If you go down to Sloane Square today, you’re in for a big surprise… The annual Chelsea in Bloom competition has turned the whole area into a riot of colour and, for Kiki, it’s a floral paradise. “My love of flowers culminates in this week!” As the Chelsea Flower Show rolls into town – a horticultural extravaganza so popular that it welcomes more visitors over five days than Glastonbury – shop windows across Sloane Street, Duke of York Square and Pavilion Road are bedecked in flowers every colour of the rainbow.
Why? Every May, the 50 or so participating retailers interpret the Chelsea in Bloom theme “in their own unique style” and the creativity on show is of a remarkably high standard. Last year Kiki McDonough received a Highly Commended award, teaming up with florist Phillip Corps to create an enormous purple and orange giraffe for an eye-catching Floral Safari window. This year’s theme is Summer of Love, inspired by the Royal Wedding and the 60s/70s cultural revolution – from the Palace to the King’s Road, so to speak. For Kiki, though, it’s all about the 60s. “I’m a Chelsea girl. I was born and brought up in Chelsea. I was on the King’s Road in the late 60s, early 70s, and to me that’s what the summer of love is all about.”
Kiki joined forces with Phillip once again for 2018’s Chelsea in Bloom and she has “really enjoyed working with him, creating something great for everyone to enjoy”. This year the centerpiece of their floral display is… drumroll please… “A girl sitting on a swing, with a hat and dressed in a 60s-style jumpsuit. It’s based on a similar outfit I once had – it looks like something ABBA would wear!” You’ll need to come down to see for yourself what flowers have been used to create this unique Chelsea Girl; as Kiki explains, “the flower selection depends somewhat on what’s freshest at the flower market on the day. Phil goes his own way but somehow manages to turn up with the window completely done. He always pulls it out the bag!”
Chelsea in Bloom is loved by everyone in the local area. There’s a “great atmosphere”, Kiki enthuses, “and everyone is in such a good mood – looking happy and colourful. Lots and lots of people are taking photos of the front of the shop and Instagramming it, and I love that. It’s taking part that counts. What’s not to like?” The event brings the area firmly into the spotlight and Kiki points out “how far and wide it reaches. Last year I even had a friend from Spain get in touch who’d seen the window online!” The 2017 display was indeed loved by both customers and visitors, who came flocking to see, and photograph, it. “I suggested a giraffe”, explains Kiki, “and Phil agreed it was a good idea as the neck could stretch up round the window. I then asked him to add a monkey. Why? We just needed a monkey!”
The displays are being judged by a panel of experts, with winners announced on Tuesday 22 May. If you happen to pass 12 Symons Street and like what you see, it just so happens that the People’s Champion Award is chosen by the public! If you’d like to cast your vote for us, voting goes live on Tuesday and closes at midnight on Thursday; the winner is announced on Friday 25 May.
If it were possible to keep the display for the rest of the summer, Kiki would; “I wish it could stay up longer but it has to be made from fresh flowers”. And although she is usually desperate for the sun to stay out, this is the one time of year where Kiki doesn’t mind “a bit of rain. It means our Chelsea Girl will stay watered!”
Monday 21 May to Saturday 26 May, #chelseainbloom, w