May 20th, 2024
Posted In: Garden trends & design

RHS Chelsea 2024 – or the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, to give its full name – is the most prestigious flower show in the world.

Sponsored by the Newt in Somerset, it’s the equivalent of Paris Fashion Week for the horticultural industry.

Of course, as with fashion, not everything you see will transfer to your own garden. The flower borders, for example, are fantasy. Enjoy them!

(Although this year, there are remarkably few ‘flower borders’, as you’ll see from this post.)

Some of the prettiest show gardens at RHS Chelsea 2024

But many of the garden design ideas and details transfer brilliantly to real gardens, especially as show gardens are designed in such a limited space.

So here are the best ideas from RHS Chelsea 2024 for your garden.

Whether you want to update a corner, transform the whole garden or just want to add a little top designer stardust to your space, this is where to start.

Garden seating ideas from RHS ChelseaGarden seating ideas from RHS Chelsea

Surround your seating area by informal planting as in these two gardens. Top is the Octavia Hill garden by Ann Marie Powell and above is the Killick & Co garden by Baz Grainger.

Blur your boundaries – more relaxed paths and pavers

Many of the RHS Chelsea gardens blurred the boundaries between planting and paths. Planting spilled over into gravel.

It’s a more relaxed look, and more wildlife friendly because it usually means more planting.

Instead of having borders, plants are allowed to colonise any areas you’re not using for something else.

Octavia Hill garden at RHS Chelsea 2024 by Ann Marie PowellOctavia Hill garden at RHS Chelsea 2024 by Ann Marie Powell

Let plants ramble through your steps or colonise the cracks between pavers, like these in the Octavia Hill garden by Blue Diamond and Ann Marie Powell for the National Trust. It means less weeding, more greenery for wildlife and a relaxed, pretty look.

Freedom from Torture Garden by John Warland and Emma O'Connell.Freedom from Torture Garden by John Warland and Emma O'Connell.

Allow plants to self-seed themselves in gravel paths or between pavers to give your garden a fresh, contemporary feel. This path is in the Freedom from Torture Garden by John Warland and Emma O’Connell.

Embrace the shade – ‘woodland edge’ planting at RHS Chelsea 2024

Every garden has more than half of its area in shade, but shade has always been treated as a second-best by the gardening world. No longer! Several gardens at RHS Chelsea 2024 majored on ‘woodland edge’ planting.

National Garden Scheme at RHS Chelsea 2024National Garden Scheme at RHS Chelsea 2024

Many of the gardens at RHS Chelsea 2024 had ‘woodland edge’ planting. This National Garden Scheme garden by Tom Stuart Smith is planted in a naturalistic way with ‘woodland and edge-of-woodland’ herbaceous perennials.

St James Piccadilly garden by Robert MyersSt James Piccadilly garden by Robert Myers

Most gardens in towns and cities are all or part shade, so it’s appropriate to see the St James Piccadilly garden by Robert Myers using foliage and texture, rather than flowers that demand full sun, in his planting. There are also several ‘pioneer’ plants (formerly known as ‘weeds’), such as chickweed, speedwell and vetch.

For suggestions for good ‘woodland edge’ planting, see 23 stunning ground cover plants for difficult places.

There’s also some brilliant shade gardening advice here.

Add pops of colour with accessories or paint

Foliage-based gardens are usually very green, and many shade loving flowers are white.

So if you’re a colour lover, then add pops of colour with cushions, furniture or fencing.

Flood Re garden at RHS Chelsea 2024 by Naomi Slade and Ed BarnsleyFlood Re garden at RHS Chelsea 2024 by Naomi Slade and Ed Barnsley

Just one bright cushion can add all the colour you need. This exceptionally pretty garden is Flood Re, designed by Naomi Slade and Ed Barnsley.

Panathlon Joy Garden by Penelope Walker Panathlon Joy Garden by Penelope Walker

The colourful fencing and seating in the Panathlon Joy Garden by Penelope Walker could transform a dingy courtyard.

Chelsea Repurposed by CityscapesChelsea Repurposed by Cityscapes

Almost everything in this garden was re-used from a previous garden, showcasing another of RHS Chelsea 2024’s major themes: upcycling and re-purposing. See how the brightly painted fence really works with the rest of the garden. Definitely an idea to steal!

Upcycle and re-use! RHS Chelsea 2024 cuts waste!

RHS Chelsea 2024 wants to reinforce the idea that we should try to re-use things wherever we can. I can remember the galvanised steel hot and cold water tanks from my parents’ attic. They looked exactly like the water tank water feature on Naomi Slade and Ed Barsley’s Flood Re garden. Oh, why did we ever throw those tanks out?

Flood Re garden at RHS Chelsea 2024 by Naomi Slade and Ed Barsley.Flood Re garden at RHS Chelsea 2024 by Naomi Slade and Ed Barsley.

Once these would have been considered ‘dirty old things’. Now I really want a series of interconnecting water tanks in my garden! From the Flood Re garden at RHS Chelsea 2024 by Naomi Slade and Ed Barsley.

Builders' rubble used as gravel mulch at RHS Chelsea 2024Builders' rubble used as gravel mulch at RHS Chelsea 2024

In the Chelsea Repurposed garden by Cityscapes, the mulch is salvaged crushed concrete, a waste product from demolishing buildings. I am beginning to hear more and more garden designers using this in their gardens.

Use vertical space in a sculptural way

If you draw the eye upwards in a small garden, then the garden seems bigger. And pillars, arches and pergolas can be focal points or opportunities for climbers.

What emerges clearly from RHS Chelsea 2024 is that these arches, pillars and pergolas are now garden art.

They can still be used for growing plants and dividing up the space, but think carefully about what style you want when choosing them. It’s no longer just a choice between metal, brick or wood!

The Boodles National Gallery Garden by Catherine Macdonald.The Boodles National Gallery Garden by Catherine Macdonald.

These arches in the Boodles National Gallery Garden by Catherine Macdonald were designed to evoke the ‘repetition and perspective elements in the paintings of Canaletto and Claude’. Garden arches and pergolas can be the equivalent of sculpture in your garden.

Water Aid garden by Tom MasseyWater Aid garden by Tom Massey

This amazing pergola isn’t just sculptural – it’s also a way of harvesting rainwater. In the Water Aid garden designed by Tom Massey. Note the decking and grid suspended over the garden, which allows for flooding as well as for planting beneath.

Seating goes sculptural too

One of the best ideas people with small gardens can take away from RHS Chelsea 2024 is that seating can save space if it’s built in.

And by choosing interesting materials and shapes, your seating becomes an integral part of the design of your garden.

Built-in seating saves space in the Freedom from Torture Garden.Built-in seating saves space in the Freedom from Torture Garden.

Built-in seating saves space in the Freedom from Torture Garden by John Warland and Emma O’Connell.

Log seating in the Octavia Hill National Trust Garden by Ann Marie Powell.Log seating in the Octavia Hill National Trust Garden by Ann Marie Powell.

Log seating in the Octavia Hill National Trust Garden by Ann Marie Powell.

Also in Ann Marie Powell's garden for The National Trust, you can also spot the green planting between the pavers.Also in Ann Marie Powell's garden for The National Trust, you can also spot the green planting between the pavers.

Also in Ann Marie Powell’s garden for The National Trust, you can also spot the green planting between the pavers.

The Stroke Association Garden by Miria HarrisThe Stroke Association Garden by Miria Harris

An elegantly sculptural screen shelters seating in the Stroke Association Garden for Recovery by Miria Harris.

Decking and grid surfaces

Decking had a huge wave of popularity in the early part of the 21st century and  became over-used. Now decking is back, floating slightly above the ground to allow worms, micro-organisms and other living things to survive under it. It’s also being used a raised walkway, so that gardens can flood underneath.

Metal grids are also being used in a similar way.

Close up of grid walkway in Tom Massey's Water Aid Garden.Close up of grid walkway in Tom Massey's Water Aid Garden.

Close up of grid walkway in Tom Massey’s Water Aid Garden.

Decking standing just above the planting in the National Autistic Garden by Sophie Parmenter and Dido MilneDecking standing just above the planting in the National Autistic Garden by Sophie Parmenter and Dido Milne

Decking standing just above the planting in the National Autistic Garden by Sophie Parmenter and Dido Milne

See how this look can work in a typical town garden by reading A Small Wildlife Garden for Towns and Cities.

Moss and mushrooms!

Think before you clear away moss and funghi. It’s now more widely recognised that very few funghi are damaging to the garden. And both moss and funghi have an important role to play in the environment. You don’t want to slip on a mossy path, so clear moss away where you have to, but otherwise leave both.

Logs and woodland by Emma TippingLogs and woodland by Emma Tipping

Funghi and mushrooms are an important part of our eco-system! There were stalls showcasing grow your own mushroom at RHS Chelsea 2024 as well as wildlife friendly areas where funghi are allowed to thrive. This display of grow-your own from Caleb Mushrooms is from A Day on The Nursery by Emma Tipping and Rosy Hardy.

Moss in the National Autistic Garden by Sophie Parmenter and Dido Milne.+Moss in the National Autistic Garden by Sophie Parmenter and Dido Milne.+

Don’t ‘get rid of’ your moss! It’s beautiful as you can see in this shady glade in the National Autistic Society Garden by Sophie Parmenter and Dido Milne.

I hope you enjoy visiting RHS Chelsea 2024 if you’re going in person. And next comes RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival (2nd-7th July).

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