Chelsea Flower Show ticket sales yet to bloom amid Covid safety concerns

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Dame Judi Dench joined Chelsea Pensioners to open this year’s Flower Show - Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images
Dame Judi Dench joined Chelsea Pensioners to open this year’s Flower Show - Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images

The Chelsea Flower Show failed to sell out before its opening day after being rescheduled to autumn, with thousands of tickets still available for the normally fully-booked event.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), which organises the show, said it has not yet reached its sales cap of 142,000, with tickets still available for Sunday. An extra date was added to the event programme this year to spread out crowds and enable social distancing.

The RHS blamed the lower than normal ticket sales on the lack of foreign tourists and would-be visitors choosing to stay away amid Covid-19 safety concerns.

It has also been suggested that some people might have not been aware that the event, which has taken place in spring through its 109-year history, was rescheduled to September.

There are understood to be several thousand tickets still available for the final day of the show, although the RHS has insisted that they are “selling fast”.

The Princess Royal paid a visit to the Chelsea Flower Show on Monday, a day before it opens to the public - Eddie Mulholland - WPA Pool/Getty Images
The Princess Royal paid a visit to the Chelsea Flower Show on Monday, a day before it opens to the public - Eddie Mulholland - WPA Pool/Getty Images
A woman views a floral display at the Chelsea Flower Show. Visitors will be asked to take a lateral flow test before arrival as part of a raft of Covid-19 precautions - Neil Hall/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
A woman views a floral display at the Chelsea Flower Show. Visitors will be asked to take a lateral flow test before arrival as part of a raft of Covid-19 precautions - Neil Hall/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Attendees will need to join socially distanced queues to enter the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, and will be asked to take a lateral flow test before arrival as part of a raft of Covid-19 precautions.

Due to the threat of rain at the autumn event, room has been made in the Great Pavilion for sheltering crowds to safely socially distance by removing catering stalls that are finally housed in the show’s largest structure.

The RHS have advised that Pimm’s, champagne and other refreshments will be available from mainly cashless outside stalls, with organisers adding that they are “hoping the weather stays dry for the week”.

The RHS has also indicated that many gardens this year will not be walled, allowing visitors to admire the entries without all standing in one place to view them.

Visitors will be treated to a markedly different display this year, with pumpkins and Autumn-flowering plants taking centre stage, and the challenge of designing gardens for later in the year has been embraced by competing gardeners at the 2021 event.

Unlike the pumpkin, the Earl and Countess of Wessex were not left feeling deflated after seeing this year’s autumn-themed displays - Chris Jackson/Pool/AFP via Getty Images
Unlike the pumpkin, the Earl and Countess of Wessex were not left feeling deflated after seeing this year’s autumn-themed displays - Chris Jackson/Pool/AFP via Getty Images
An exhibitor works on the finishing touches of a display in the Great Pavilion - Jamie Lorriman for The Telegraph
An exhibitor works on the finishing touches of a display in the Great Pavilion - Jamie Lorriman for The Telegraph

The RHS has said it is prepared to host future flower shows late in the year, with bosses discussing a regular September event under a different name.

Sue Biggs, the director general of the RHS, said “The depth and warmth of the colours of the plants and the glowing light at the time of year makes it very special. There won’t be another Chelsea in September. But it’s been such a success that we will certainly look at what we could do in September.”

The possibility of a future autumn show has been welcomed by garden designers, with entrant Tom Massey saying: “I would love to see a regular September show, it’s probably my favourite time of year. People have really enjoyed it. Whether you would call it Chelsea or something else, I don’t know. But there’s a real appetite.”

Chelsea has announced two new categories for the 2021 event, influenced by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sanctuary Gardens will be designed to benefit mental wellbeing, and Balcony Gardens will aim to make the best use of small amounts of space many people had to utilise during lockdown.

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