Inside the Great Pavilion

At the heart of the RHS Chelsea showground sits the Great Pavilion, filled with expert growers, elaborate exhibits and incredible works of floral art

Statue of a lady in a bath on New Forest Hostas & Hemerocallis displayThe Great Pavilion used to be one giant marquee, listed as the world’s biggest tent in the Guiness Book of Records. Since the mid-90s it has been a combination of three structures joined together to create 12,570m² of exhibition space and even covers the 13m high Monument.

The Pavilion holds over 500 exhibitors from around the world. It houses the All About Plants gardens and the Monument installation, the Discovery Zone as well as all the floral exhibitors. Here are some of the other highlights from this year inside the Great Pavilion.

1. Dreaming of ferns and hostas

New Forest Hostas & Hemerocallis. Great Pavilion. RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024
One of the most intriguing displays in the Great Pavilion is so beautiful it is not surprising to hear that the idea came to Vicky Meads, of New Forest Hostas & Hemerocallis, in a dream. 

“Last August I had a crazy dream and woke up knowing what we were going to do at RHS Chelsea. We had sculptures made, borrowed a bath and bought an old bed to create this scene of a man sleeping in a bed of ferns and a lady daydreaming in a copper tub filled with Hosta ‘Blue Mouse Ears’.  When the idea came to me I woke up and said to my husband, ‘I had a dream and everything was green’, which is inscribed on the side of the bed of Athyrium ‘Burgundy Lace’ with Stipa tenuissima spilling, like sheets, over the edges.

2. Ahoy Barbados Landship

Ahoy! Barbados Landship in the Great Pavilion. RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024

Jacqueline Ferdinand is part of the Barbados Horticultural Society collective who are regulars to RHS Chelsea, this year picking up their 22nd Gold medal with the exhibit Ahoy Barbados Landship. 

Jacqueline explains the inspiration behind the design. “It features a centrepiece ship, and chronicles the journey from Africa to Barbados, including the maypole dance which is part of the Landship tradition. The plants of the display are in the colours associated with the Landship. We have lots of anthuriums and heliconias, and sansevierias and yuccas for foliage.” The plants bring not only vibrancy – but in their representation of those who lost their lives in those voyages, also poignancy.

3.  Cape of good plants

The Cape Floral Kingdom inside the Great Pavilion. RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024
Leon Kluge’s Cape Flora of South Africa shows cut flowers of Proteaceae from the southern tip of Africa. In the display there are a wide variety of Proteaceae nestled around clay waves, representing mountain outcrops. It shows the contrast between the flowers in the wet season on one side,  and on the other, the dry, harsh summers they have. These plants need this contrast to grow.

The flowers create an incredible display both individually – they last about a month in a vase – and en masse as in the display, which proved to be impressive enough to win both the Best Exhibit in the Great Pavilion and the New Design Award.

4.  Orchids in the Wild

Orchids in the Wild. Great Pavilion. RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024
The display is an ambitious collaboration of many organisations involved in the conservation of orchids around the world. As well as a beautiful representation of orchids in the wild, it is also packed with information, and there are plenty of expert volunteers on hand to talk orchid.

“They are very important plants because they are said to be like the canary in the coalmine, in ecological terms,” explains Ashley Cedno, “They have a very specific way of reproducing, so if anything threatens that system, they can be wiped out. A lot of orchid species are endangered because of poaching and climate changes. This exhibit is about raising awareness about the importance of keeping these beautiful flowers.”

5. Dinosaur plants

Hampshire Carnivorous Plants in the Great Pavilion. RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024

Hampshire Carnivorous Plants have brought Jurassic World to RHS Chelsea. As you walk through the display, you can hear the roaring of the dinosaurs, which are towering over scary Sarracenia with pitchers wide open, waiting for their prey.

The display includes pitcher plants that have been grown peat-free. Read more about owner Matt Soper’s peat-free progress here.

  6. Meet the fragrant Chelsea Pensioner
Rose 'Chelsea Pensioner' inside the Great Pavilion. RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024
This year Harkness Roses have introduced a new rose at the show, inspired by Chelsea’s most famous residents.

“It’s a fantastically large flower,” says Philip Harkness, plant breeder and owner of Harkness Roses, “It is a deep red rose – to match the colour of the uniforms of the Pensioners. It’s scented, it’s bold and it’s beautiful.”


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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.