#MyrtleMondays: Celebrating the Chelsea Flower Show

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…

Myrtle has donned her gardening togs in honor of flower show season

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’s Flower Show of 1873, before moving to the grounds of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea.

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!)

The Flower Market, Victor Gabriel Gilbert, 1873

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.

Painting of a scene at a flower show marquee signed, ‘A Bright, 1866’. Research suggests that this painting could depict a scene at the 1866 Great International Horticultural Exhibition. The exhibition was held under canvas on the site of the Great Exhibition in Kensington adjacent to the Royal Horticultural Society garden. Proceeds from the exhibition were used by the society to purchase the Lindley Library. Image: Lindley Library, RHS

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).


I was so smitten with this 1887 fashion plate of gardening clothes for a girl Myrtle’s age that the inevitable occurred. (I couldn’t find a matching rake, so I made up for it by making the straw hat. From scratch.)

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…

One Response to “#MyrtleMondays: Celebrating the Chelsea Flower Show”

  1. J. Hyde

    Rereading PREMEDITATED MYRTLE as we speak. 😊 Life goal is to attend the Chelsea Flower Show. Enjoyable post.