The road to Chelsea: Communities in Bloom


Welcome to our Co-op ‘Communities in Bloom’ 2021 Chelsea Flower Show exhibit.

The road to Chelsea is never easy but our 7th exhibit was particularly protracted: a global pandemic and several lockdowns, cancellations and delays to the Chelsea Flower Show. We started working with the Co-op in the summer of 2019 but the exhibit was not finally on show until September 2021.

Most people don’t realise the amount of thought, planning and effort, from so many different people, that goes into achieving the final display and this is a record of the journey.

The Co-op were new to exhibiting at Chelsea but took on board the challenges with enthusiasm. Our relationship with the Co-op team, their suppliers, growers and the floristry teams was highly collaborative throughout, despite the delays, a global pandemic and changes of staff and to the exhibit.

It was a pleasure working together and we all felt the exhibit reflected a message of hope for the future and commitment to local communities.

The final exhibit is created through a combination of pre-building and refining the physical structure with careful sourcing and selection of flowers.

Mock-ups enable refinements to the floristry and messaging, together with feedback from stakeholders, before arriving at an exhibit that is ready for Chelsea. A huge amount of planning and paperwork, schedules and timetables lies behind this to make sure we get things right on the day.

February – March 2020: PRE-BUILD & PRE-PANDEMIC!

Building the structure in early 2020

March 2020: 1st MOCK UP before 1st LOCK DOWN

Mock-ups are vitally important to try out ideas with plants and flowers; to let the florists show their skills and explore what works in reality.

Our 2020 pre-build at The Palm Centre in Ham ended shortly after our first mock-up when the pandemic meant Chelsea was cancelled; we, and the rest of the country, were in lockdown.

Everything was put into storage and put on hold until we had the go ahead to restart for Chelsea Spring 2021 ….no wait….. September 2021

Many meetings were held remotely and much discussed, but nothing happened in real life until July 2021.

July 2021: MINI MOCK UPS

Lockdown restrictions were partially lifted in early July 2021. We travelled to Lincolnshire to carry out a number of mini mock-ups with the floristry teams; to explore the changes that had been made and to re-engage with the process and the people involved.

July – August 2021: Back to the Palm Centre

We got the exhibit out of storage at the end of July and restarted at The Palm Centre. We needed to prepare for the second mock-up and make some revisions to the structure because of the changes to the theme.

August 2021: FINAL MOCK UP

The second mock up gave us a chance to see the flowers and plants in situ: to check how they look together and to work out the all-important numbers.

Many changes to the flower choices were required due to the change of season. Our May exhibit would have featured tulips, alliums, stocks and peonies. A September exhibit focussed on delphiniums, hydrangeas, gladioli, sunflowers and snapdragons amongst many others!

We monitored the displays afterwards to see how long we could expect the cut flowers to last.

September 2021: BUILD UP

The Royal Hospital

Build up starts in the Great Pavilion on a Tuesday with everything ready for judging 6 days later. Early starts, careful planning, attention to detail and late finishes.

3 days to put the structure together and 3 days working with the florists.

PUTTING THE FLOWERS IN

An intense 3 days making the floral displays, hard work for all and many helping hands needed.

Midnight Sunday: FINISHED AT LAST!!

A late finish on Sunday night at midnight: too dark to check everything is clean and tidy!

SHOW WEEK

Chelsea came and went with its’ usual drama and excitement. Great feedback from judges and visitors… and a Gold Medal made it all worth while!

REFRESHING

With careful use of biodegradable floral foam, capillary matting and a hidden water supply, the flowers and plants lasted throughout the 7 days with only the need for minimal refreshing of a few faded blooms.

SELL OFF

Final day sell off at 4pm is a great Chelsea tradition! We sold the flowers for charity and were left with very little as you can see!

BREAKDOWN & DISPOSAL

After the Sunday sell-off the show closes to the public, but we stayed on to dismantle the exhibit. We recycled most of the unwanted timbers, recycled the green waste and returned artefacts and furniture from the exhibit.

All the potted plants were gifted to two horticultural charities: Roots & Shoots and the Fircroft Trust. The climbing frame and slide, pencil fence, picnic table and bench are all heading to Co-op Academy Schools.

Pleased to see so much go to good homes.

With grateful thanks to everyone who worked on the exhibit: too many people to mention by name.
It really is a collaborative effort!

Co-op working with their flower suppliers
Flamingo Flowers, MM Flowers, JZ Flowers:
The florists and growers who provided the wonderful flowers and floral displays.

Follow the link to see more photos of the completed exhibit:

Chelsea 2021 Communities in Bloom