The Chelsea Flower Show is famous throughout the world as the premiere horticultural show. Set amongst the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London, the show originally took place in Kensington in 1862 and was known as the RHS Great Spring Show.
The move to its current location occurred in 1905 and the event has been held on an annual basis with exception of 1917/18 due to the First World War.
Thousands of people attend the show every May but tucked away and situated in front of the infirmary building is an allotment site.
This site is new as the original allotments lay on the other side of the estate. Officially opened in July 2014 by celebrity gardener and author Alan Titchmarsh and financed by donations from The Steel Charitable Trust.
At the opening Mr Titchmarsh remarked: “Whenever I visit the Royal Hospital Chelsea, I love to see the Chelsea Pensioners enjoying the therapeutic benefits of gardening as I do. I’m very much looking forward to seeing how the new allotments develop over the next few years.”
There are 13 allotment plots in total and a selection of raised garden beds to a high of four foot for those less agile together with four sensory gardens for residents with dementia.
Hospital residents can apply for an allotment and pay an annual rent – much like allotment sites throughout the country. For the handful of members who have plots this is a welcomed retreat from the surrounding hustle and busy of Chelsea.
Gillian McDonald has lived at the hospital for nearly 5 years and was one of the first residents to take on a raised garden. “I love the scented flowers. I like to come out and potted around. I used to be a nurse so I like to care and look after them. In this bed there are geraniums, lobelia, lilies and a canna which has a beautiful flower. It’s relaxing.”
One of the allotments is run by Jim Lycett (above). Growing vegetables is a new interest for him. “I decided about a year ago that I wanted to try growing vegetables. This is my first full season and I’m always learning. Nothing as big as the vegetables in the Chelsea Flower Show but I’m fascinated by it. You’re never too old to try something new.”
Across from Jim is the wildlife allotment garden of Don Crassweller. Again, a fairly new allotment garden but an experienced gardener. Unlike the rows of vegetables on other plots Don runs his plot as a wildlife garden. “To come down here and watch the wildlife, it’s a great escape for me. The pond has lots of frogs and I love watching them. We must look after nature and create spaces for them. I feed the birds by putting an apple out for them. I made a wooden holder and place the apple inside and using chicken wire to secure the apple. I sit and watching them, it’s relaxing. ”
Like the hospital, maintenance of the allotment area is run by generous donations by members of the public.