This green and pleasant land is the ideal place for plants and flowers to grow abundantly. In the UK, we have sun, rain, and every other type of weather constantly alternating, so we have good fertile soil and the perfect conditions for growth. All this makes the UK a great place to hold a flower festival. We’re also eccentric, and I love how quirky some of the festivals we organize can be. From large well planned and delicately designed festivals to small local festivals held in churches and parks and even some that sprawl across cities and counties, the UK has some of the most interesting flower festivals you’ll ever have the fortune to experience. Here’s my pick of flower festivals to visit in the UK.
1. The Great Gardens Of Cornwall
The Great Gardens of Cornwall is perhaps the most unusual flower festival in the UK, as it’s spread over an entire county. This festival includes 13 of the most historically and horticulturally important gardens in Cornwall. It runs at the end of March in order to best take in the beautiful blooms. The celebrated magnolia trees — originally from the Himalayas — are the exotic supermodels of the botanical world, with their stunning goblet-shaped bright pink flowers, some as big as dinner plates, providing a dazzling catwalk of floral color around Cornwall’s Great Gardens. Each year, the Great Gardens of Cornwall team closely monitors the flowering of the most prized Magnolia campbellii trees, waiting for them to reveal their stunning, goblet-shaped pink flowers. Once the magnolias from six of the 19 champion trees in the Great Gardens reveal their first 50 blooms, spring is officially declared to have started in Cornwall. Thanks to the Gulf Stream, they are expected to bloom up to a month before any other part of the UK. A milder winter so far means that the first day of spring may be declared even sooner this year.
“Magnolia Mania” in Cornwall also heralds a further explosion of vibrant color as the gardens’ rhododendrons, daffodils, tulips, and bluebells unfurl to put on a dazzling show. The magnolia trees steal the show here, but don’t miss the lesser-visited flowers of daffodils and tulips, which are equally beautiful.
2. Glorious Gardens, Kent
Penshurst Place in Kent runs an annual Glorious Gardens event every June to show off the Grade I listed gardens at their best. This is when the famous 100-meter-long border of double pink peonies tends to be in bloom. The Peony Border has a glorious display of four different varieties of soft pink flowers that have a heavenly scent. People travel for miles to see the annual display, and you can sign up to a special alert line to be sent notice of the moment the first flowers bloom. This is to give you the best chance of seeing them since the peony bloom season is notoriously short, often not lasting any longer than 2 weeks. There are 11 separate garden rooms that were laid originally in the Elizabethan era, each with a distinct theme and planting. During Glorious Gardens, the Rose Garden — which will be in full bloom and offset by silvery underplanting — is especially beautiful. The double herbaceous border of the Jubilee Walk with hot poker reds and oranges fading through the color palette into cool blues and purples creates added perspective.
3. Belgravia In Bloom, London
Belgravia in Bloom, happening at the same time as Chelsea Flower Show in late May, celebrates flowers at various locations in the area. There is a huge maypole adorned with ribbons and flowers erected outside the Judith Blacklock Flower School in the mews, which is amazing to see. This year will be like no other as it is also a precursor to the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, and Belgravia in Bloom will help pave the way with incredible floral installations such as the British Maypole to be seen at the Judith Blacklock Flower School. The Chelsea in Bloom theme is “British Icons” whilst the Belgravia in Bloom theme is “Beautifully British” as it all happens in the run-up to the Queen’s Jubilee. To honor the show’s long-standing patron, each satellite Chelsea Flower Show celebration is drawing upon all things traditionally British. This is why this year, the Judith Blacklock Flower School is creating this very British Maypole, traditionally decorated with ribbons and adorned with colorful, seasonal flowers. The Maypole was chosen by Judith as it originally represented fertility and rebirth following on from spring when the flowers started to bloom, which is mirrored in the show returning this year at the usual time. But it is also a long-standing tradition just like the Chelsea Flower Show. Maypoles date back to the Middle Ages, when tall poles were erected and dancing took place around them at folk festivals and brought the community together. These then began to be dressed up with ribbons and flowers.
There is also a special class during the week that teaches students how to make a hand-tied bouquet followed by the refreshing Judith Blacklock cocktail at Harvey Nichols Fifth Floor bar.
4. The Manchester Flower Show
This annual event of flowers signifies the start of the summer with floral displays across streets, retailers, and businesses in the city of Manchester. When you visit for The Manchester Flower Show, you can see the city burst into color with Manchester’s urban take on the traditional British flower show. It’s unusual to hold a flower festival across a big busy city like this, but it’s a breath of fresh air to wander around and see the bursts of color and smell the aroma of flowers amongst city life.
5. RHS Garden Bridgewater, Salford
In neighboring Salford, RHS Garden Bridgewater is also set to host the Interflora Florist of the Year finals this July and the Interflora World Cup in 2023. You can watch the competitors create their floral designs and root for your favorite. The RHS garden will welcome a New Blue Peter Garden in 2022, the centenary year of the BBC TV show. The original Blue Peter Garden was relocated from Television Center to Media City in 2012 when production of the show moved to Salford. The New Blue Peter Garden will be previewed at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in May and will then move to RHS Garden Bridgewater in the fall.
6. Blenheim Palace’s Flower Show, Woodstock
A riot of color, fragrance, and weird and wonderful plants, the 20,000 square foot Grand Floral Pavilion forms the centerpiece of Blenheim Palace Flower Show and features the UK’s finest nurseries and growers giving expert advice and gardening ideas. Visitors can enjoy Garden Talks with experts and enthusiasts, fabulous food and drink, more than 300 exhibitors, an outdoor Plant Village, and live entertainment throughout the weekend. The Blenheim Palace Flower Show is the perfect place to discover your favorite plants, flowers, and an array of gardening goodies from unique garden gazebos, greenhouses, and arbors to beautiful flowers, gardening sundries, and hundreds of other products.
If you want to do it all while you’re here, you can, as entry is included with Palace, Park, and Gardens tickets. Buy a palace ticket and enjoy the gardens as well as the house.
7. The RHS Malvern Spring Festival
The RHS Malvern Spring Festival, held in early May, is a glorious celebration of flowers and has the annual RHS flower show included as part of the event. The festival makes a blooming brilliant weekend, with talks by TV gardeners and workshops on growing and cultivating flowers, plus, of course, the beautiful flower gardens you can wander around. Brand new for 2022 is the Floral Green, which is an area dedicated to floristry with displays and demonstrations from some of Britain’s top-cut flower experts.
8. The Chichester Cathedral Festival Of Flowers
The Chichester Cathedral Festival of Flowers is a 4-day flower spectacular that runs in early June. The cathedral themes the festival differently each year, and this year, it’s “Life in All Its Fullness.” Visitors can admire 60 spectacular flower arrangements created using over 50,000 blooms displayed within the 900-year-old cathedral. The arrangements will respond to the theme of “Life In All Its Fullness,” exploring the benefits of art, nature, and music in healing, and will be portrayed as picturesque tableaux, gardens, and pedestal arrangements.
9. The National Flower Show, Chelmsford
The National Flower Show is held at Hylands Estate in late May, and it’s a stunning celebration of flowers, plants, and stalls and shops that carry everything you need for your home and garden. The festival has enough to keep you busy for the entire 3 days it runs, including the Outdoor Plant Village, a magnificent Floral Pavilion, the Food and Drinks Pavilion, and a Home and Country Pavilion. You can even browse the stalls for original handmade giftware and jewelry, making this much more than a flower festival. The flowers are still the stars of the show though, and a stroll past the lavender display will remind you of the beauty of these incredible creations.
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