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Adventures at the 100th RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Part 1

I have been lucky enough to attend three Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Shows over the years, but this one—the 100th anniversary—was obviously the most historic. The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is a one-of-a-kind event, and herbs were a big part of this year’s exhibits. When the Herbal Husband and I attended our first show in 1996, we were amazed at the exhibitors showing off their passion for plants in all kinds of displays. The Chelsea Flower Show 2013 was a very traditional show in the best sense.

My herbal companion and I had two full days in Chelsea, so we didn’t have to rush our visit. Our first task? To find the herb queen, Jekka McVicar, an English organic gardening expert and author, at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Jekka is known for her bountiful displays of herbs at the Chelsea show. The Herbal Husband and I first saw Jekka’s Herb Farm exhibit at the 1996 RHS Chelsea Flower Show, which won her a gold medal. Over her career of participating at the Chelsea shows, she has won more than 60 awards. She now participates with a stand, but still has the most wonderful displays of herbs. Oh, and I forgot to mention, she was one of the moderators of the RHS Great Pavilion Judging this year. She was a very busy lady, so it was a brief visit.

I was lucky enough to visit Jekka’s Herb Farm in 2010 and wrote a blog post about my visit—Meet Jekka McVicar: Queen of the Herbs. I even wrote a second blog post about Jekka—Herbal Travels: Spending the Day with Jekka McVicar. My third blog post about Jekka was written when she spoke for the Herb Society of America in Pittsburgh and I had the pleasure of taking her to the Western Pennsylvania Unit’s herb garden, to my herb garden and to lunch—The Herb Channeler’s Adventures with Jekka McVicar.

Our first day at the Chelsea show was reserved for members of the Royal Horticultural Society. I most enjoyed the vendors who were dressed in period costumes. Hannah McVicar, Jekka’s daughter who illustrated Jekka’s Herb Cookbook, wore a beautiful Edwardian outfit from 1913.

At this year's Chelsea show Jekka sold her books, her seeds, Hannah’s original artwork, and a new collection of herbal teas—Jekka's Herb Teas—in partnership with Canton Tea Co. Herbal teas included peppermint, chamomile, hibiscus, "Good Night" tea, lemongrass and, of course—my favorite—lemon verbena, which Jekka describes as a good after-dinner digestive. Read more about Jekka’s adventures at her herb farm on her blog, Jekka’s Herb Farm.

There is a lot of anxiety behind these flower shows: ensuring plants bloom at different times and under different temperature conditions, keeping these plant blooming, and having enough plants to fill all the flower show displays for a week—it is just amazing! In 1996 they used hair dryers to keep plants’ blooms open because of the cold. In 2005 it was almost 100 degrees in the Grand Pavilion, creating an opposite mess of problems. This year was probably more in line with 1996, as the last day open to the public was very cold and wet. Jekka's display featured a beautiful planter filled with my favorite flower, ‘Alaska’ nasturtium. They were in perfect bloom, which was testimony to the skill it takes to plan and execute a display or garden for the Chelsea Flower Show. Only the best of the best display here!

For many years there was a ban on gnomes at the Chelsea Flower Show, but every year Jekka managed to sneak her gnome Borage into the show. As she says on her blog, Borage behaved so badly this year that they had to send him gnome! (I just love puns!) Visit Jekka’s Herb Farm blog to check out Borage.

Jekka also said that I had to try her favorite herb snips: Fiskars herb snips. I found that I already owned a pair of these wonderful herb snips and I do love them!

Jekka’s Herboretum is officially opening next spring. I’m hoping to travel across the pond next year to celebrate her herbal vision. She is a very special lady and I’m lucky to call her a very special herbal friend. My next post will feature more from the 2013 Chelsea Flower Show, so stay tuned!

Nancy HeraudI will also have more posts about the 100th RHS Chelsea Flower Show on my blog, Lemon Verbena Lady’s Herb Garden. So please come over for a visit.

As always, if you have a comment or question about any of my posts, please leave me a comment or send me an email at and put in the subject line “Herb Comment or Question.” Talk to you soon.