We had a truly phenomenal week at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show and despite the weather not being quite as kind as in previous years, the rain certainly didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits!
Our adventure began on Friday 20th May, just prior to the opening of the Flower Show, when a team from the office made their way up to London to begin bringing our tradestand on Cross Way to life. Thanks to the eternally helpful Pete and his team from Level Partnership, the stand was already looking wonderful and was ready and waiting for our stock to be displayed, as well as for the addition of a few gorgeous planters by Italian Terrace.
With everything in place, it wasn’t long before garden design extraordinaire, Butter Wakefield, appeared to fill each pot with floral mastery! Working with her fantastic team, the planters were soon full to the brim with all kinds of fragrant plants, all of which were carefully chosen by Butter herself.
In between planting, our Founder & Chair of Trustees, Dr Olivia Chapple, also took the time to pop over to see our friends at the Griffin Glasshouses tradestand, where Rachel Smith-Ruffle, also known as The Wonky Artist, was waiting. Especially for RHS Chelsea, Rachel created a painting of Horatio’s Garden South West, leaving gaps amidst the artwork to be painted by celebrities on Press Day.
It wasn’t long before the opening day was upon us, with both Dr Olivia Chapple and fellow Executive Trustee, Victoria Holton, both awaiting the arrival of the guests attending Press Day.
The morning began with a visit from BBC Radio Wiltshire, with Karen Gardner popping by to interview Olivia and Vicky live on air. Introducing us, Karen mentioned where we were, a brilliant spot just off of Main Avenue and gave listeners a little background about Horatio’s Garden. Olivia then offered more information, telling everyone all about the opening of our sixth garden, Horatio’s Garden Wales, in Cardiff last week and how this year marks the 10th anniversary of the charity.
To catch up on BBC Sounds, please click here
You’ll find the interview at approximately 2:26:00 – 2:29:30
Karen, Olivia and Vicky also touched on the celebrity supporters we were hoping to meet at this year’s Show, including Horatio’s Garden Ambassador, Dame Joanna Lumley, and President of the National Garden Scheme, Mary Berry. The thought of the two coming to say ‘hello’ was exciting enough, but as it turned out, we were extraordinarily lucky to meet many, many more!
We were absolutely delighted to meet Dame Judi Dench for the very first time, who was a pleasure to speak with and who spent time warmly chatting with Olivia and Vicky to discover more about the charity. Following in her footsteps were Jeremy Irons and Sinéad Cusack, who on first meeting were equally a total pleasure to talk to, as was horticultural great Claus Dalby, who was intrigued to hear more about all that we do.
As ever, we were absolutely thrilled to see some familiar famous faces too, including Horatio’s Garden Ambassadors Dame Joanna Lumley among our favourite Chelsea Pensioners, Alan Titchmarsh MBE and Anneka Rice, as well as supporters Arit Anderson, Rachel de Thame, Dame Mary Berry and Jo Whiley.
Of course, a collection of our fabulous garden designers also paid a visit, with Charlotte Harris and Hugo Bugg of Harris Bugg Studio, Bunny Guinness, Cleve West, Andy Sturgeon and Sarah Price all popping by. We were lucky to catch James Alexander-Sinclair, Tom Stuart-Smith and Joe Swift during the week too, meaning everyone turned out in force to show their support!
It was also a joy to meet floral and plant designer, Hazel Gardiner, who brought this year’s RHS Chelsea Letters to life. Having previously worked on last year’s Garden Day UK, we were familiar with Hazel’s stunning work and it was lovely to be able to finally get to know her in person.
We were also enormously fortunate to see the whole day beautifully captured by photographer Lucy Shergold, as well as photographer Ellie Walpole, who came with Hazel to see us and who was immediately taken with both the vibrant planting and the charity itself.
We weren’t alone in welcoming lots of wonderfully kind, famous faces to our tradestand either. Meanwhile, over on Royal Hospital Way, the Griffin Glasshouses team, together with Rachel The Wonky Artist, were having incredible success in encouraging a whole host of celebrities to fill in the final parts of her painting. From Darcey Bussell and Linford Christie, to Katie Piper and Craig Revel Horwood, countless people stopped to show their support, with each and every person looking genuinely overjoyed to be a part of the wonderful fundraising effort.
Now that the painting it complete, it will be framed and auctioned to raise money for Horatio’s Garden, a fitting RHS Chelsea memory that will undoubtedly bring a great deal of happiness to whoever the lucky bidder may be!
They were not the only thoughtful people supporting us either, with Dobbies also kindly donating a rich array of plants from their spectacular five-star tradestand. A stunning selection will be relocated to each Horatio’s Garden across the country, whilst the indoor plants appearing as part of the stand are being given to Stroke Association. Both Olivia and Vicky went to visit the Dobbies ‘green sanctuary’ and echoed the charity’s heartfelt appreciation for their generous donation.
With Monday at an end, the rest of the week had a lot to live up to and it certainly did not disappoint, getting off to a fantastic start when we received four stars for our tradestand!
We were lucky to spend the entirety of RHS Chelsea speaking to many incredible supporters, some who have long supported the charity and some who had never encountered us before. Everyone was enormously engaged in finding out more about the positive impact each Horatio’s Garden makes, whilst many were also keen to support us there and then. With all our beautifully bespoke products available for purchase and all profits going directly to supporting the charity, we are enormously grateful to everyone who contributed to the week’s record sales. You have all made a phenomenal difference and will continue to do so far into the future.
A special ‘thank you’ must go to all our brilliant volunteers too, who took turns taking care of the stand and those coming by to say ‘hello’. Every single person did an amazing job and taken together, everyone’s efforts raised more awareness about our mission than we could ever have hoped.
Additionally, we would also like to take a moment to express our appreciation to Rathbones, who generously supported our tradestand this year, whilst the Rathbones Folio Prize continues to also support our Arts Programme in the gardens too. Beginning with a fantastic workshop with author and writer, Robert Macfarlane, earlier this year, we’re thrilled that more people in each Horatio’s Garden will be able to enjoy similar workshops throughout the year.
It also wouldn’t have been RHS Chelsea without our annual Chelsea Drinks Party, which this year involved a celebration right at the heart of the week on Wednesday 25th May. We were absolutely amazed by the number of people who joined us and special guest speaker, Tom Stuart-Smith, at The National Army Museum for the first time since 2019, as were the evening’s generous supporters, The Calendonia Foundation. With the atmosphere buzzing from start to finish, it was a fabulous evening and one you can read much more about here.
As the final day of the Show arrived, our tradestand breakdown team were prepared for the task ahead and made the most of spending a final few hours at the world’s greatest flower show. Whilst they and the team were sad to see the week come to an end, we know that RHS Chelsea 2023 beckons and we’re already looking forward to doing it all again next year!