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Chelsea Flower Show 2023: 8 Ideas to Steal From This Year’s Gardens

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Chelsea Flower Show 2023: 8 Ideas to Steal From This Year’s Gardens

May 26, 2023

Gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show can often feel rarified and unrelatable. But recently the show’s organizer, the Royal Horticultural Society, has made strides to make this global showcase appeal to a far broader audience with smaller space gardens, balcony and container gardens, as well as plant-focused designs that are shown in the floral pavilion. There are plenty of ideas to steal from the main show gardens, too, with endless beguiling planting combinations, clever ideas, and bubbling-up trends that will no doubt segue from garden show innovation to our backyard gardens. Here are a few of our favorite ideas from this year’s Chelsea.

Photographs by Clare Coulson unless otherwise noted.

A Smokey Palette

Above: A consistent palette tends to dominate the Chelsea Flower Show, with key plants popping up time and again. But some of the most interesting spaces bucked that trend by opting for more nuanced and unusual palettes, most notably in Sarah Price’s barnstorming garden inspired by the exquisite colors of Cedric Morris’s paintings. And in Jane Porter’s Choose Love Garden (pictured)—a community garden that will be relocated to Good Food Matters in South London—more delicious hues reigned with dusty apricot verbascums center stage amongst deep burgundy Atriplex hortensis, fennel, irises, orange geums and Salvia lavandulifolia, and thyme.

Dramatic Punctuation Points

Above: There were so many fabulous succulents on Sarah Price’s Nurture Landscapes Garden—planted into gravel and in pots and handmade containers—but perhaps the most dazzling were the deep mahogany Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’ that are surely going to cause a run on these dazzling, other-worldly plants.

A Rusty Pergola

Above: There were many ideas to steal on James Smith’s sociable London Square Community Garden, from a reading nook complete with library to a bespoke terrazzo table with a chess board designed into the table. The garden also offered up a clever way to create a garden structure in a cost effective way by using Surrey Ironcraft to construct a pergola using fine steel rods.

A Luxe Bird Feeder

Above: Even in a show garden, visiting wildlife adds an entirely different dimension to a space, animating it, bringing life and movement. In Charlotte Harris and Hugo Bugg’s garden for the charity Horatio’s the designers went one step further in the quest for the perfect bird table by commissioning Weber Industries, who constructed the beautiful sequoia-shingled garden building, to make a matching wooden table, adding a sculptural note at the heart of the garden.

Leveraging Logs

Above: We’d rather trees were living, but inevitably some fail or fall. Dead wood was a consistent feature in gardens from standing dead trees to a fallen tree with its rootball fully exposed in Cleve West’s deeply thought-provoking design for the youth homelessness charity, Centrepoint. Chunks of wood appeared in gardens large and small, providing a sculptural focal point in Jihae Hwang’s beautiful garden (pictured) inspired by Jiri mountain in South Korea, and in the Saatchi Gallery garden by the British artist Catriona Robertson, where logs were placed in amongst the planting, adding definition. It’s a simple and cost-free idea that will also provide useful habitats to insects and small creatures, boosting biodiversity in the process.

Rainwater Capture

Above: Collecting rainwater is becoming an essential strategy for gardeners in areas where precipitation is low, but ideally we want to do it in a beautiful way. For their clever Platform Garden—which takes a segment of a railway platform complete with nostalgic tiling and security fencing, Amelia Bouquet and Emilie Bausager designed water chains that fed down into tiered planters or storage tanks, constructed in bronze metal, where overflow was channelled into nearby plants.

Repurposed Concrete

Above: Designers are making great strides to eradicate concrete from their schemes but on brownfield sites or existing landscape it’s an ever-present material. At Chelsea, they transformed what could be waste into beautiful and useful features. In his Samaritans garden (pictured), Darren Hawkes went to extraordinary lengths to recycle waste materials from scrap yards and farm yards, creating beguiling and moving sculptures from rough hunks of concrete. Jonathan Davies and Steve Williams of Wild City Studio paved their Balance Garden for the Centre for Mental Health with huge hulks of salvaged concrete which were laid to allow wildflowers to fill in the cracks.

Beautiful Edibles

Above: Edible forests have been blending edible crops with ornamental effects and now that boundary blurring is coming into gardens, too, mixing in beautiful, edible fruits and vegetables in borders. Nearly two thirds of the gardens at this year’s show featured edible plants and even if they are kept separate— as in the Savill’s garden, pictured—edible plants can be just as impactful as flowers; note the lush green wasabi plants that nestled by a stream on Mark Gregory’s working kitchen garden. Photograph by Oliver Dixon.

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Frequently asked questions

When is the Chelsea Flower Show in 2023?

The Chelsea Flower Show in 2023 will be held from May 23rd to May 27th.

What is the Chelsea Flower Show?

The Chelsea Flower Show is an annual gardening event held in London, UK. It is one of the most prestigious flower shows in the world, showcasing stunning show gardens, floral displays, and horticultural expertise.

What are some ideas to steal from the show gardens?

There are numerous ideas to steal from the show gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show. Some popular ideas include innovative plant combinations, creative use of outdoor spaces, unique landscaping techniques, and inspirational garden design concepts.

Can anyone attend the Chelsea Flower Show?

Yes, the Chelsea Flower Show is open to the public. However, tickets need to be purchased in advance, and availability may be limited. It is recommended to book tickets early to ensure entry to the show.

Are there any discounts available for Chelsea Flower Show tickets?

Discounted tickets are available for RHS members. Additionally, there may be early bird discounts or group discounts for larger bookings. It is advisable to check the official website or contact the organizers for information on the latest ticket prices and any available discounts.

What can visitors expect to see at the Chelsea Flower Show?

Visitors can expect to see an array of stunning show gardens created by top designers, beautiful floral displays, rare and exotic plants, garden accessories and tools, expert advice from horticulturists, and various exhibitors showcasing the latest trends in gardening and outdoor living.

Is photography allowed at the Chelsea Flower Show?

Photography is allowed at the Chelsea Flower Show for personal use only. However, professional photographers or those wishing to use photographs for commercial purposes need to obtain prior permission from the organizers.

Are there food and refreshment options available at the show?

Yes, there are various food and refreshment options available at the Chelsea Flower Show. These include cafes, restaurants, bars, and food stalls offering a range of culinary delights and refreshing beverages.

Is the Chelsea Flower Show suitable for children?

The Chelsea Flower Show can be enjoyed by the whole family, including children. There are specific child-friendly areas and activities designed to engage and entertain young visitors. However, it is advisable to check the official guidelines and age restrictions for certain areas or exhibits.

How can I get to the Chelsea Flower Show?

The Chelsea Flower Show is held at the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London. Visitors can easily reach the venue by public transportation, including buses, trains, and the London Underground. Detailed directions and transportation options are available on the official website and can be planned using online maps or navigation apps.

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