An angry onlooker shouted “you morons” at Just Stop Oil (JSO) protesters who threw orange paint over a Chelsea Flower Show display minutes before they were sprayed with a hose.
The three women climbed over a rope barrier on Thursday and smothered the RBC Brewin Dolphin Garden, designed by Paul Hervey-Brookes, an award-winning plantsman, with the paint.
The incident, caught on camera, prompted witnesses to shout abuse at the protesters, with one man heard saying: “Oh no, oh for god’s, you morons – all you’re doing is ruining them, you prats.”
Meanwhile others could be heard shouting for security before a woman grabbed a hose and doused the protesters with water.
Others shouted out in support for the women – with one saying: “I’ll join.”
Shortly afterwards Metropolitan Police officers arrested the women, named by JSO as Stephanie Golder, 35, Naomi Goddard, 58, a retired landscape engineer, and Rosa Hicks, 28, for criminal damage.
Ms Goddard, from Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, could be heard in the video saying: “What is the point in a garden if you can’t eat?
“What is the point in tradition if society is collapsing around you?”
One man interrupted the speech, shouting: “Rubbish.”
Another protester, thought to be Ms Hicks, could be heard telling the crowd: “Stop putting your heads in the compost.”
The incident comes after activists from the group – which is campaigning to end all new fossil fuel projects in the UK – interrupted the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield last month by throwing orange paint across a snooker table.
And on Wednesday, six protesters were arrested on Marylebone Road, central London, the group said.
Emilia Randall, 23, who saw the protest on Thursday, said: “I just popped in (to see the flower show) this morning.
“At first a girl walked under the rope. Someone called for security.
“There were three of them. One woman at the back said: ‘Get your head out of the compost’.
“There were some people calling for security and going, ‘Oh, not this’.
“Some people were cheering them on.”
A spokesperson for JSO said after the protest: “This is not a one-day event, this is an act of resistance against a criminal Government.”
In a statement released after their arrests, Ms Goddard said: “I know that by carrying out this action, I risk losing my job, my livelihood and my reputation, but it is what I have to do right now.
“We all need to do everything in our power to stop this madness continuing.
“There is a better, cleaner, safer future, but only if we fight for it.”
Ms Golder, from Southend, Essex, said: “I disrupted the Chelsea Flower Show to ask the visitors, exhibitors and the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) to pick a side; to stand for good over evil, life over death, right over wrong; to stand with the young and the billions of people in the global south whose lives are being cut short by climate collapse.
“If you love gardens or growing food, you must join in civil resistance against new oil and gas.”
The Met said on Twitter: “Officers responded to an incident at #ChelseaFlowerShow this morning.
“Three people were arrested at the scene on suspicion of criminal damage in connection with a #JSO protest. Enquiries are ongoing.”
The RHS Chelsea Flower Show began on Monday and is running until Saturday.