After a slow start, spring is well and truly upon us. Green-fingered tourists in the British capital are no doubt looking forward to that genuine highlight of the horticultural calendar, the Chelsea Flower Show; this year, however, those whose gardening tastes are a little more alternative might find themselves equally tempted by the second ever Chelsea Fringe.
The Chelsea Fringe was established in 2012 as a horticultural equivalent to the Edinburgh Fringe and its inaugural year was a resounding success. Over 100 events took place over the three-week period, attended by an estimated 45,000 people.
Run by volunteers and almost entirely free, the 2012 Fringe's events included talks, walks and workshops alongside some truly incredible spectacles – like the 'Bicycling Beer Garden' and 'Floating Forest', a floating art installation on Portobello Dock.
This year organisers are anticipating an even bigger festival, with over 150 events already confirmed.
Unlike the Chelsea Flower Show, the Fringe expands far beyond Chelsea and Kensington. Events take place in venues and public spaces around London and even further afield – satellite Fringes are planned in Bristol, Brighton and even Vienna. Operating on an "open access" principle, organisers say that "just about anything goes" and anyone interested in expressing themselves through the medium of plants and gardens is welcome to participate.
"We may be a baby compared to the 100-year-old Chelsea Flower Show, but what we lack in age, we make up for in innovation – people involved in the Fringe are pushing the edges of our ideas of what gardens and landscapes, flowers and plants can be about," explains founder-director Tim Richardson.
The Chelsea Fringe commences this Saturday (May 18th) and will run until June 9th. As most events are free, visitors can turn up without booking in advance. Highlights this weekend include the launch of several 'edible high roads', where streets around London will be lined with a vibrant ensemble of fruit trees, bushes, shrubs and herbs.