This month, the famous RHS Chelsea Flower Show gets under way. But what you might not know is, another event is taking place alongside it. Chelsea Fringe, is a community interest event that’s volunteer run and celebrates grassroots gardening. This year, it takes place from Saturday 21st to Sunday 29th May 2022. And events are not simply taking place in the well-heeled borough. There’ll be nine days of colourful events across London and the UK, as well as online. Global events will also be popping up in Naples and Seattle.
The programme is brimming with entertaining events for all ages. Expect hands-on gardening sessions, art installations and guided walks. These span a huge range of horticultural topics and themes, from explorations of the ‘food forests’ of Naples to fairy workshops and potion kitchens in Bristol.
Gardening for health and well-being
And after the challenges of the pandemic and lockdown, wellbeing, health, and happiness feature strongly at the 2022 fringe. On Sunday 22nd May, London’s Inner Temple Garden invites the public to experience its early-summer exuberance and rare plant collection. Take part in guided meditation sessions and gong baths.
On the same day, enjoy tea, cake and quiet contemplation at Henley Quakers’ peaceful garden. Or, on Wednesday 25th May, join the London Gardens Trust in person and online for a talk giving the GP’s perspective on health and the therapeutic potential of gardening.
Elsewhere, St. Martin in the Fields’ courtyard will host a pop-up sensory garden complete with ivy lampshades, hammocks and bubble machine. And South London Botanical Institute show you how to use aromatic herbs and essential oils to make natural skincare products in an aromatherapy workshop.
Online, explore Carecrows, an exhibition of scarecrows made by service users and staff at Bethlem Royal Hospital. And in person, discover The Caterpillar Project’s converted car park rooftop garden, aiming to improve the environment and metal health.
Botanical arts and crafts
Arts and crafts make up a large portion of the fringe programme too. Rather wonderfully, an installation of wild animals made from Scottish woven textiles will transform a suburban front garden in South Edinburgh. And in London, the Horniman Museum and Gardens will host a display of naturally-dyed, sustainable fabric flowers. These botanical creations are made by four South London primary schools.
Meanwhile, Nick Andrew who is the Bloomsbury Garden Squares’ artist in residence, will be out and about drawing. You’ll find him in three of the area’s beautiful gardens over the fringe. Join him with a sketchbook and cushion to create a scene. Alternatively, draw and discover the Japanese principles of Ikebana flower arranging with artist Johanna Tagada Hoffbeck.
Quirky and eclectic events
Making a return to the Chelsea Fringe is the popular Blackstock Triangle Gardeners’ Fringe Dog Show. This North London community growing project are giving away prizes for top dogs, as well as free plants and seeds on Sunday 29th May. Go along, even if you don’t own a dog, to marvel at dogs with the waggiest tail, the best headdress and that look most like their owner.
Visit or take a tour of Crossbones Graveyard & Garden of Remembrance. This pauper’s graveyard is home to society’s outcast dead, but thanks to the work of volunteers they’re now respected and remembered. It’s the perfect spot for contemplation. And during the fringe, it will have extended opening hours. Learn about local history and community activism, take a free tour or enjoy a self-guided art activity.
Connect with plants and trees at the Shakespeare in the Wild immersive experience in the heart of Bloomsbury. And explore the diverse Walthamstow community gardens found on verges, graves and any empty pocket in the area!
Drinks and plants
If like us, your day is fuelled by tea, then Museum of the Home have the perfect self-guided tour. Explore the drink’s history and culture with Tea Through Time, which ends in the herb garden with a display of plants that can be used to make a brew.
Head to a sociable floristry workshop and wine tasting event at Leadenhall Market to make a floral headpiece while sampling tipples from the Loire Valley. Or join a Sunday tweetathon meet-up in central London that ends with a nut milk making workshop.
You’ll find the full programme of events on the fringe website here. And if you like nature and outdoorsy things, we’ve got more stuff to discover over here. Or, if you’re looking for more of a festival vibe, check in here.
When: 21st – 29th May 2022
Where: Across London, the UK and beyond with some events online
£: Ticket prices vary, depending on the event. Many of the events are free
More info: www.chelseafringe.com