Even the most dedicated gardeners run dry of ideas and prepare to give up the rake. Get inspired by traveling to places where the soil, sun and air produce flowers in astonishing sizes and colors, where designers incorporate unusual cultural themes and climate challenges force breeders to adjust floral varieties per their needs.
Does an overseas trip sound like a lot? Below, find websites and contact information for each show. A few phone calls, a little packing and you’re there. Once you get back, renewed and refreshed, issues in your garden and flower beds will seem small again. More, you’ll be brimming with solutions that will make your yard the envy of the neighborhood.
Chelsea Flower Show
Blooming and branching over 11 acres on the Royal Hospital grounds in London, the Chelsea Flower Show typically attracts more than 150,000 hobby and professional gardeners, horticulturalists and nature lovers, as well as families just looking for a fun day strolling through its hundreds of exhibits. This event has been a British institution for over 150 years.
Much of the excitement stems from the highly competitive, career-making and -breaking awards like Best Show Garden, Best Chic Garden, and the Royal Horticultural Society Junior Display Trophy. Those traveling to London from overseas will get a full dose of British culture learning about the 5 awards categories that seem ripped from the various Hogwarts schools in a Harry Potter novel: Flora (for flowers), Hogg (for trees), Knightian (for vegetables), Lindley (for educational or scientific achievement) and Grenfell (best photography).
The Chelsea Flower Show participants take breed development very seriously. In the last six years, horticulturalists have launched four-hundred new plants there. The show often starts new trends or even defines burgeoning ones, making it a hot-spot for journalists focusing on the floral industry.
While you probably won’t get a glimpse of the royal family strolling between the hedges (they go on a preview day when the gardens are closed to all but the highnesses), you will be able to hit the enormous plant and garden accessory show where the botanists will be selling their new and unusual plant and flower varieties. The Chelsea Flower Show is also stocked full of food vendors, entertainers and exhibitors ready to give weary attendees a break from the blooms and bouquets.
Location: Royal Hospital, Chelsea, London SW3.
Contact: 011 44 0845 612 1253
Ticket Fee: £45 (British pounds)—about $72 US.
The Hong Kong Flower Expo
Where some flower shows focus on competitions or the creation of new floral varieties, the Hong Kong Flower Expo showcases out-sized animals made from flowers and greenery. Floral breeders may snub this popular family show, but its organizers don’t scoff at the 500,000 visitors who in 2011 bought tickets, food, garden accessories and much more.
Of course, the show’s 10-day duration makes it easier to get the crowd numbers up. The potted plants, floral arrangements and landscape displays come by way of participants from Hong Kong, China and 20 other countries as far away as Estonia, Europe, Africa and the United States.
Emphasizing entertainment over accomplishment, Hong Kong’s Leisure and Cultural Services Department, the show’s sponsor, keeps the contests down to three: plant exhibit, photography and student drawing. Attendees can also find a sea of 15,000 tulips, music and dance performances, arboriculture, cooking and floral art demonstrations, fashion shows and games.
Location: Victoria Park, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Contact: 011 852 2414 5555 (from the United States)
Ticket Fee: $14 USD Adults
Floriade World Horticultural Exhibition
Taking place just once every ten years, Floriade is an enormous World’s Fair of flower shows. Since 1962, it’s appeared each decade in Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Zoetermeer, Haarlemmermeer and the 2012 show will be in Venlo.
Locals often buy the season pass because, covering 163 square acres, it would be impossible to enjoy Floriade fully in just one day. Luckily the show is open for six months, from April until October, giving flower and garden lovers lots of time to take everything in. For each show, organizers select certain themes around which to organize design, floral commerce and environmental activism.
A meandering water garden crosses World Show Stage, where attendees people-watch and buy food from kiosks serving food from all countries. Dutch and international art and culture make this area particularly vibrant. Finally, theater, music and other entertainment help families end the day. Family members needing a rest from the hundreds of exhibits can regain their energy on the 30-meter high cable car that traverses the entire show.
Location: Venlo - The Netherlands
Contact: 011 31 77 399 81 30
Ticket Fee: $119 EUR or $172 US, Adults
Shrewsbury Flower Show
Every year for the past 130, people have gathered in a sunken garden of Shrewsbury’s Quarry Park to marvel at flowers, plants and garden design. Located 150 miles northwest of London, Shrewsbury is nine miles east of the Welsh border. It attracts 60,000 visitors during its two day span.
Dedicated flower and plant lovers will stick close to the Quarry Marquee where plant and flower designs from the country’s finest horticulturalists surround the Dingle. Designed and maintained by the park’s custodian of 28 years, the Dingle features manicured flower beds in surprising colors and patterns. A huge trade area provides plenty of opportunity for shopping for new plants, flowers and garden accessories.
Garden designers plan for both avid gardeners and casual hobbyists . . . and their children. A garden made from recycled materials may border a garden with a seaside theme. Artists balance their outdoor sculptures with natural elements. Given free reign over their designs, gardeners bring their unique vision to life, imparting their fantastic ideas to those of us limited to weekend flower and plant projects. While water gardens entrance the kids, a special, cordoned-off area keeps the plant-weary little ones occupied with continuous live entertainment and rides. When the show ends, some of the gardens are donated to local schools and other charities.
Family members who may be a bit less enchanted by flowers will enjoy the entertainment that show organizers, the Shropshire Horticultural Society, always include. Show jumping and jousting thrill the horse lovers. Bikers can’t get enough of the motorcycle displays, and how-to aficionados will appreciate seeing celebrities like Chef Gino D’Acampo and gardener Chris Beardshaw live.
Located centrally between Dublin, Edinburgh, London and Wales, The Shrewsbury Flower Show could fit easily in any tour of the British Isles.
Location: Shrewsbury, England
Contact: 011 44 01743 234050
Ticket Fee: £20 or $32 USD Adults; children free
At Floriade, a million bulbs sprout through Australian soil each September, creating fantastic scenes. A diving mannequin’s head and arms disappear into a sea of dark blue hyacinths and white hyacinth “waves.” A patchwork quilt of white narcissus and green ground cover rolls over the contours of the earth beneath it. This Floriade adheres closely to the meaning of its Latin root, Floriat: “to design with flowers.”
But Australia’s Floriade is not all about human scheme. It often highlights native species as well. Permanent exhibit, Marsh Gardens contains more than 20,000 exotic and native flowers, water plants, shrubs and trees.
Nightfall is no reason to leave Floriade. With pathways lit by hanging lanterns and flower beds illuminated artistically, guests miss nothing. World-class creative lighting designers ensure that the lights serve as an attraction in and of themselves. With night-time picnics encouraged, families enjoy meals under the enchanting displays. Venues such as the Glow Bar and Carnival Stage feature musicians, comedians, acrobats and other performers.
Floriade takes place in Canberra, New South Wales Province, 177 miles or 285 kilometers from Sydney and the coast. Although chosen as the nation’s capital, Canberra is only Australia’s eighth largest city. Floriade began in 1988 as to honor Australia's Bicentenary and Canberra's 75th anniversary, but residents now widely regard it as a celebration of spring.
Date: September - October
Location: Canberra, Australia
Contact: 011 61 02 6205 0044.
Ticket Fee: Free!