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Pteridomania: Victorian fern fever revisited for the 21st century

We loved spending the week at our Chelsea home-from-home. Inspired by resilient ferns and their relevance in 21st century gardens for a changing climate, we took as our theme the 'fern fever' which took Victorian horticulture by storm. Read more - and you could win a limited-edition RHS Chelsea Flower Show trowel!
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Pteridomania: Victorian fern fever revisited for the 21st century
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Pteridomania: Victorian fern fever revisited for the 21st century


One thing we’ve omitted from our round-up of our favourite things from RHS Chelsea 2024 is our own stand on Main Avenue. Modesty forbids, after all! But we did love spending the week at our Chelsea home-from-home.

At the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, the trade stands get judged by the RHS, just as the gardens do. The trade stand awards recognise exhibitors which enhance the Chelsea visitor experience by combining creativity, design and theatre in a stand which is not only about product, but which offers an attraction in its own right. And we were delighted this year to win four stars from the judges for the excellence of our presentation!

Back in the gloomy days of winter when we were thinking about the theme for our stand this year, we discussed how the show gardens in recent years have been creating spaces that cope with a changing and increasingly unpredictable climate, and about the planting that we’ve seen used. Ferns kept cropping up, as these resilient and elegant plants seem to be able to cope with just about any conditions you can throw at them.

It seemed natural to draw a comparison between ferns’ relevance in 21st century gardens, with the Pteridomania or ‘Fern Fever’ which took horticulture by storm on both sides of the Atlantic during the second half of the 19th century.

The Victorians simply couldn’t get enough of this humble yet ancient plant. They collected them, built glass terrariums for them, and put them on homeware and textiles. Ferns even feature in the elaborate pattern on that classic British biscuit, the custard cream, which first appeared on grocers’ shelves during that period.

Fern collecting was deemed a highly respectable pastime and was said to demonstrate intelligence. It was even rumoured to improve both virility and mental health – a rumour which may or may not have been started by botanist George Loddiges, who had built the world’s largest hothouse in east London and included a fern nursery, and who had plants to sell!

Of course, with our toolmaking heritage going right back to 1730, it’s highly likely that some of these Victorian pteridomaniacs would have used our tools on their plant-hunting trips. It’s quite something to think that today our tools are being used to create climate-resilient gardens for the 21st century – like the ‘Flood Re: Flood Resilient Garden’, which was one of our favourite things this year.

We had plenty of ferns of all types and sizes all around our stand, with huge urns kindly provided on loan from fellow RHS Chelsea exhibitor True Fair Trading to adding classic and timeless style. The cool greenery and woodland feel provided a sanctuary on the hotter days of the show, a welcome retreat as the sun beat down.

If you came to the show and visited us on our stand, thank you for popping by. We hope you loved our stand as much as we did!

Win an RHS Chelsea souvenir trowel!


Every year we produce a limited-edition RHS Chelsea Flower Show version of our classic RHS-endorsed trowel. Engraved with the RHS logo and the year, these trowels always sell like the proverbial hot cakes – they’re the perfect souvenir of a special day. But before they disappeared, we grabbed one for one of our newsletter subscribers.

To be in with a chance of winning, all you need to do is leave a comment on this blog. Scroll to the bottom of this page to comment (your email address won't be published). You could tell us what you love about RHS Chelsea – either this year’s show, or in general! You’ll also need to be a subscriber to our monthly email newsletter to be a winner, so if you're not already signed up, fill in your email address in the grey band right at the bottom of this page. It’s easy to unsubscribe at any time if you don’t enjoy our monthly updates.


The small print

Personalised RHS-endorsed RHS Chelsea souvenir trowel prize draw, 2024
This giveaway is open to UK residents over the age of 18 only. No purchase necessary. No cash alternative is available. The winner will be chosen at random and the judges’ decision will be final. One winner will receive: one Burgon & Ball RHS-endorsed RHS Chelsea souvenir trowel. Prize draw opens at 00:01 on 13/06/2024 and closes at 23:59 on 24/06/2024. Winner will be contacted by Burgon & Ball shortly after the closing date. Employees of Burgon & Ball and their family members aren’t eligible to win. One entry per person. Entries created by a bot or a service that automatically enters participants are not eligible to win. We draw your attention to our privacy policy here.

  • Every year that I’ve watched RHS Chelsea flower show, I’ve learnt something I didn’t know before to apply in my own garden.

    Jonathan Churm on
  • Never been to Chelsea but love seeing the garden designs on TV, lots of inspiration for my small garden.

    Sonya Parkes on
  • whether practical for my garden or not, it always demonstrates some great ideas and features that I could absorb into my own little space

    pete c on
  • Chelsea flower show is a gardeners dream, the amazing exhibition gardens, wonderful ideas and beautiful colours of the different designs

    Bethan Davies on
  • I love the beauty and perfume of the flowers and gardens at Chelsea

    Sheena Batey on
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