It’s finally happened: winter has given up the ghost, the flowers are blooming and the trees are at last in leaf. It would be a fabulous time of year to visit the King’s Road area even if it wasn’t hosting the most famous botanical fair in the world: The RHS Chelsea Flower Show (21-15 May). Attracting the very best garden designers, growers and flower arrangers, not to mention a bevy of celebrities and the world’s press, this year is all the more special as it’s the Show’s centenary. Unmissable sections include the 15 show gardens – huge set pieces combing cutting-edge design with highly complex themes. For example, one garden represents the physical and emotional journey of a person with arthritis, while another, from Prince Harry’s charity Sentebale, is all about the ‘forgotten kingdom’ of Lesotho. The Great Pavilion is home to 150 exhibitors, three of whom have attended annually for the full 100 years, while trade stands sell every single seed, tool, gift and garden-related item you could possibly imagine. And of course there are plenty of references to 1913, from a photography exhibition to displays on the changing nature of gardening.
All this botanical activity is echoed on the streets of SW3. Chelsea In Bloom sees some of the top local retailers (from Brora to Yves Delorme) compete by creating incredible floral displays in and around their shops. We’re looking forward to seeing the block-colour flower stripes outside Links, and Mary Quant flower-power dresses made, naturally, of flowers. Try your hand at the plant-your-own nursery or take a free rickshaw ride around the entrants before stopping off at the champagne pop-up for a glass of bubbly. How very King’s Road.
Spreading our net a little further, Chelsea Fringe (18 May-9 June) is a London-wide gardening festival which takes in exhibitions, tours, walks and much more, like drinks and nibbles at the Chelsea Gardener (21-22 May, evening).
Beauty: Fashion, accessories and lifestyle brand Anthropologie is the place to be this week. Its gallery will be transformed into an old-fashioned apothecary in honour of uber-cool LA brand Royal Apothic. They’ve even created a signature scent in honour of Chelsea Flower Show – Antiquarius Petals, which will only be available in-store. Head to Richard Ward for a ‘floral blowdry’ – your style will be finished with a flower. Lush, purveyors of fresh cosmetics, have a Spa Kitchen Garden, displaying the native ingredients they use in their handmade products. And don’t forget to check out Liz Earle’s spectacular floral display.
Culture: Visit Chelsea Physic Garden for its ‘living botanical bar’ and try a cocktail with local honey and herbs. And when the flower show isn’t on, don’t forget you can tour the stunning Royal Hospital Chelsea.
Dining: From 22-25 May, one of Chelsea’s favourite watering holes will be hosting a tasty little pop-up in the centre of Sloane Square. Feast on oysters and champers while listening to a string quartet, courtesy of The Botanist. Just across the road, Peter Jones is celebrating the flower show with a fabulous window display by garden designer Jo Thompson, featuring a riot of country flora like daisies and cow parsley (from 17 May). Upstairs tuck into the Chelsea Flower Show centenary tea, which includes an elderflower scone, a caramel and lavender mousse and flowering tea in a glass pot (from 13 May). Slightly further afield, The Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington also has a Chelsea Flower Show tea (orange blossom honey cheesecake, anyone?) while its high-end restaurant Min Jiang is offering exquisite floral cocktails.
Family: Get your little ones’ brains working with the Chelsea Tree Hunt. Find trees in various stores on King’s and Fulham Road on this alternative treasure trail. www.sloanestanley.com/treehunt
Fashion: For florals, you can’t beat Cath Kidson and Laura Ashley for colourfully printed clothes and homeware, while Jigsaw’s romantic floral print dresses in shift, prom and tea dress styles are to die for.
…And another thing (or two): Top live music venue 606 Club is celebrating 25 years in its Lots Road home this month. From the 22 May-2 June, more than 40 bands will show why fans of jazz, blues, soul, R&B, Latin and gospel have been returning to this venue since the 1970s. Stars to look out for include Pat Martino (opening the festival), Claire Martin, Ronnie Scotts Allstars and Mornington Lockett.
From 9 May, PopUp Britain will take over an old electronics shop, offering the chance for 12 pop-ups at a time to see what it’s like having a retail space. These tiny businesses range from clothes to chocolate via baby products and jewellery. It doesn’t get more boutique than this. www.popupbritain.com
Oh, and if you’ve got a moment, head to Proud Chelsea – they’ve got a phenomenal exhibition of rare Bowie photographs. It’ll be far more exclusive (and less hectic) than The V&A show.