Happily, there are plenty of great garden shows to choose from around the globe – to bathe in dazzling designer displays and floral flare. The most famous of all is in full swing right now in London. With this in mind, I’ve put together my list of ‘the’ shows for true garden lovers.
RHS Chelsea Flower Show, London, UK
The world class event that herald’s the summer ‘season’ in London, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is monumental. Set in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, visit this justifiably famous and prestigious show for exquisite blooms the likes of which one can hardly imagine and superb gardens. Not to mention some unique creations – such as limited edition sculptures and hand-crafted items. Combine this with celebrities, champagne and a splash of royalty for a spectacle and experience of true pageantry.
The Great Pavilion houses breath-taking floral exhibits from 100 specialist plant breeders, nurseries and societies – and it is prodigious. Outside are the Show Gardens, created by internationally renowned designers and talented newcomers, each celebrating diverse themes and showing the possibilities of design, plantsmanship and landscaping. These are a big drawcard, but alongside them are Artisan Gardens, tributing traditional and contemporary artisan skills, and Fresh Gardens, incorporating innovative materials and ideas. Each year the Show champions a theme, this year it is about the health and wellbeing benefits of greening-up Britain’s grey spaces. It gives visitors ideas to take home and reproduce in their own gardens.
The RHS Chelsea Flowers Show is held annually over five days during the last week in May (23-28 May 2016).
Other activities: While in London partake in the Chelsea Fringe Festival, an alternative event which runs concurrently with the Chelsea Flower Show, as well as visit the nearby Chelsea Physic Garden, the fascinating Apothecaries’ Garden founded in 1673.
Also, you can find a list of more flower shows to visit in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland at Garden Travel Guide to the United Kingdom.
International Garden Festival, Quebec, Canada
Across the North Atlantic from the UK, the International Garden Festival Canada is held at Reford Gardens in Quebec and is the leading contemporary garden festival in North America. Exhibiting conceptual gardens, it is a place of innovation and experimentation in landscape design.
Reford Gardens (Les Jardins de Métis), by the St Lawrence River on the Gaspé Peninsula, is an historic English-style garden open to visitors from May to October. The Festival’s garden installations are on an adjacent site that creates a contextual link between the historical and the modern, aiming to provoke thoughts about conservation, tradition and innovation. The conceptual gardens are created by architects, landscape architects and designers from various disciplines, bringing together visual arts, architecture, landscape and the environment.
This year is the 16th International Garden Festival, with 20 conceptual gardens in total, five of these being new installations. Popular gardens from previous seasons remain in place, such as ‘Courtesy of Nature’, ‘A Ditch with a View’, ‘Jardin M’ and ‘Making Circles in the Water’.
The International Garden Festival Canada runs from 24 June until 2 October 2016.
Other activities: While in Quebec, visit the 83m high Montmorency Falls, seen by cable car or walking the suspension bridge, take in the Jardin Universitaire Roger-Van den Hende, and stroll the cobbled heritage streets of Old Quebec including the ‘open-air art gallery’ Rue du Trésor.
Also, you can find a list of other garden shows and festivals to visit in Canada at Garden Travel Guide to the USA and Canada.
International Garden Festival, Loire Valley, France
The International Garden Festival France is held in the grounds of the historic Chateau Chaumont-sur-Loire on the picturesque Loire River, a traditionally beautiful setting for the experimental ‘Gardens of Wonder’ of the Festival. This year, the Garden Festival has 23 exciting new conceptual garden installations joining the permanent gardens. They are open to visitors throughout the year.
The Festival is renowned as the place for displaying, and viewing, the work of a new generation of designers, architects, gardeners and artists. The resulting creations are seen as prototypes of gardens of the future, so what you see is bound to be challenging and ‘out of the box’. The Festival promotes the art of gardens by displaying new flower arrangements, new materials, new ideas and new approaches.
Apart from the garden installations, Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire also features artworks by acclaimed artists and sculptors such as Andy Goldsworthy, El Anatsui, Marc Couterier, Cai Guo-Qiang and Lee Bae.
The International Garden Festival runs from 21 April until 2 November 2016, and during July and August there will be LED light installations bringing a new dimension to the IGF gardens.
Other activities: Domain de Chaumont-sur-Loire is just under 200km from Paris, between Tours and Blois. This is the Loire Valley, home of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume, so wine tasting follows only the gardens on my list!
Also, you can find a comprehensive list of more flower shows and festivals to visit in France at Garden Travel Guide to France.
RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, Richmond Upon Thames, UK
Set in the magnificent grounds of Hampton Court Palace on the River Thames, the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is described as the largest in the world, and it quite likely is, although I’m not sure how that is measured or if it matters. Held in what is locally called ‘high summer’, distinguishing it from the spring shows, the Hampton Show has outstanding designed gardens, marquees displaying works by designers and nurseries, as well as sales of plants and equipment.
In common with other RHS flower shows in 2016, the theme of ‘Health, Happiness and Horticulture’ will be evident in the designs, as horticulture becomes increasingly recognised (or rediscovered) for its therapeutic qualities. There are two new categories of Show Gardens for 2016 – the Capability Brown Gardens will celebrate the 300th anniversary of landscape architect Lancelot Brown’s birth, and the City Gardens will highlight how clever design utilises small outdoor spaces.
There will also be the ‘regular’ categories of Conceptual Gardens, on contemporary issues and themes; Water Gardens – think wetlands and alternative water uses; Summer Gardens, with floral and sensory inspiration; and World Gardens, transporting visitors visually through Europe, Latin America and the USA.
The RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is on 5-10 July 2016.
Other activities: While in the area, you’d be remiss if you did not also visit Hampton Court’s historical gardens, including the Maze and the Great Vine planted in 1768 by Capability Brown, and the Palace. Also in the vicinity is Richmond Park – the 17th century deer park and the largest royal park in the Borough of London (remember the video of the deer chase by Fenton the dog?).
Singapore Garden Festival, Singapore
Set in the grounds of the wondrous Gardens by the Bay, the Singapore Garden Festival is a botanical extravaganza. This esteemed festival is held every second year, filled with high-quality landscape display gardens, balcony gardens, children’s area, fantasy gardens, miniature and bonsai gardens and spectacular floral displays.
More than 30 internationally acclaimed garden and floral designers create the displays. Well known landscape designers such as James Basson and Bruno Torini (France), Leon Kluge (South Africa) and Hugo Bugg (UK) will be exhibiting in 2016, alongside newcomers such as Alison Douglas (Australia).
Gardens by the Bay, located on reclaimed land at Marina Bay, is itself a spectacular horticultural feast. It is divided into eight sections showcasing over 250,000 rare plants, with two gigantic biodome glasshouses (the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest), and the Supertree structures linked by a sky-walk. Hundreds of orchids will festoon the Flower Dome as part of the vibrant floral Festival displays.
The Singapore Garden Festival runs from 23 to 31 July 2016.
Other activities: Visit the Singapore Botanic Gardens founded in 1859. Located on the edge of the shopping precinct, they are highly rated and the only tropical garden to be awarded UNESCO World Heritage status.
Also, you can find a comprehensive list with oodles of other gardens and green wall delights at Garden Travel Guide to Singapore.
There are innumerable other garden shows and festivals occurring worldwide, as well as events that include real-life home gardens…. but that’s enough for this one story!