The Alternative Chelsea Flower Show

Today marks the start of the Chelsea Flower Show and if, like me, you missed out on one of the 157,000 tickets to this highly popular event (or even if you’re one of the lucky ones!), I thought this was the perfect opportunity to explore the incredible collections of all things botanical that we have in the Word and Image Department at the V&A.

Delving deeper into the Collection, I was particularly struck by the spectacular profusion of multi-coloured flowers – from florilegia (or decorative flower books) from the 17th century which provided inspiration for floral motifs in the decorative arts, to beautiful 18th century textile designs and exquisitely observed botanical watercolours, as well as elaborate 19th century colour lithographic and paper lace greetings cards. And more recently, bold and eye-catching 20th century seed packets, as well as Roger Phillips’ pioneering photographs for his 1977 book, The Wild Flowers of Britain, plus numerous other examples. I’d argue we have a display to easily rival that at Chelsea – and without the crowds!

If you would like to see any of these objects for yourself, please book an appointment at the Prints & Drawings Study Room. And if you’d like to continue the floral theme – this time within the field of fashion – I’d recommend a visit to the superb Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 exhibition currently on show at the Museum.

Please click on each image for more details.

Print of Tulips, Johann Jakob Walther, ca. 1650-70. Museum no. 9174:31. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Design for woven silk from the 'Leman Album’, James Leman, 1706-1707. Museum no. E.1861:33-1991. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Design for a woven silk, Anna Maria Garthwaite, 1742. Museum no. 5981:23. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Design from an album of designs for printed textiles, William Kilburn, 1788-1792. Museum no. E.894:122/2-1978. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Watercolour of American Turk's-cap lily (Lilium superbum), G.D. Ehret, 1740s. Museum no. D.589-1886. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Watercolour of Canterbury Bells (Campanula medium), Redouté, 1787. Museum no. E.91-1947. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Greeting card from a set of 16 Christmas, Valentines and souvenir cards, ca. 1860. Museum no. E.4824-1960. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Seed packet for Carters Tested Seeds Ltd., 'Phlox. Drummondi, Carters Large Flowered Mixed', ca. 1935-1940. Museum number E.538-1994. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London/Carters Tested Seeds Ltd.

Photograph of Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis), Roger Phillips, ca. 1977 (photographed), 1994 (printed). Museum no. E.578:2-1994. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London/ Roger Phillips.