Wandering through Kensington & Chelsea is delightful enough on any normal London day. Add decadent designs of blooming flowers, quirky bicycles and bucketloads of greenery, and the Royal Borough is transformed into a summery haven of love. Petals are patterned into multicoloured swathes that drape around door frames and burst out of windows in an effort to celebrate each store’s individuality and design genius.
I’d been looking forward to visiting Chelsea in Bloom, and my expectations were met with such a splendour of efflorescence that made sunny London seem even more dazzling.
It was wonderful to observe each retailer’s unique interpretation of this year’s theme: Summer of Love, of course inspired by the recent Royal Wedding, but also by the 60s/70 cultural revolution.
I spent the whole day in awe at the myriad designs produced by the least suspecting stores. From a bicycle basket brimming with wildflowers outside Provenance Village butcher, to the rather posh Boutique 1 with a vibrant purple ‘tunnel of love’, to Dermalogica skin care boasting a mystical lilac, silver and pale pink cloud of gypsophila, the variety and exploration of the theme was endless.
The most meaningful display was undoubtedly that of Kiehl’s. At first, one might think that the two giant floral skeletons striding together across the storefront’s meadow give a rather eerie twist on the theme. The message, however, is one of sheer love and beauty: love is not skin deep (apt for a skincare brand) but that love knows no boundaries and is purer than can be seen from the outside. Essentially, love is love, and cannot be seen as plain as day, but is known in your very essence of self.
It was wonderful to see so many enjoying the day out to gaze on this floral feast for the eyes. I was in a state of blossomy delirium as I wandered through the charming streets and squares, and spent my time trying to photograph each display in a way that could truly portray their beauty, and the pride with which each petal had been lovingly placed in each fanciful formation.
Stopping for a light lunch at Caffe Concerto on the King’s Road yielded further delights, with the Venetian-style interior boasting some pretty faux-blossom trees, and a counter laden with sweet treats and tempting cakes.
The flowers were a mixture of faux and fresh, and every so often I could inhale the intoxicating scents of a million different varieties wafting on the warm summer breeze.
I found it so hard to pinpoint my favourite design, as they ranged from the serene, ethereal and pastel-coloured to the bright, bold and boisterous. I also loved the assortment of plants incorporated, such as trailing ivy and other creepers, and the rich vibrancy of chrysanthemums, carnations and loving roses.
Each evoked different atmospheres, emotions and aspects associated with summer and with love. Contrast the mellow-yellow tones of a lazy summer’s day for a beachwear store with the lively crimson peonies and kalanchoe of REDValentino’s LOVE display. Compare these with Marshall Wace’s Indian wedding -inspired elephants, adorned with orange, purple and green garlands, and you have yourself an amazingly diverse, wondrous and exhilarating crop of floral exhibits.
The Chelsea Flower Show, held annually in the grounds of Chelsea Hospital since 1913, is now a favourite celebrity haunt, and the ticket prices make it harder for younger people with floral addictions like myself to attend. Chelsea in Bloom is an inspired way to extend this fabulous occasion to the streets of Chelsea, into the local neighbourhoods and to include all local stores and residents in the summer’s floral revelry.
Chelsea In Bloom was the perfect occasion to herald the start of summer, and I look forward to next years extraordinary creations and botanic mastery.