The Chelsea Flower Show: Bling is Back

If you thought the Chelsea Flower Show was all garden accessories and a chance for society wives to catch up, you may want to think again. Tomorrow sees the launch of the Royal Horticultural Society’s 148th annual show, a key fixture on London’s social season, and this year it promises some extravagant surprises.

Held within the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, 157,000 people will arrive over the next four days, most heading straight to the floral marquee to see the florid display gardens that innovative landscape designers, plant experts, and architects have spent the last 15 months preparing. Each team is funded by generous sponsors and with competition between each garden display rife; you can guarantee that a stereotypically English rose garden is not going to win any prizes.

This year sees the most expensive design in the show’s history. The Ace of Diamonds Garden has cost £20 million to put together which is more than the total for all of this year’s 600 exhibits and all of last year’s exhibits combined.

Working with Bond Street jeweler Leviev, the display serves to highlight the link between the plant world and precious stones. The walls of the garden are made up of £100,000 of semi-precious amethyst and quartz while the ‘garden’ includes the Blue Diamond Flower Ring, a rare vivid blue flawless diamond set within eight pear-shaped diamond petals worth £3.2 million, and Leviev’s signature flower, the peony, has led to £1 million ring, a multilayered petal shaped design with pink diamonds in rose gold and a green diamond set in the middle.

Over at the Laurent-Perrier garden, the official sponsors of the show also took inspiration from ecology and the environment. Here, designer Tom Stuart-Smith’s elegant and understated woodland scene of blue iris and fresh white flowers blends delicately with a flowing spring and intertwining water running throughout. The glimmering centerpiece is a bronze pavilion and when viewed as a whole, the garden is a truly opulent and glimmering piece of art.

For guests, Laurent-Perrier are welcomed collaborators: last year 2,000 bottles of Champagne were drunk along with 46,000 glasses of Pimms, 65,000 cups of tea and 18,000 sandwiches were served.

The biggest ever show garden ever at The Chelsea Flower Show will also be unveiled this year by the Eden Project. At 600 square meters it is twice the size of last year’s entry and seeks to show how every component of the natural world is connected. With crops, food, floristry, leisure, medicine, industry and conservation all getting a mention, this ambitious display has, quite literally, a lot of ground to cover.

The BBC will be broadcasting the world-famous event to 2.2 million viewers but to really take in the spectacle that is The Chelsea Flower Show, you really have to be there in all it’s glimmering, pretty, blooming summer glory.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2010 runs from 25 May to 29 May at the Royal Hospital, London.