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The Greatest Flower Show on Earth

Leslie Geddes-Brown
Distributed by Penguin

CHELSEA is simply gardening's biggest bunfight. Hundreds of thousands attend the Royal Horticultural Society's flagship event annually. This year's show marked the RHS's bicentenary and the book commemorates this, as well as serving as a souvenir of Chelsea's history since 1913.

With its array of historic pictures, and garden writer Leslie Geddes- Brown's keen ear for anecdote, the book brings the show's fascinating past alive.

There are six sections: Brave Beginnings; Chelsea Now; Behind the Scenes; Glorious Gardens; The Showmen; The Social Side.

Among other things, we learn that: exhibitors collectively spend as much as $60 million each year; that the Queen Mother once refused to speak to a famous rose grower because he wasn't wearing a tie; that in the first show there were no fewer than 17 rock or formal gardens; that preparations for each annual event begin 18 months in advance; and that, in 1994, so risqué was one exhibit that the censors moved in to confiscate various bits and pieces.

And among the in-fighting, the back-biting and the who's been by whom and with what, you'll find a spot of serious horticulture. If you've visited Chelsea and want your memories quickened, this is the book for you. If you've never been but want to learn what the brouhaha is all about, buy it.

Reproduced with permission from the former Weekend Gardener magazine. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the RNZIH

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Last updated: March 1, 2021