roses to die for…
If your screen were to be scratched and sniffed, you would have a hard time believing the overwhelming aroma coming from this display.
23. …and also upstaged the great David Austin
Cheeky, the rose stand above (and in photo 22) was right next to the David Austin seat – and, it must be said, surpassed it in terms of showmanship. Pete has come a long way since the Eastenders.
24. Hats off
Due to cloudy weather in London during the Chelsea Flower Show 2023, there were fewer Panamas on display than usual. But we have a feeling that these guys will still be sold out by the end of the week.
25. Time for a quick shower
The £100,000 shepherd’s hut featured at SW3 raised a lot of questions: at first, it seems like the shower screen should be a bit more substantial; and secondly, what kind of shepherd would live in such a hut?
26. Tulips stuck in the chopper
We’ll never know what combination of natural variation and gardener ingenuity resulted in these mesmerizing tulips, but anyone who can make a cropped jeans style flower has our respect.
27. Chelsea Medieval Flower Show®
So, these aren’t giant human traps or tools of brutal punishment from a nearby dungeon: they’re designed to fence off lawns and paths without having to spend hours digging trenches for stone slabs.
28. Here you are without the ride cracker
29. Bubble Trouble
Being able to put on a giant sequin jumpsuit is almost as impressive as the skill of the bubbles.
30. And finally … there are even beautiful flowers