July 2nd, 2024
Posted In: Garden trends & design

These are the top trends at RHS Hampton Court 2024. They are the ideas that I think translate best to real gardens.

Many show gardens are created to stimulate debate or make a point. They are gorgeous. And stimulating debate and making a point are both worthwhile.

But sometimes it can be hard to see how a show garden would work in our own backyard.

However, even those which don’t look anything like your garden often have ideas in them that you can use.

Raised beds are the new container gardening

It’s easier to grow a group of plants in a raised bed than it is to look after a whole load of pots. And with a new generation of renting gardeners, a raised bed can also be moved, albeit with some effort.

So the raised bed has been elevated from allotment staple to design trend. This has been growing in popularity for a few years, but was very much in evidence at RHS Hampton Court 2024.

At the Association of the Professional Landscapers garden, there was a painted raised bed, a corten steel raised bed and a raised bed pond.

Raised beds at RHS Hampton Court 2024. This is the Association of Professional Landscapers showcasing a raised bed pond, a corten steel raised bed and a painted raised bed.

Raised bed seating.Raised bed seating.

Painted raised beds with seating built in. The Lighthouse Garden by Tracy Harman and Tony Wagstaff.

Mixed pavers, pebbles, gravel and brick

The patchwork paving effect is one of the most attractive trends of today. It’s economical, because you can mix a cheaper and more expensive hard landscaping material.

And it helps with run-off or flash flooding. If you pave over an entire back yard, then all rainwater goes into the drains. When thousands of houses do the same, the drains fill very quickly in a storm, and that causes flash flooding.

If you mix pebbles, brick and gravel, then more rain can seep into the ground, helping to prevent over-full drains.

Mix pavers, bricks and gravel to make a patchwork path.Mix pavers, bricks and gravel to make a patchwork path.

Mix pavers, bricks and gravel to make a patchwork path. This charming RHS Money Saving Garden by Anya Lautenbach and Jamie Butterworth is paved with upcycled bricks and stone from eBay and Allgreen.

One of the most beautiful gardens at RHS Hampton Court 2024 was the RHS Money Saving Garden by Anya Lautenbach and Jamie Butterworth. Anya’s book The Money Saving Gardener was released earlier this year and she’s used many of her tips to create the garden. (Please note that links to Amazon are affiliate, see disclosure.)

Their potting shed (which was romantic and beautiful although not entirely practical for today’s gardens) was made of recycled wooden boards.

And their patchwork path was made from pavers bought from eBay and Allgreen.

The small garden has turned into a large courtyard

When I first started the Middlesized Garden, I used to say ‘larger than a courtyard, smaller than an acre.’ But many of today’s smaller gardens are being turned into larger courtyards.

It is really difficult to get natural lawn to grow in a typical small, shady town garden. It gets worn away by footfall. You have to find a space for a mower. It’s just not realistic.

Whether you have a formal garden such as the Exploring Charleston garden by Sadie May Powell (top) or a more relaxed perennial planting as in Anya Lautenbach and Jamie Butterworth's RHS Money Saving Garden, then planting can replace either paving or lawn.Whether you have a formal garden such as the Exploring Charleston garden by Sadie May Powell (top) or a more relaxed perennial planting as in Anya Lautenbach and Jamie Butterworth's RHS Money Saving Garden, then planting can replace either paving or lawn.

Whether you have a formal garden such as the Exploring Charleston garden by Sadie May Powell (top) or a more relaxed perennial planting as in Anya Lautenbach and Jamie Butterworth’s RHS Money Saving Garden, then planting can replace either paving or lawn.

Alternatives such as artificial grass aren’t necessarily either desirable or practical. Artificial grass can be surprisingly high maintenance because you have to clear away leaves, blossom, pet detritus etc from it as they can stain. (If you leave them on a lawn, everything will just decompose over time). While a lawn won’t need mowing in a drought, artificial grass will still need washing or cleaning. There isn’t a surface in the world which is ‘no maintenance’ so before you install any surface, make sure you’re happy with how you’re going to look after it.

And, of course, artificial grass is not beneficial to the environment and it usually doesn’t drain well either.

The solution is the large, fully planted courtyard. You have paved areas where you want to sit or eat, but you don’t pave the entire area.

Instead, you increase the planting, either in gravel, borders or raised beds. Plus you add at least one tree.

The Mediterraneo Garden by Katarina Kantalis.The Mediterraneo Garden by Katarina Kantalis.

The Mediterraneo Garden by Katarina Kantalis won Gold at RHS Hampton Court 2024, along with Best Get Started garden and Best Construction.

Recycled sheds, pots and troughs at RHS Hampton Court 2024

Recycling was a big theme at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024.

And this was taken up at RHS Hampton Court 2024, especially in Arit Anderson’s stunning RHS Peat Free garden.

It was perhaps the most beautiful garden at the show, but it isn’t judged because it is one of the RHS’s own gardens. There are a range of pretty recycled pots.

Her ‘pottering shed’ was made of wood with recycled windows. They’re ordinary standard windows, which you can probably find on eBay, Freecycle or Freegle.

Creating a shed or greenhouse out of recycled items needs an expert level of DIY skills (see Garden Inspiration from a Medium Sized Garden for another greenhouse made of recycled windows and shower doors).

Arit Anderson's 'pottering shed' made from recycled doors and windows.Arit Anderson's 'pottering shed' made from recycled doors and windows.

Arit Anderson’s ‘pottering shed’ made from recycled doors and windows.

Or like garden designer, Posy Gentles, you can pay for some specialist work and do some yourself. See What You Need to Build a Unique Shed.

When I covered the recycling at the RHS Chelsea, some people commented that recycled furniture and pots can now be difficult to find and expensive. Or that they can never spot the bargains amongst what is often a pile of junk. They are both reasonable observations.

Recycled pots and garden furniture in Arit Anderson's RHS Peat Free Garden.Recycled pots and garden furniture in Arit Anderson's RHS Peat Free Garden.

Recycled pots, troughs and garden furniture in Arit Anderson’s RHS Peat Free Garden.

There’s always a link between time and money. People who get amazing bargains from charity shops and reclamation yards are the ones who often pop in to check what’s there. They ferret about for bargains, and will find them – but probably only once in every ten visits. If you enjoy this, it’s a great form of money-saving. But not everyone does enjoy this and that’s fair enough. There are other ways of saving money.

If you’re interested, here are 15 ways to transform your garden with upcycled junk.

And see Rustic Cottage Garden Ideas for Kathy Pickering’s innovative tips on spotting a use for things that friends are throwing away.

A clover lawn – short and formal but wildlife friendly

This show garden by the RHS team at Wisley demonstrated how you could be wildlife friendly and still have a formal garden.

A formal but wildlife-friendly show garden at RHS Hampton Court 2024, designed by the team at RHS Wisley.A formal but wildlife-friendly show garden at RHS Hampton Court 2024, designed by the team at RHS Wisley.

A formal but wildlife-friendly show garden at RHS Hampton Court 2024, designed by the team at RHS Wisley. The lawn is short and neat but allows clover to flower for pollinators.

The clover lawn is particularly interesting. Many people want a neat lawn. Lawns with a high proportion of dwarf clover in them are more resilient to heat and drought. And the clover can flower ‘beneath the mower’s blades.’ You can mow a neat lawn and still have some clover for pollinators.

It’s not the neat striped lawn of the the perfect 20th century garden, but it isn’t ‘wild-looking’.

This show garden also had a geometric layout and square ‘pillars’ with bug hotels in them and mini ponds on top.

It all shows that you can have formality and wildlife friendliness.

Add colour with fences or furniture

In a small garden you can create a big impact with a coloured wall or coloured furniture.

A painted wall in Juliet Sargeant's award-winning Lion King Garden and brightly coloured outdoor kitchen equipment from the company Charlie.A painted wall in Juliet Sargeant's award-winning Lion King Garden and brightly coloured outdoor kitchen equipment from the company Charlie.

A vibrant painted wall in Juliet Sargeant’s award-winning Lion King Garden and brightly coloured outdoor kitchen equipment from the company Charlie.

The Denman's Garden inspired by John Brookes.The Denman's Garden inspired by John Brookes.

The Denman’s Garden inspired by John Brookes, one of the UK’s most influential historic garden designers. This shows how a boldly painted chair can add a pop of colour to a small space.

Mark out the space with a ‘dead hedge’

Juliet Sargeant’s Lion King Anniversary Garden won Best in Show at RHS Hampton Court 2024. And while most of us won’t cover our gardens with dusty red soil or have three carved antelopes cantering across our borders, this is the best dead hedge I’ve seen so far.

Juliet Sargeant's Lion King Garden at RHS Hampton Court 2024.Juliet Sargeant's Lion King Garden at RHS Hampton Court 2024.

This compact ‘dead hedge’ marks out the space in Juliet Sargeant’s Lion King Garden at RHS Hampton Court 2024.

The RSPB says that ‘a dead hedge is an upright structure of woody cuttings woven between vertical stakes.’ It’s essentially twigs and garden clippings held in place by two rows of upright stakes. It’s a good way of disposing of garden clippings and it creates habitat and shelter for wildlife.

I’ve seen dead hedges in show gardens and real ones for a few years now. But they have mostly been very big and would dominate a small or middle-sized garden.

Juliet’s neat, low, curved dead hedges show that a dead hedge can be an economic, wildlife-friendly way to divide up a smaller garden.

Logs and planks are the new garden ornament

As any garden designer will tell you, vertical space is important in a garden. The eye travels upward, so it takes you longer to see everything in the garden. That can make it feel bigger or better proportioned.

Upright planks in Nature's Embrace by Giarda Francois.Upright planks in Nature's Embrace by Giarda Francois.

Upright planks mark out an area for seating in Nature’s Embrace by Giarda Francois. This show garden also has mixed paving, pebbles and gravel.

Foliage is more important than flowers

This is not a new trend – garden designers have been talking about what the right foliage can do for your garden for decades.

But we amateur gardeners are always diverted by flowers. At least I am.

Heucheras from Plantagogo and begonias from Dibley's.Heucheras from Plantagogo and begonias from Dibley's.

Heucheras from Plantagogo and begonias from Dibley’s.

But just look at the foliage on Dibley’s begonias at RHS Hampton Court 2024. They are mainly too tender for UK winters, but will happily transform a sheltered courtyard in summer.

Or the heucheras from Plantagogo. These are so colourful and beautifully shaped – they could almost be the hardy equivalent of begonias.

Your guttering is part of your garden

Water resilience has been a theme at all the garden shows this year.

I’m not sure how easy it really is, but I spotted a planting of succulents in an Alitex greenhouse gutter, designed by the RHS Wisley team. I presume if they’ve planted succulents in an actively used gutter, then it must be possible.

Succulents planted in the guttering on an Alitex greenhouse in A Jungle For Two by the RHS Wisley gardening team.Succulents planted in the guttering on an Alitex greenhouse in A Jungle For Two by the RHS Wisley gardening team.

Succulents planted in the guttering on an Alitex greenhouse in A Jungle For Two by the RHS Wisley gardening team.

More seriously, Arit Anderson’s RHS Peat Free garden had a chain hanging from the shed guttering. Water trickles down the chain and into a water tank for use in the garden.

The water tank in turn conducts water to a container pond.

And the overflow from the container pond goes to small ‘rain garden’ which only fills at time of heavy rain.

This is a good way of using rain water rather than tap water. And, once again, it helps with flash flooding as less water rushes into the main drainage system in heavy rain.

If you want to see how this works in real life, there’s a similar set-up using rainwater from the gutter to fill a pond, then having a rain garden overflow in A Small Wildlife Friendly Garden.

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Top garden trends from RHS Hampton Court 2024.Top garden trends from RHS Hampton Court 2024.