See Chelsea for free (or for the price of a cocktail anyway)

by Alice Wright

Scott's terrace, credit: Sophia Spring

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show starts today and for lovers of all things gardening it’s one of the hottest tickets in town. But if you haven’t managed to get your hands on a pass this year you don’t have to miss out on the horticultural action altogether. A range of venues around the capital are hosting Flower Show-related events throughout the week and we’ve rounded up a few of the best.

Marcus Barnett, the designer behind this year’s gold medal-winning Telegraph Garden, has also been busy transforming the terrace at fashionable seafood restaurant Scott’s. Marcus has suspended swathes of oregano, fennel, cow parsley and deschampsia grasses over the restaurant’s terrace, creating a wildflower idyll in the heart of Mayfair.

Marcus said: “Coming up with a design for Scott’s has been a lovely distraction from Chelsea. But every time I come I have one terrible regret – not asking to be paid in oysters and Champagne. Being able to go to Chelsea, walk around the gardens and then go to Scott’s for dinner is my idea of heaven!”

The display is already in situ and will remain until next Tuesday [May 26th]. Scott’s bar team has also come up with a floral-inspired cocktail list to complement the wild flower theme. The restaurant is open from midday, Monday to Sunday.

For the first time ever, Harrods is sponsoring a garden at the show and the luxury department store is marking the occasion in style. The Fragrance Garden has been designed by Sheena Seeks and takes the art of perfume-making as its theme. To celebrate the garden, Harrods’ Pop-Up Flowers campaign is running throughout May – using a total of 2000 flowers and 40 litres of perfume during the month.

Harrods Pop-Up FlowersCustomers will be greeted by a display of sculpted white peonies and roses over the store’s Brompton Road entrances, while inside the scent of fresh Easter lilies drifts through the departments. Beauty brands including Dior, Prada and Diptyque will each lead a Brompton Road window take-over, creating installations based on their famous floral scents, while Harrods’ various departments will present floral fragrances, masterclasses and displays.

Elsewhere, the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park is also hosting an homage to Harrods’ Fragrance Garden this month. The hotel has joined forces with houseplant experts Indoor Garden Design to bring elements of the Harrods garden to the entrance, lobby and The Roseberry dining room with dramatic floral arrangements.

St Pancras Renaissance Hotel has teamed up with Cloudy Bay to bring a taste of Chelsea Flower Show into the iconic London venue. The winery’s gold medal-winning garden at this year’s show has been designed by Harry and David Rich to reflect the characteristics of two of its popular wines. And in honour of the Flower Show, St Pancras Renaissance Hotel’s Hansom Lounge has been transformed with a Cloudy Bay garden installation, featuring buckets of fresh flowers and a vertical garden behind the bar. The hotel’s afternoon tea and cocktail list have been adapted to follow a suitably floral theme, incorporating Cloudy Bay wines. The indoor garden can be enjoyed in all its glory until Sunday [May 24th].

Cloudy Bay BarAfter the show, much of the Cloudy Bay garden at Chelsea will be transported to the Oxo Tower Restaurant to create a Cloudy Bay Garden Terrace, giving guests a further chance to glimpse what was on offer at Chelsea.

Head over to Vauxhall for the chance to see a gold medal-winning garden from last year. A 27-year-old Hugo Bugg became the youngest ever recipient of a Chelsea show garden gold for his RBC Vauxhall Missing LinkWaterscape Garden, which reuses rainwater to reduce the risk of flooding. The garden has now been transplanted to Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens as part of the Vauxhall Missing Link green trail, which connects the parks and new developments of the area to the South Bank using a planted walkway. The trail prevents rainwater from flooding local drains by using it to irrigate rain gardens along the route.

Vauxhall One Business Improvement District is celebrating the opening of the RBC Waterscape Garden with a series of garden parties, featuring live music, food and drink. These will be held every Friday until June 5th and are part of the Chelsea Fringe’s varied programme of events and activities. The alternative gardening festival runs until June 7th at a host of different venues across London, encompassing everything from grassroots community growing projects to art installations. A full list of events can be found on the festival website.

Those with an appetite for garden-inspired food and drink will be spoiled for choice this week as a number of London’s finest establishments have put together a tempting offering of lunches, afternoon teas and cocktails inspired by Chelsea Flower Show.

The Dorchester has launched a limited edition Laurent-Perrier afternoon tea in celebration of the Laurent-Perrier Chatsworth Garden, designed by Dan Pearson. The Champagne tea is available until Sunday [May 24th] and the hotel’s Promenade has been decorated for the duration with trees and woodland-inspired bouquets to echo the Chelsea garden.

Bibendum has collaborated with previous Chelsea Gold Medal winner Easigrass to create a Flower Show-inspired garden in its courtyard, accompanied by garden-themed dishes. Elsewhere, the chef at London House in Battersea has compiled a limited edition floral menu, the bar team at Canary Wharf’s Plateau have four Chelsea-inspired cocktails and the Ten Room restaurant in Piccadilly has a Chelsea Flower Show Menu du Jour. For a quick floral fix, The Mount Street Deli has come up with Chelsea Flower Show cookies.

And the streets around the Royal Hospital will be giving Chelsea Flower Show exhibitors a run for their money as Chelsea in Bloom returns for its 10th year. The annual competition, run in association with the Royal Horticultural Society, sees the area’s retailers adorning their shop-fronts with creative designs to vie for the coveted awards. This year’s theme is Fairy Tales and the displays will be on show until Saturday [May 23rd].

So if you’re not heading off to the show this week don’t despair, there are plenty of ways to enjoy a taste of the event around the city – and with fewer crowds too.

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