Chelsea Flower Show blooms online
Catherine Drew in London

For the first time since World War II, London's Chelsea Flower Show has been cancelled... at least in the real world, with organizers taking the event online.  

Arguably the world's most famous horticultural show, which attracts tens of thousands of visitors, the event cannot take place as usual because of social-distancing restrictions, so its planners are getting garden designers and florists due to give virtual tours of their private gardens over the five days.

Some hope it will provide a much-needed boost to the gardening industry. Garden centers have only just been allowed to open in England and Wales, having missed much of their peak business season.

"It's better than nothing, but it will be a challenge," Boyd Douglas-Davies, director of the British Garden Centres Group, told CGTN Europe about the event going online.   

"I'm sure it won't replace the event because the Chelsea experience is unique every year. 

"Growers work for years to launch their plants at Chelsea and we'll see those on sale this summer in garden centers," he added.

Taking advantage of the reopening of garden centers, Felix Brown had a trolley full of plants and flowers in London. Like many, he and his children have been spending more time in the garden during lockdown. He said it has been wonderful to have outside space during that time.

"We spend a lot of time, hiking and going in the woods and forest, and to be able to go outdoors has been good for everyone's mental health really," he said, packing up his purchases.  

This year's Chelsea Flower Show is asking people to send in pictures of their own gardens and gardening achievements during lockdown. There's hope in the industry that the pandemic restrictions have given people, particularly children, time to take up gardening, and created a new generation of customers.

"There has been a huge resurgence in gardening," agreed James Barnes, who heads the Horticultural Trade Association. He said there is hope that pent-up demand will help keep many garden centers afloat during tough times.

With garden centers in England and Wales now open and soon set to reopen in Northern Ireland, those inspired  by the virtual Chelsea Flower Show can at least find the products they need to try out their ideas at home.