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9 Ideas to Steal from the 2024 Chelsea Flower Show


9 Ideas to Steal from the 2024 Chelsea Flower Show

May 23, 2024

The one certainty at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is an endless stream of covetable plants and clever ideas—this year there’s heaps of innovation as designers lead the way in rethinking materials, construction and how to create resilient, future-proof gardens. Here are a few of the ideas we took note of at the 2024 show.

Photography by Clare Coulson, except where noted.

Deconstruct your planters.

Above: Chelsea first-timer Giulio Giorgi’s inventive design—offset with beautiful silvery resilient planting—won the inaugural RHS Environmental Innovation Award. He used 3D-printed terracotta bricks to build curvaceous planters that were inspired by keyhole gardens. The pieces are simply stacked together and held in place with poles—no concrete or power tools necessary—and can be easily rebuilt when he moves it to its eventual home. Photograph by Gary Morrisroe.

Just add water.

Above: Designer Tom Bannister illustrates how much impact you can achieve in a tiny space with his Ecotherapy container garden, a sensuous and immersive space with a hanging green wall providing the backdrop to a rill and a sequence of pools crafted from hyper-tufa containers. A small bench provides a place to sit and take in the soothing scene, surrounded by lush planting with ferns, hostas, tiarella and rodgersia.

Focus on foliage first.

Above: There’s always one garden that’s almost impossible to walk away from, and Tom Stuart-Smith’s transporting design for the National Garden Scheme certainly ticks that box. A stone trough, a cleft oak building, chairs that aged in his own Hertfordshire garden for years—these elements all add to the soothing aesthetic, but it’s the nearly entirely green and white planting that immediately lowers the heart rate. Exquisite azaleas, seas of foxgloves are played off against the most beautiful foliage from Aralia cordata, Farfugium japonicum, Maianthemum and the delicate woodlander Saruma henryi—all of which are a potent reminder to focus on foliage first when planning planting schemes. (See The Maestro’s Return: Tom Stuart-Smith at the Chelsea Flower Show.)

Patchwork your paving.

Above: The spirit of Sarah Price’s trail-blazing garden from last year’s Chelsea looms large at this year’s show from plant choices (fragrant Elaeagnus, beautiful pines, painterly iris) to the focus on handcrafted details, but it’s her patchwork paving, in which irregular paved paths sit alongside deconstructed gravels, that popped up time and again. Here in Ann-Marie Powell’s Octavia Hill garden, it provides the perfect foil to an intensely colorful planting, rich with foxgloves, irises, verbascums, geums and swathes of poppies.

Go boulder.

Above: With slate paths, a slate stepping stone bridge, and copious crevices and stones that plants can grow around or colonize, Matthew Childs’ garden takes the textures of an abandoned flooded quarry as the starting point for his garden for the Terrence Higgins Trust. Here, one of his granite boulders is a sculptural foil for soft planting that includes bearded iris, verbascums, aquilegia and hazy grasses.

Embrace rainbow color.

Above: Miria Harris’ joyful garden for the Stroke Association is inspired by the road to recovery—something she understands well as a stroke survivor. Sweeping borders are packed with color-blocked plants, including poppies, honesty, wallflowers, baptisia, camassia and salvias, punctuated with the intense orange flowers of Cytisus ‘Lena’, which looked luminous against a haze of bronze fennel. Curving paths lead to seating areas with elegant chairs by Olivia Gonsalves and shade from gnarled pines that were rescued from the “rejects” area of a tree nursery.

Minimize waste.

Above: Tsuyako Asada’s Tomie’s Cuisine the Nobonsai garden was produced in collaboration with her craftsman son, Takuya, and chef daughter, Hitomi. Based on the quest to recycle food waste and live more sustainably, the small space is packed with edible plants and many great ideas. Traditional Japanese Machiya fittings are painted in calligraphy ink made with charcoal, valued for its antibacterial qualities; rain is collected in a plant filled gutter—a living drain—and then funneled to a water tank beneath, with any overflow circulating to planters. And food waste is composted directly into the ground in a hole protected by a terracotta rhubarb forcer, which protects the waste while it decomposes.

Showcase rainfall.

Above: Climate change is forcing us to fundamentally rethink our approach to water. For gardeners, harvesting and storing rainwater, as well as managing the movement of water around a garden has become essential. Naomi Slade and Ed Barsley’s Flood Resilient Garden takes a typical backyard plot and channels water via a central swale and bog garden planted with rodgersia, astilbe, irises and water mint. We especially loved their sculptural approach, as rainwater is channelled and collected in a sequence of galvanized tanks fitted together and operated using smart technology.

Reimagine old materials.

Above: Ula Maria’s forest bathing-themed garden for Muscular Dystrophy UK is packed with handcrafted elements, including a flint feature wall and hand-carved seating by Oli Carter (made with trees that have fallen or been felled due to disease). The bungaroosh wall using ridge tiles, bricks, creasing tiles and more—set inside steelwork sections—illustrates how to repurpose leftover materials to give them a new purpose, one that will also provide precious nooks for passing wildlife.

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