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Behind the Scenes at The Royal Windsor Flower Show

the royal windsor flower show

An Enchanting Horticultural Extravaganza

The Royal Windsor Flower Show returns this month, packed with stunning gardens, innovative displays, and star speakers. Show Director Alexandra Denman takes us behind the scenes of this enchanting horticultural extravaganza.

A Garden Inspired by King Charles III

A garden inspired by King Charles III, children’s marquees, charity initiatives, and, of course, Alan Titchmarsh. Such an eclectic list can mean only one thing: the Royal Windsor Flower Show is back. The inescapable quality of the show, which will again be held in the bucolic grounds of Windsor Great Park’s The York Club, ensures this one-day, family-friendly event is quickly becoming a must in people’s summer calendar, this year being held on 8 June.

alan titchmarsh

The sizzling show has all the (green) fingerprints of Alexandra Denman all over it. The Show Director, Alexandra, was also the RHS Chelsea Show Manager and then Head of Shows Development from 2006 to 2014, and you can just imagine what the young Alexandra would have made of being in such positions. “I remember travelling with my Dad to the allotment in his wheelbarrow and then being allowed to sow plant and play,” she smiles when asked about her earliest memories of horticulture. “Hours that I look back on with such happiness and clarity (like no other in fact). Hiding in the runner bean canes, eating carrots straight from the ground, and popping peas into my mouth, experiencing an intense sweetness. Dirty knees at sundown and not a care in the world.”

A Lifelong Passion for Horticulture

It may not be child’s play for Alexandra now, but that enthusiasm for the subject has never dimmed. On her time at the Royal Horticultural Society, she says: “I had the time of my life and made so many friends and contacts that continue to help me today. Gardeners are a good bunch with kind hearts and show great camaraderie when putting on a highly pressured show. I loved the fact that for one week in May, horticulture and the amazing people who work in it – nurserymen and women, designers and contractors – come together in Central London and their work is beamed around the globe, making front pages of pretty much every national newspaper. And in those 15 hours of BBC coverage, we get the opportunity to encourage and inspire even more people to look after and develop green spaces.”

alexandra denman

Unforgettable Chelsea Flower Show Moments

Alexandra admits it’s very difficult to pick out just a few highlights of her involvement with the Chelsea Flower Show. “To be able to lead the horticultural content of the world’s leading flower show was an immense privilege, and I felt lucky to do so every day,” she says. “I oversaw all the development of show gardens, working with complex projects such as Diarmuid Gavin’s Westland Magical Garden, which was a hanging garden of Babylon planted over seven floors of scaffolding on the embankment of the River Thames, to escorting Royalty around the show and having my wedding shoes made by Jimmy Choo (the man himself). But I also loved the basics of marking out the site with spray paint and putting on my hi vis vest and steel-toe-capped boots!”

Revitalizing the Royal Windsor Flower Show

It all meant that she was more than prepared when taking over the challenge of revitalizing the Royal Windsor Flower Show when she joined the team back in 2019. “I wanted to bring back to life a much-loved show that had lost its mojo and make it not only commercially viable but a joy for Berkshire residents to experience and get involved in,” she explains. “A place for the community to come together outdoors, immersed in flowers and surrounded by nature. To enable and empower people to have a go at new mindful experiences, whether making a flower crown or buttonhole, or entering the competition classes, which include crafting, baking, and gardening. Trying to show people that if you all have a go, the show becomes greater with rows of sweet peas and roses and Victoria sponge cakes or pickles – to make something great together.”

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The Magnificent Central Garden

The 2024 plans have certainly whetted the appetite, with two areas particularly interesting to the Absolutely team. The first is the magnificent Central Garden, the focal point and beating heart of the show. Designed by Alan Williams of the multi-award-winning Landform Consultants, this year’s stunning Central Garden is called ‘What Do You See’ and takes inspiration from a book written in 2010 by HM the King called ‘Harmony – A New Way of Looking at Our World,’ a blueprint for a more balanced, sustainable world.

“The King calls his readers to look at building a more sustainable world, and we have developed that idea for the visitors to look at community orchards, pollinators, bees, and growing fruit and vegetables,” Alexandra explains. “Visitors can walk through this immersive garden and are challenged by the garden name, ‘What do you see?’. Alan will bring structure and scale to his gardens, making the perfect focal point for the show.”

Inspiring the Next Generation

The second element is linked to this, with the garden set to be relocated to a local school after the event. “We want the garden to live on in a new location to inspire all those children, parents, and visitors to the school that biodiversity is exciting and inspiring,” Alexandra says. “We want the children to feel that being surrounded by plants and flowers should be the norm, not a sterile tarmac playground.

“Encouraging the younger generation into gardening] is the main driver for all we do. Every year, we engage 12 local schools in our horticultural outreach programme. Sending a trained horticulturist into each school to help children and teachers on their gardening journey as well as providing nature immersion days at biodynamic farm Waltham Place – where they interact with the herd of cattle and Tamworth pigs and can go foraging for food. I came across this quote by the great David Attenborough, which I think sums it up: ‘If children grow up not knowing about nature and appreciating it, they will not understand it, and if they don’t understand it, they won’t protect it, and if they don’t protect it, who will?”

A Mindful Experience

It’s time to let Alexandra get back to the day job, but one final question: what does she hope visitors take away with them once they have visited the show? “Anyone and everyone has the power to help and support the natural world and by doing so can reap the benefits, both physically and mentally, by being immersed in nature.”

For more information, visit the Royal Windsor Flower Show website.

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Picture of Mark Kebble

Mark Kebble

Mark's career in journalism started in 2001 when he landed a role on a small lifestyle magazine in Angel, North London. Soon enough, the magazine was purchased by a larger organisation and Mark found himself promoted to editor at the tender age of 23. He later became group editor, working on magazines for Angel, Crouch End, Muswell Hill and Highgate. He was also involved in a launch in Hadley Wood and a major new group website, later becoming Group Hub Editor. In 2021, Mark joined Zest Media Group and oversaw the launch of many Absolutely titles across the UK. To date, Mark has launched in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Sussex, Essex, Yorkshire and Cheshire. When he does have some free time, Mark is also the Chairman of an amateur football club in Surrey and is also a fully qualified FA football coach.
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