Royal Horticultural Society puts flower show online with a public competition


Amateur gardeners are being asked to submit snaps of their gardens in an effort to find the best home-grown garden during the coronavirus lockdown.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) ‘My Chelsea Garden’ contest, which kicks off on Friday, aims find the best home-grown gardens and plant displays. 

RHS wants UK garden owners to submit images of their green spaces in four categories with a description of how they’ve helped their physical and mental health.

The competition comes after the viral pandemic forced the RHS’s annual Chelsea Flower Show to be cancelled for the first time since the Second World War.

Chelsea Flower Show 2020 will instead be held as a ‘virtual’ event online, which will run from May 18-23.

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The ‘My Chelsea Garden’ competition hopes to encourage amateur gardeners across the nation to share images of their green spaces and growing efforts at home ‘in search of the very best’, RHS said

The head of the RHS said the celebration of gardens and green spaces is increasingly vital at a time when access to natural, open spaces is limited.  

‘Plants, gardening and the natural world has never been so important to us,’ said Sue Biggs, RHS director general, who is one of the competition’s judges. 

HOW TO ENTER ‘MY CHELSEA GARDEN’

– From 7pm Friday, people can enter the competition by visiting bbc.co.uk/theoneshow. 

– They’ll be asked to submit one current picture of their garden in one of the four categories.

– Entries need include up to 250 words on how the garden they have submitted is helping them.  

– Pictures must be of people’s own indoor or outdoor gardens and must be taken between Friday 1 May and Monday 18 May 2020. 

– Only over 18 can submit an entry, if under 18 they will need to ask a parent or guardian to enter on their behalf.

– The competition will close at midnight on Monday 18 May 2020. 

‘At the RHS we are acutely aware of the benefits that gardening and nurturing plants can have on our mental health and wellbeing.’

The ‘My Chelsea Garden’ competition will be judged in four categories – back garden, front garden, indoor garden (which would include houseplants, window sills and balconies) and a kids’ corner garden.

One winner from each of the My Chelsea Garden categories will receive four tickets for the Chelsea Flower Show in 2021 and an RHS award commending their garden.

RHS is also encouraging people to post images of plants and gardens on social media with the hashtag #mychelseagarden to provide inspiration for others during the lockdown.

As part of the competition, people are also being asked to share on platforms such as Twitter and Instagram how their gardens are helping them through the current period of limited social contact.

As well as RHS director general Sue Biggs, RHS head of shows judging James Alexander Sinclair, TV gardener Monty Don and Alex Jones from BBC’s The One Show will also judge entries.

Competition judges are One Show Presenter Alex Jones, Monty Don, RHS Head of Shows judging, James Alexander Sinclair and Sue Biggs, RHS Director General

Competition judges are One Show Presenter Alex Jones, Monty Don, RHS Head of Shows judging, James Alexander Sinclair and Sue Biggs, RHS Director General 

‘From window boxes and balconies to the more traditional outside space, I can’t wait to hear how growing and planting has been helping people get through this extraordinary time and am excited to see the results of everyone’s creative efforts,’ Jones said.

‘This competition with The One Show is a great way to encourage people to garden and grow and also reward some tremendous efforts and amazing indoor and outdoor gardens across the UK.’

From 7pm on Friday, Brits can enter by visiting The One Show website and submit a recent picture of their garden in one of the four categories by Monday, May 18. 

They’ll need to accompany their photo with a description below 250 words of how their particular submission is helping them, either physically, mentally or through any practical benefits such as providing homegrown food supplies.

Last year's visitors to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, which is going online in 2020 with virtual garden tours, a school gardening club, recreated plant displays and growing tips from experts

Last year’s visitors to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, which is going online in 2020 with virtual garden tours, a school gardening club, recreated plant displays and growing tips from experts

Last week, RHS revealed its plans to bring the 2020 Chelsea Flower Show – the first to be cancelled since 1946 – online as part of a ‘virtual’ celebration.

From May 18-23, the RHS website will host the free online video content, including garden tours from the home of one of the world’s leading garden designers, florists or gardening personalities.

A daily ‘School Gardening Club’ will provide activities for families to play, dig, grow plants and ‘connect with nature’, while special guests will take part in an interactive Q&A session every lunchtime during the week.

A selection of UK growers who would normally exhibit at Chelsea will also take virtual visitors to the show on behind-the-scenes tours of their flower ‘nurseries’.

‘We’re lucky to live in a digital age where we’re able to bring aspects of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show online so we can continue to share the world’s best in horticulture and bring garden design inspiration, breath-taking displays and horticultural knowledge for the nation to enjoy during this difficult time,’ said Biggs.

Visitors observing mixed plants displays at the 2017 Chelsea Flower Show. The RHS revealed its plans for the first-ever virtual version of the event, which is normally held at Royal Hospital Chelsea, London

Visitors observing mixed plants displays at the 2017 Chelsea Flower Show. The RHS revealed its plans for the first-ever virtual version of the event, which is normally held at Royal Hospital Chelsea, London

‘We really hope the virtual show will help fill the gap caused by the sad but necessary cancellation of this year’s show and will inspire more people to get growing’.

In an open letter on the RHS website, Biggs said that many people ‘feel they need gardening in their life now more than ever before’ for their mental and physical wellbeing during lockdown. 

This includes those who are having to turn to home-grown produce to support families during periods of self-isolation when they can’t access the shops.

The UK government is asking the public to self-isolate at home for seven days if they think they have symptoms of COVID-19 – however, if living with someone else who also has symptoms, government advises staying at home for 14 days from the day the first person in the home started having symptoms.  

The RHS has also started posting a series of ‘Grow at Home’ videos on its YouTube channel  to help people grow their own veg during these long periods. 

Is your garden better than Chelsea Flower Show chief’s? 

The traditional Chelsea Flower Show may be cancelled this year – but the Royal Horticultural Society is offering competitive gardeners a chance to show off their plots at home.

To inspire or challenge those who think they have a prettier patch, the RHS has released pictures of the garden of its director general Sue Biggs for the first time.

Her modest-sized suburban garden in Cobham, Surrey, features both familiar and more exotic plants, including fig trees and wisteria, as well as ballerina tulips and pretty scabious.

Colourful: The garden of RHS director general Sue Biggs in Cobham, Surrey, is home to a wide variety of familiar and exotic flowers

Colourful: The garden of RHS director general Sue Biggs in Cobham, Surrey, is home to a wide variety of familiar and exotic flowers

Also packed in are a coral-bark maple, a Himalayan birch known as Grayswood Ghost, Tibetan cherry and a weeping cherry blossom tree.

Sue Biggs, RHS director general

Sue Biggs, RHS director general

She said: ‘The lawn has shrunk in size each year and the plants have exploded. I’m a bit of a plantaholic – maybe understandable when you consider I work at the RHS garden at Wisley.’

The RHS’s competition My Chelsea Garden is asking amateurs to enter photos in categories including back garden, front garden and kids’ corner garden. There is also an indoor garden category, with window sill displays and balcony creations included. The RHS, which is carrying out the contest with the BBC’s The One Show, also wants to know how gardens are helping at this time. People are encouraged to put pictures of plants and beautiful gardens on social media to provide some respite during lockdown.

The judging panel includes Daily Mail Weekend magazine gardening expert Monty Don and The One Show presenter Alex Jones.

One winner from each category will receive four tickets for RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2021 and a special RHS Award commending their garden. People can enter by visiting bbc.co.uk/theoneshow. The competition closes at midnight on May 18.



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