This week, thousands of people will have paid eye-watering amounts to visit the Chelsea Flower Show, and yet there’s a large free flower show that anyone can enjoy.

And it’s also in Chelsea.

This is the duel Chelsea in Bloom and Belgravia in Bloom, and this year, for the first time since 1979, a local church will be open, having filled the church with flowers and vestments.

So, three events in one.

A tip: visit before Saturday lunchtime if you want to attend all three official events, as that’s when the church display closes. However, if you don’t mind skipping the church display, late Saturday afternoon is the best time to visit because you can take in the unofficial “Flower Parade” when the Chelsea Flower Show closes.

Chelsea in Bloom

The main event is Chelsea in Bloom, where many shops go floral for a week, filling pavements and shop windows with ever-more-inventive displays.

There’s a huge variety, and every window is a delight, from faux market stalls to vast mounds of flowers and even a mock horse and Winnie the Pooh diorama.

You can genuinely spend an hour or two wandering the streets looking at the displays. Fortunately, most of them are clustered very closely around Soane Square and along the King’s Road, so it’s a very gentle amble around admiring the displays.

Some are very inventive structurally, while others are clever tie-ins with the shop, such as the copious use of brown flowers for a bakery and loads of cotton plants in the white cotton shop. A special shout out, though, goes to Dora’s Pop-Up, who knitted the flowers on their A-board, which is almost too easy to miss.

Yes, loads of people want to take photos, and some less considerate sorts want selfies and to pose for AGES in front of the displays, blocking them for everyone else, but I choose to take that as an opportunity to admire the display for longer while waiting for it to be vacated.

Chelsea in Bloom is open daily until Sunday 26th May — there’s a map here.

Belgravia in Bloom

This is the smaller cousin just up the street, and this year is rather weaker than in the past. In fact, I’d almost skip it entirely if it wasn’t for the very confusing situation that several shops have joined in with floral displays but aren’t on the official map.

The main cluster is on Elizabeth Street near Eccleston Yards, and a couple up on Motcomb Street if you fancy saving the shoe leather walking the rest of the map plan.

There is a hint of Alice in Wonderland with the playing card theme, which is actually quite good in places, and the displays are often more sculptural than in Chelsea.

Belgravia in Bloom is open daily until Monday 27th May — there’s a map here.

Vestment and Flower Festival

A short walk from Sloane Square tube station is St Mary’s church on Bourne Street, which has filled the building with large flower displays, each sitting next to historic floral-themed vestments, which the clergy wear throughout the religious year.

It’s a clever idea, as the flowers match the vestments, so you have flowers and clothing sitting in collaboration with each other. There’s also a very informative guidebook by the door that tells the history of each of the vestments on display.

The flowers and vestments festival is open from Wed to Fri this week between 10am to 5pm, and on Saturday 25th May from 10am to 1pm. Details here.

The Flower Parade

This is not an official event, but those who know, know that it’s a good idea to loiter around the Chelsea Flower Show exit on Saturday after 4pm.

That’s when many of the plants are sold off to the visitors inside the show — so there’s a long parade of people leaving the show clutching the sorts of ornate plants you would not usually see in shops.

It’s quite a sight.

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6 comments
  1. Richard King says:

    Good to see an event for people other than the elite!

  2. Janet says:

    Meant to be Chelsea in bloom but sadly alot were not flowers more like props from the theatre 😥

  3. Deborah says:

    This is such useful information – thanks for putting this together!

  4. S says:

    Will some of the displays still be there the weekend after?

  5. Anita says:

    Sadly missed it 😢. Will there be any display left ?

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