The Chelsea Flower Show

23 May 2017

Our Assistant Curator Georgina shows us some beautiful flowers appearing on stamps in celebration of The Chelsea Flowers Show.

I am not what you would call ‘green fingered’, I manage to kill pretty much every plant my mother leaves with me. However, there are many people out there who understand and enjoy nurturing the nature. On the 23rd of this month, The Chelsea Flower Show, the 5-day extravaganza full of weird and wonderful plants and flowers from around the world, begins. For my own education, I thought we’d have a look at some of the flowers that have graced our GB stamps over the years.

Two packs of post and go stamps that depict flowers.

Symbolic Flowers, Post & Go, 2014 & Spring Flowers, Post & Go, 2014

The Chelsea Flower Show

The Chelsea Flower Show is organised by The Royal Horticultural Society that dates back to 1804. It is formally known as The Great Spring Show and since 1912 has been held in the grounds of The Royal Hospital Chelsea. Before that the show had been held in both Kensington and Chiswick. The show has rarely been cancelled except for war and was encouraged to begin again in 1947 after the Second World War. The show has always been popular and now tickets can only be bought before the show and are capped at 157,000 for the 11 acre grounds. The show also hosts the Royal Family prior to the opening for a preview as they patronage the event.

The Royal Horticultural Society

A miniature sheet depicting six images of flowers to celebrate the Royal Horticultural Society.

Royal Horticultural Society, Miniature Sheet, 2004

The Royal Horticultural Society who run The Chelsea Show were founded in 1804 from an idea of John Wedgwood (son of ceramicist Joseph Wedgwood). Originally called the Horticultural Society it received it’s Royal status in 1861. The organisation is a charity that promotes and encourages horticulture and even holds educational courses. They also host other shows such as Hampton Court Flower Show and Tatton Park Flower Show.

Tulip

Two images of different types of Tulips from the 1997 greetings stamp issue.

Tulips, 1st NVI, Greetings Stamps; 19th Century Flower Painting, 1997

The above stamps depict two differing types of a tulip. The tulip, native from Central Asia flowers between March and May. The Netherlands is the largest producer of tulips and exports about 3 billion each year. Tulips were so expensive they became a symbol of wealth and between 1636 and 1637 they were widely speculated in what became known as ‘Tulip Mania’. The above stamps depict two types of Tulip, the ordinary and the Gesneriana.

Poppy

Two stamps depicting poppies by artists F. Strickland and H. Hodgkin.

Poppy, F. Strickland, 1st NVI, The Great War-1914, 2014 & Poppies, H. Hodgkin, 1st NVI, First World War-1915, 2015

Over the last 3 years Royal Mail have issued stamps to commemorate the First World War and as part of these sets, there has always been an image of a poppy. These are some of my favorite stamps both for their symbolic meaning and the calibre of the artists used such as Howard Hodgkin. The poppy was one of the only flowers to grow on battlefields of Flanders in Northern France and has been a symbol of the war ever since.

Five stamps depicting different varieties of roses.

Roses, 9th World Congress of Roses, Belfast, 1991

I love having flowers in the house, it always seems to brighten the room, even though I¬†know so little about what’s in my vase. Flowers have appeared so many times on stamps and I feel that I should know more about them. Hopefully, after looking at some of these lovely designs I’ll begin to recognise more flowers and have a better understanding of what I’m actually purchasing for my mum on Mother’s Day.

– Georgina Tomlinson, Assistant Curator of Philately