For those who love plants and flowers, the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show is the highlight of the London season. Formally known as the RHS Great Spring Show, this annual floral extravaganza is amongst the most famous gardening shows in the world and the most prestigious in Britain.

The 2014 Chelsea Flower Show runs from 20th to 24th May, and over these five days will likely see upwards of 150,000 visitors. So what makes this event so special? Read on for an induction into the rarified world of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show…

History of the Chelsea Flower Show

The Royal Horticultural Society held its first Great Spring Show in 1862, and it has continued to be held in various forms throughout the years, save for breaks during World Wars I and II.

Previous locations have included the RHS’s Kensington garden (no longer extant), the historic Temple Gardens near Embankment, and the grounds of Holland House. The show first moved to its current location in the grounds of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, in 1913, in response to a need for more space.

Indeed, at various points in its history the show has risked becoming a victim of its own success, as its steadily increasing size and popularity meant space was at a premium for both exhibitors and visitors. The organisers eventually found a balance through a combination of capping ticket sales for each day of the show, extending opening hours and working with the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show to relieve pressure on the main event.

The Chelsea Flower Show Today

Today the Chelsea Flower Show receives exhaustive media coverage and intense interest from amateur and professional gardeners, landscapers and suppliers from all over the world. It has become the place to watch for upcoming gardening trends, and many new developments (including new plant varieties and revamped older breeds) make their debut at the show.

Several members of the British Royal Family generally attend a preview of the event as part of their patronage of the Royal Horticultural Society. The show then opens to RHS members for the first two days, before opening to the general public for the remainder of its run.

Visitors enjoy viewing the gorgeous gardens designed by corporations, top global designers, charities and other groups. The gardens are categorised into Show Gardens (elaborate and sometimes over-the-top), Artisan Gardens (which use natural materials in an artistic way), Fresh Gardens (forward-thinking and cutting-edge) and Generation Gardens (which demonstrate alternate uses for a regular-sized garden plot).

Another annual highlight is the Great Pavilion, in which plant nurseries from around the world exhibit a dazzling collection of plants and flowers – a brilliant place to source ideas for your own garden, or simply to marvel at the selection on offer. It also includes a Discovery area that showcases interesting educational exhibits on scientific and environmental developments in horticulture.

The 2014 Chelsea Flower Show is shaping up to be just as spectacular as ever, with over 500 exhibitors offering a rich selection of flowers, bulbs and other products. It’s worth staying over for a day or two in London to experience this gardener’s paradise – the show grounds at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea are just a half-hour drive from the Park Inn Hotel & Conference Centre, London Heathrow.

Remember that all tickets must be purchased in advance – more details on prices, opening times and general visitor info can be found on the RHS website.

Have you been to the Chelsea Flower Show? What was the highlight of your visit?