When I snapped my first London doorway from this visit to the capital yesterday afternoon, I didn’t actually fully realise what was going on. It was Jimmy Choo on Sloane Street, and I couldn’t resist the beautiful floral archways that surrounded the front and entrance. Wandering around Kensington I noticed a few others, but it wasn’t until I was actually in Sloane Square that I put two and two together and realised this week is Chelsea in Bloom 2017, and the Chelsea Flower Show.
The fabulous flowers of Jimmy Choo made sense, and so did the others that I’d been blissfully snapping away without thinking about it. A closer look at the signs around the area of Sloane Square and King’s Road told me that the theme this year, which is also the 12th anniversary of the Chelsea tradition, is ‘Floral Safari’. The giant flower lions I spotted near the Saatchi Museum confirmed it.
Chelsea in Bloom
I spent most of the afternoon finding the others along the few roads that make up the trail, all of which have thrown themselves into it. But it’s not just a case of decorating shop fronts and hotel entranceways in line with the theme. At the end of the day this floral art show is a competition, with each participant fighting it out for the flower crown of ‘Best Floral Display’, as well as the ‘People’s Champion’, ‘Innovator’ and ‘Highly Commended’.
The retailers and hotels are judged on their creativity and their interpretation, basically how well they weave the theme of the year into their own displays reflecting their business. Throughout the course of this week, 22nd – 28th May, you can vote for your favourite displays via the official site between Tuesday and Thursday, with the winners being announced on Friday.
The displays are there all week for everyone to enjoy, and I certainly did despite just coming across it and taking so long to realise what I was seeing. I tried to do the full route, to see as many as I could. Having said that it was the Sunday before the official start, so some of the participants were still putting their displays together covering African animals, the jungle, nature, and manipulating it to fit their own goods on display.
The Chelsea in Bloom Walking Route
I got off the tube at Sloane Square, as it was the nearest of the two tubes that would cover all the streets taking part. The other one is Knightsbridge. Getting off at Sloane Square the first things you’re going to see are the giant elephant and hippo in the middle of the square. It wasn’t set up yet, but there is also a Safari Lodge which will be host to people providing information and guidance, and a pop up Botanist bar in the square too.
From here, I went down the left hand side of the square, heading for King’s Road, but just before I got there I hit Lower Sloane Street, where Club Monaco and Hampton’s International are located, both on the Chelsea in Bloom map.
Further along, the next stop is the Duke of York Square, where you’ll find the contributions of Boggi Milano, TM Lewin and Rigby & Peller. Trilogy and Dubarry are next to each other with theirs, but the most impressive is definitely the centre piece of the Duke of York Square, the lions.
Coming out onto King’s Road you can’t miss Khiels Since 1851, before turning up Codogan Gardens to see what is up there. Annoushka’s have a lovely doorway, which will be on your left. Then turning right off Codogan Gardens and onto Symons Street there are a good run of shops all taking part. There’s Poetry, Brora and The White Company to name a couple. The big displays are very impressive, but I do really love the little independent shops efforts too.
Half way up Symons Street turn left up Pavillion Road, and you will come across the floral delights of many more, including Heidi Klein and Natoora. Heidi Klein have taken the theme inside as well as out the front. Retrace your steps back down to Symons Street and keep going until you’re back on Sloane Square.
This time take the main Sloane Street road, which will lead you all the way up to Knightsbridge. There are plenty along there, including Smythson…
Rag & Bone…
I didn’t walk all the way up to Knightsbridge, instead I came back to Sloane Square and found one more little street with some extra participants, and the Sloane Square hotel which had a fabulous safari entrance.
What else can you do during Chelsea in Bloom?
There’s actually a lot more to this week than just the flower displays and competition. It’s obviously the same time as the Chelsea Flower show, but there are many other events and one off goings on happening too. I’m sad I can’t go to any of them having seen it all, but there’s things like a themed menu at Gallery Mess, a shopping event at Monica Vinader, free gifts in some of the shops, and one of fashion pieces by quite a few places, including Tiffany, Pandora, Bulgari and Miu Miu to name just a handful.
I think it’s such a lovely thing, and something I had never even considered seeing before. It’s great how so many of the shops and businesses get involved, and how much effort goes in to all of the displays for just the one week. London is so often thought of as grey and dull, but the Chelsea in Bloom concept totally transforms the place and it felt like the middle of summer just walking through on the Sunday afternoon before it even officially started.
If you’re in London this week you really should try find time to have a wander around this area and see it for yourself!
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