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Chelsea Flower Show: First ever virtual event opens

Show Garden at event Image copyright PA Media
Image caption The virtual Chelsea Flower Show will be taking place throughout the week

The first ever virtual Chelsea Flower Show is under way with organisers billing it as being "about sharing gardening knowledge".

The event usually takes place annually at London's Royal Hospital Chelsea, but was cancelled for the first time since World War Two due to the lockdown.

Content including tours of gardens by designers like Monty Don and demonstrations are being posted online.

"[The show is] happening, just not quite as we know it," said Don.

Monty Don Image copyright Marsha Arnold
Image caption Monty Don gave a tour of his garden on the first day of the event
Gates of Royal Chelsea Hospital Image copyright PA Media
Image caption The gates of Royal Chelsea Hospital have remained closed this year because of the lockdown

Different themes will be followed each day, such as wildlife gardening, health and wellbeing, and growing plants in small or indoor spaces.

Alan Titchmarsh Image copyright RHS
Image caption Broadcaster Alan Titchmarsh features in the virtual show
Designer giving tips about garden Image copyright RHS
Image caption Experts will be providing tips and hints about gardening throughout the week

There will also be potting demonstrations, a "school gardening club" and lunchtime Q&As with garden experts.

Chelsea pensioners at event Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Chelsea pensioners from the hospital also feature in one of the behind-the-scenes tours

Katherine Potsides, head of shows development at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), told the BBC exhibitors who would normally be at the event would be "showing us round the corners of their gardens" and demonstrating "what they're doing at this time to brighten up their own back yards".

"Part of virtual Chelsea really is about sharing that gardening knowledge," she said.

Garden designer Tom Massey
Image caption Garden designer Tom Massey has
Garden at the event
Image caption The show normally attracts thousands of visitors

In a message to its organisers, the Queen said she and her family had "always enjoyed visiting the show" and she was "pleased to hear that you will be providing gardening advice and virtual sessions on your website".

"As you adapt to the present circumstances, I hope you find this unique event enjoyable and interesting," she said.

King George V and Queen Mary visit the Chelsea Flower Show in 1930 Image copyright PA Media
Image caption The Royal Family have been regulars at the event including King George V and Queen Mary in 1930
The Queen at the event Image copyright PA Media
Image caption The Queen is a patron of the RHS

RHS members will be able to see the content from Monday, with it being made available for everyone else over the rest of the week.

Special programmes looking back at the best of the Chelsea Flower Show will also be shown on BBC One and BBC Two.

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Chelsea Flower Show

2019 flower exhibit Image copyright RHS/Luke MacGregor
  • The first show opened on 20 May 1913 with the first events held over three days within a single marquee
  • A show still took place in 1915 after war was declared in Europe although with fewer exhibitors. It was then cancelled for the remainder of World War One
  • Rain during the 1932 show was so severe that a summer house fell to pieces
  • The flower show was discontinued again in 1939 due to World War Two, only returning in 1947
  • The RHS lifted its ban on gnomes for the centenary show in 2013 and famous faces such as Elton John and Helen Mirren painted figures to sell for charity
  • The current Great Pavilion is about 11,775 sq m (2.9 acres) in size, approximately enough room to park 500 London buses
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