We’re heading to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show

The RNLI will be at the UK’s leading flower show for a very special lifesaving garden display.

The RNLI at Chelsea logo

There’s an exciting event for the RNLI taking place this spring – a garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. 

The RNLI garden was made possible through the new Project Giving Back initiative being held by the RHS. All the money raised from the garden will help our crews save lives. And excitingly, award-winning garden designer Chris Beardshaw will be creating our show garden, which will celebrate both the remarkable almost-200-year history of the RNLI and our vital, innovative lifesaving service today. 

What is the RHS Chelsea Flower Show?

If you’re not into your gardening, you may only have a cursory knowledge of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. But for those with green fingers, this is one of the biggest events of the year.

It started out as The Great Spring Show and was first held by the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) in 1862 at their garden in Kensington. The location would change several times before a move to the grounds of the Royal Hospital in Chelsea in 1913. It’s taken place at this same location almost every year since.

In 1953, the coronation of Her Majesty the Queen created a surge in the popularity of flower shows as the UK came out in celebration of their new monarch. Members of the Royal Family attended the show itself, with their visit becoming a key part of the event. So much so, a special preview of the show was arranged each year for the Royal Family, as part of their patronage of the RHS. 

The show’s popularity would continue to grow, with around 157,000 visitors heading to the show each year. Now spread across 5 days, the event continues to be a highlight in the gardening calendar. 

Meet the garden’s designer, Chris Beardshaw

Behind the RNLI’s Show Garden is award-winning garden designer Chris Beardshaw. A lifelong supporter of the RNLI, Chris has won 35 garden design awards, including 12 RHS Gold Medals. His most recent one was in 2018, when he created the Morgan Stanley Garden for the NSPCC.

Chris has also taken his expertise to television, where he has appeared as an expert on a number of gardening TV and radio shows, including as a presenter on Gardener’s World, a panellist on BBC Radio 4 Gardeners’ Question Time, and his own series, The Flying Gardener.

‘I’ve been a lifelong supporter of the RNLI for the very simple reason that I love swimming, canoeing, sailing and, in later years, diving,’ says Chris in his introductory video, which you can watch above. ‘I’ve seen the RNLI in action and I’m full of admiration for what the organisation stands for, and all those that support and assist in all of the RNLI’s guises.’

Get updates on our garden’s progress and details on how you can visit at our RHS Chelsea Flower Show page.

RNLI at RHS Chelsea Flower Show

The garden’s design

Chris has designed the garden to combine the RNLI’s long history of lifesaving with our role on the water today. Look closely, and you’ll spot several Georgian era influences which reflect when the RNLI was first founded, as well as contemporary design elements to showcase how we operate today.

At the rear of the garden will be an oak pavilion, featuring traditional columns and carved inscriptions. British Purbeck stone will be used for the paving and pitchers, quarried not far from the RNLI Support Centre in Poole. Flowering plants and foliage will create a pastel palette including whites, blues and pinks.

Illustration of the RNLI garden
An illustration of the RNLI garden

Several large trees in the garden will add height and hint at the traditional lifeboat building materials that were once used to help create the RNLI’s lifesaving fleet. These will include three ulmus parvifolia (Chinese elm) and two 6-metre-tall pinus sylvestris (Scots pine) trees. Other feature trees include a series of eccentrically clipped pinus mugo (mountain pine) which will evoke the look of a dramatic rock scape. You’ll also see a multi-stemmed carpinus betula (hornbeam), which will be grown around a large rock to form an eye-catching natural artwork. 

Sculptural pieces have also been commissioned, made by Whichford Pottery in Warwickshire. These legacy pieces are being handcrafted and will be repurposed for the RNLI after the show has ended – keep an eye out, we’ll be sharing more about these plans soon!

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2022 will take place from Tuesday 24 to Saturday 28 May, and tickets must be booked in advance. For more information on the RNLI’s garden, including updates on the build progress and details on how you can visit, head over to the dedicated RNLI at RHS Chelsea Flower Show webpage or follow our journey on social media using #RNLIatChelsea

This summer, be a homegrown hero and host a fundraiser in your garden to raise money for RNLI lifesavers.

Host an RNLI Gardens event