It's been a long wait, but the RHS Chelsea Flower Show has finally returned to its traditional spot in May. We were delighted to visit and left the show bursting with ideas and inspiration, both for our own gardens and to share with you.
Here are some of the team's highlights of the show, from sensational show gardens to intimate balconies.
A Rewilding Britain Landscape designed by Lulu Urquhart and Adam Hunt
Chosen by Lucy Hall - Editor
It was a watershed moment for the Chelsea Flower Show and Royal Horticultural Society. In awarding Best in Show to A Rewilding Britain Landscape, an exquisite recreation of beaver habitat in the Dorset countryside, the society publicly put the environment first. This is a big statement about the future direction for gardening from the organisation that’s world-renowned for portraying perfection in its show gardens. And in doing so, it champions the unstoppable rise of natural gardening, promotes a debate about what our gardens are for – and will encourage acceptance of this future-facing approach to gardening.
All well and good, but was the ‘garden’ (or ‘landscape’) any good? YES! Whatever we want to label it, this show garden – created by the well-established design duo, though Chelsea first-timers, Lulu Urquhart and Adam Hunt – was simply a lovely place to be and see, full of design inspiration and detail that can translate to a domestic garden, in tandem with its big message. The wildlife appeal and relaxing sound of water, the charm of a hideaway hut at the heart of a garden, the value of multi-stemmed shrubs in creating depth and privacy, the beauty of well-chosen native plants to create a calming environment – all of this translates from show garden to your garden.
The green plant palette makes for year-round interest but colour was there, too, in orchids and frog-bit, buttercups, euphorbias and grassy awns. The beaver at its heart is a step too far for most, but this show garden puts ‘wilding’ and ‘rewilding’ firmly on the map as a design style many of us can emulate. And unlike many more formal styles, its beauty is more than skin deep.
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The St Mungo's Putting Down Roots Garden designed by Cityscapes (Darryl Moore and Adolfo Harrison)
Chosen by Catherine Mansley - Deputy Editor GW.com
The Chelsea Flower Show is such an elite event, with its astronomical budgets and boundary-pushing designs, that it can feel a world away from the experience of the average gardener, let alone those who are homeless. The Putting Down Roots project uses gardening sessions to help people move out of homelessness. And while this is certainly not the first show garden built in support of a good cause, it is one where the cause feels integral to the garden. Much of the planting is in large (eye-poppingly pink and orange) planters, chosen because they are easy to remove from the garden and reuse. The garden is going to be moved to a permanent location in London Bridge after the show, to create an urban pocket park. London may be home to some of the planet's super-rich, but it's also home to many with no outside space, for whom public parks and green spaces are vital.
Sustainability is a common theme at Chelsea, but Cityscapes have made it central to building this garden. The fences and paving have been made using materials reused from gardens at last year's Chelsea Flower Show, the cement is low-carbon and the mulch is peat-free. The planting is also designed to thrive in shade - offering planting ideas for areas we often struggle with. Gardeners know how therapeutic it is to spend a bit of time pottering around a garden, and this garden reminds us how privileged we are to be able to do that.
Medite Smartply Building the Future designed by Sarah Eberle
Chosen by Adam Duxbury - Features Editor
Expectations are high when you’re Chelsea’s most decorated garden designer, but Sarah Eberle did not disappoint this year with her innovative Building the Future garden. Occupying a large corner plot at the end of Main Avenue, it was hard to miss this gold medal-winning triumph thanks to a six-metre-tall waterfall construction. First there was the sound of water, thundering into a pool below. Then came glimpses of a monolithic structure between native trees and dense informal planting. As you get closer you are forced to look up – and then up again – is it a cave or some kind of monument? And is it made from stone or are those slabs of rusted metal? It turns out the team have used a lightweight MDF style material, designed to look like the strata of rocks. It’s the perfect medium for a garden with a message of sustainability at its heart.
Sarah has looked to the forests of Ireland for planting inspiration and the feeling she captures here is akin to emerging from a deep wood to find a forgotten grotto – ancient, spiritual and verdant – made urgent and modern thanks to its futuristic construction and focus on native flora. After wowing visitors with adventurous gardens like Life on Mars in 2007 and now Building the Future in 2022, I think it’s safe to say the future of Chelsea will always be exciting with Sarah Eberle’s designs to look forward to.
Morris & Co. designed by Ruth Willmott
Chosen by Lucy Felton - Content Coordinator
It was inevitable I’d be drawn to the tapestry of flowers and colours bursting from the Morris and Co. Garden at Chelsea. A firm-rooted love of the arts and crafts movement, plus the V&A very much being a home-from-home during my time as a fashion student, means I cannot resist a project with craftsmanship at its core. Here, William Morris’ rich archive of heritage designs is mimicked through textural planting and layering with whimsical wild waves of warm apricot Geum ‘Mai tai’ intermingling with the deep blues of Anchusa azurea ‘Loddon Royalist’.
A weeping willow cascading is a tribute to Willow Boughs, one of the two iconic Morris & Co designs featured throughout the garden. A triumphant hand-crafted, powder coated steel pavilion is the perfect retreat for the end of the day, and its laser cutwork celebrates the metal inlays found on wooden printing blocks used in the Morris’ wallpaper making process. How clever. The other print design inspiring the garden is Trellis, a reaching thorny rose with birds entwined, mirrored through a floral buffet of roses – both shrubs and climbers. Trellis, the very first wallpaper William Morris designed, was inspired by his own rose garden. Glorious.
Chosen by Kevin Smith - Deputy Editor
While I love the drama and spectacle of Chelsea’s large show gardens, this year it was the Balcony Gardens that inspired me the most. Each one was bursting with ideas for small spaces (not just balconies) and I spotted solutions for homegrown crops, beautiful flowers, practical seating, ways to attract wildlife and more. Many of the ideas were budget friendly too, with lots of the elements handmade by the garden designers and creators – all hugely inspiring for the home gardener. I also loved how the balconies provided an opportunity for young, upcoming designers to showcase their creativity. They’ve made Chelsea accessible to a whole new pool of talent, which is really refreshing when designing a Main Avenue garden, with their whopping budgets, is out of the reach of most. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this new category develops in coming years.
The Grass is Greener Where You Water It designed by The Plant Workshop
Chosen by Lily Middleton - Content Creator, GW.com
It feels like house plants have been having their moment for a number of years now, with no sign of the trend fading, and I will put my hands up and admit to being a millennial with a flat teaming with plants on every available surface. Working from home offers me more time to spend with my collection, and so I was particularly drawn to the house plant studio created by The Plant Workshop. They have re-imagined the home office, a traditional desk and computer have been overtaken by plants with hart's tongue fern bursting out of the screen and prayer plants spilling from the desk drawers. The space felt like a sanctuary amongst the buzz of press day, and has inspired me to fill my flat with yet more plants. I can only dream that one day I'll open my laptop to find plants spilling out of the screen - that will be an interesting call to IT.
It's really great to see smaller spaces and house plants recognised and celebrated at Chelsea - whilst the main show gardens are truly remarkable, I love leaving the show with tangible ideas to take to my own small space. And like the balcony gardens above, the house plants studios have helped make Chelsea attainable for a whole new range of talented designers and gardeners.
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