In May of 2017 I visited the Chelsea Flower Show in London, United Kingdom.

For those of you who haven’t come across Chelsea, organized by the 214-year-old Royal Horticultural Society, it’s the most famous flower show in the world, and marks the start of the London social season. The rich and famous flock to the 26-acre site hemmed in by the Royal Chelsea Hospital and the River Thames to quaff Champagne, to see, and to be seen.

Behind the razzle dazzle, though, there’s a very serious exposition designed to showcase the best plants and flowers, the best design, the pinnacles of excellence.

I looked around the show a year ago and thought, “Yes, Flowers from the Farm [FFTF] could do this.” and went home, designed a display, submitted the application to the RHS, and waited.

There are four applications for every space in Chelsea’s Great Pavilion and acceptance was by no means assured—but we got in.

Up until the beginning of this year I was a one-woman band running FFTF, the UK equivalent of the ASCFG, which I’d founded back in 2011. FFTF is a not-for-profit company run wholly by volunteers; it had been more or less a full-time job for me and entering us for Chelsea was my final unilateral decision before handing over to a more democratic management committee.

I never had a single doubt that our members would do us proud. A small group came forward to build the stand, more offered to work on the stand for the show’s six open days, and dozens more offered to send flowers from all over the UK.

Eventually 94 growers sent flowers by post, by van, and by car, and our team of 5 worked throughout Sunday to display them at their best. In a show where stands are planned meticulously months in advance, we were certainly the only ones who didn’t even know what flowers we would be using until 36 hours before judging.

Monday morning saw the panel of judges deliberating over our display, and at 7:00 Tuesday morning we entered to see a Gold Medal Certificate pinned to our stand. There were tears, hugs, screams of delight, and more tears: it is almost unknown to be awarded Gold on one’s first appearance at Chelsea and we were absolutely delighted.

As designer, I had the honour to be presented to HM The Queen on her visit, and was also interviewed many times on television—the coverage seen by my daughter in Manhattan and by my cousin in Sydney, Australia.

The RHS organizes a total of 6 flower shows around the country, and Chelsea was the only one we hadn’t already attended: every county also has its own smaller show and our members show their flowers there too. These are great opportunities to present local, seasonal flowers to a new audience and promote the case for this kind of floral material.

Whichever country we’re growing in, we face similar problems—the reluctance of traditional florists to try our flowers, the competition from imports, and the lack of a distribution system. But for just one glorious, unique week it was utterly fabulous to rise to the very top: to woo more florists: to show our detractors what we could do, and we loved every minute of it.


In a show where stands are planned meticulously months in advance, we were certainly the only ones who didn’t even know what flowers we would be using until 36 hours before judging. 

Gill Hodgson

Field House Farm

Gill Hodgson Field House Farm