Tomorrow, Tuesday 21 September, Londoners will partake in one of the most lively and colorful events of the social season, a tradition dating back almost 110 years: the Royal Horticulture Society’s annual Chelsea Flower Show. What does this have to do with the Myrtle Hardcastle Mysteries, you ask? Read on…
Swinburne Ladies’ Garden Club
Invitational Flower show 1893.
Dear Reader, I am not sure I can do justice to the Swinburne Ladies’ Auxiliary Social Hall ballroom that August morning. The marble floors were almost totally obscured by makeshift garden plots, which did not in any way appear makeshift. It looked as though their builders had been at work for months, installing the beds and plantings… For my part, I could not decide where to look. A Japanese garden with a bed of combed sand and a blossoming cherry tree? A medieval knot of herbs surrounding a stone bench, upon which posed a little boy dressed as Cupid, brandishing a golden bow?
—Premeditated Myrtle, Chapter 14
Flower shows like the one Myrtle attends were a celebrated Victorian tradition, stemming (ahem) from their enthusiasm for gardening in general.
Read more: Gardening for Victorian Girls
The Royal Horticultural Society moved their annual exhibition, formerly The Great Spring Show, all over London throughout the 1800s, but settled on the grounds of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea in 1913—where it has stayed every year since (except in times of war or global pandemic), and is now a fundraiser for the RHC, a retirement home for British veterans. (Psst: a lively hospital fundraiser also plays a key role in Myrtle Hardcastle Mysteries #4: In Myrtle Peril, coming October 2022!)
Famous for its elaborate themed floral displays that take months to plan and hundreds of people to execute, Chelsea is one of the world’s most famous flower shows. The Lindley Library of the Royal Horticultural Society has a virtual exhibit celebrating the flower show’s history.
If you’re not lucky enough to be in the UK to see the festivities in person this year, Britbox will be streaming highlights of the event starting this Tuesday (check your streaming platform for details).
Remember, you can read all of Myrtle’s gardening adventures in Premeditated Myrtle, now in paperback.
Happy gardening—or garden-viewing, which sounds much more leisurely…