May 24th, 2024
Posted In: Garden style & living

If you’re looking for recycled garden ideas, then this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show had them on almost every garden.

Recycling is a great money-saver, and it also gives a garden texture and character.

Stone, brick and timber recycled from National Trust properties are used in this Octavia Hill garden for the National Trust. This log seat is carved from a fallen oak on one of the estates.

The show gardens at this year had a ‘green audit’ to encourage sustainable gardening. They were required to use sustainable materials and recycled items, wherever possible.

But I think that this has anchored the gardens in reality. They had ideas you’d want in your own garden (see here for this year’s other RHS Chelsea garden ideas).

And the show also struck a good balance between the structured, sometimes formal gardens of a decade ago and the ‘wilderness’ gardens of recent years.

Recycled garden ideas from RHS Chelsea 2024Recycled garden ideas from RHS Chelsea 2024

What a difference a decade makes! The formal borders of nine or ten years ago have been replaced by relaxed and sustainable show gardens, almost all featuring some re-used elements.

So here is my pick of the best recycled garden ideas from the show, with tips on what to do if you want to try them out in your own garden.

Reclaimed timber for raised beds, sheds and seating

You can use reclaimed timber or pallets for fences, sheds, raised beds and seating, all found in several show gardens.

National Garden Scheme sustainable garden designed by Tom Stuart SmithNational Garden Scheme sustainable garden designed by Tom Stuart Smith

You can make a garden shed out of reclaimed timber, as with this hut in the National Garden Scheme show garden by Tom Stuart Smith. Find out more about building a shed from salvage in What Do You Need to Build a Unique Shed.

Reclaimed wood and pallet seats on the A Day on a Nursery at the Chelsea Flower Show.Reclaimed wood and pallet seats on the A Day on a Nursery at the Chelsea Flower Show.

Seating made of reclaimed pallet wood on A Day on the Nursery by Emma Tipping and Rosy Hardy.

recycled pallet wood made into raised beds.recycled pallet wood made into raised beds.

Use recycled pallet wood for raised beds, also in a Day on the Nursery show garden.

When buying or re-using pallets, check the codes stamped on the wood. Anything with IPCC (International Plant Protection Convention), DB (de-barked), HT (heat treated) and KD (Kiln dried) is safe to use. Never use pallets stamped with MB, because Methyl bromide is toxic.

And don’t use stained or coloured pallets as you won’t know what was used to stain or colour them.

You can get pallets and other reclaimed wood free through Freecycle, Freegle or sites like Facebook Marketplace.

Reclaimed wood fencing and bench Reclaimed wood fencing and bench

Reclaimed wood has been used to be create a screen and a bench in the RHS Britain in Bloom garden by James and Jon Wheatley. The screen has an unusual design of crossed wooden boards.

If you’re using reclaimed wood outside, then it will need a protective water-resistant coating, such as Osmo UV Protection Oil to help prevent weather damage. Some water-resistant products will change the colour of the wood, so do a test patch first.

Note: links to Amazon are affiliate, see disclosure.

Crushed concrete or brick as mulch!

When buildings are demolished, the result is a an aggregate of brick, concrete and even tiles.

This crushed rubble makes a good garden mulch. Or it can be used instead of gravel on paths.

Look online for ‘crushed builders rubble’, ‘crushed brick rubble’ or ‘crushed concrete rubble’. You should find some for sale near you.

An increasing number of garden designers are now using crushed brick, concrete or aggregate for mulches and paths.

Recycled builders concrete and brickRecycled builders concrete and brick

Recycled builders rubble made of concrete and brick on the RHS Chelsea Repurposed garden by Cityscape.

Recycled garden ideas for paths and paving

You don’t have to buy everything new when you create a path or paved area.

And if you’re replacing a path or patio, you’ll have to pay to have the old pavers taken away.

So you can re-use some of what you’ve got, buy small batches of pavers in sales or source pavers being sold or discarded from other gardens.

Several show gardens at RHS Chelsea 2024 used a mix of pavers and gravel for their paths, most of which were recycled.

Look for bricks and pavers in architectural salvage or reclamation yards. In the UK, Salvo is a directory of salvage yards. Freecycle, Freegle and Facebook Marketplace may also be a good source.

Mixed pavers used in the Terrence Higgins GardenMixed pavers used in the Terrence Higgins Garden

A stylish patchwork effect pavers and slate chippings in the Terrence Higgins garden by Matthew Childs. Stone and slate chippings are often a by-product of stone or slate quarried for pavers or roofs. You can just see the edge of reclaimed fencing on the boundaries, too.

The RHS Chelsea Repurposed garden by Cityscape using reclaimed paversThe RHS Chelsea Repurposed garden by Cityscape using reclaimed pavers

There are several different kind of pavers in this patchwork path. Every element of the RHS ‘Chelsea Repurposed’ garden by Cityscape is re-used, mainly from previous RHS Chelsea show gardens.

Recycled garden ideas - re-used tile flooring on the Alitex stand at RHS Chelsea 2024Recycled garden ideas - re-used tile flooring on the Alitex stand at RHS Chelsea 2024

Old floor tiles give a greenhouse character. Recycled flooring on the Alitex Greenhouses stand at RHS Chelsea 2024. The mis-matched design is particularly charming, as is the patina of age.

More recycled garden ideas

There were several gardens using rocks at the show. Most were either recycled or were by-products of a manufacturing process.

Buying rocks can be expensive.

But anyone removing rocks from their garden or another site has to pay for their removal, so you can also find them free (if you take them away) on Freegle, Freecycle and Facebook marketplace.

The Terrence Higgins Trust garden used reclaimed materials in the show garden.The Terrence Higgins Trust garden used reclaimed materials in the show garden.

A high percentage of the materials in this beautiful Terrence Higgins Trust ‘Bridge to 2030’ show garden by Matthew Childs were reclaimed materials, including the fence and patchwork metal retaining walls.

There’s more about creating a rock garden (and finding rocks) here.

Vintage garden furniture on the Alitex stand at RHS Chelsea.Vintage garden furniture on the Alitex stand at RHS Chelsea.

Vintage or second-hand garden furniture can save money and add character. This is also the Alitex Greenhouses stand at RHS Chelsea.  But you need to check that second-hand garden furniture is sound. Read What you need to know about buying garden furniture here.

Salvaged timber fence plus reclaimed water tanks in the Flood Re garden by Naomi Slade and Ed Barsley.Salvaged timber fence plus reclaimed water tanks in the Flood Re garden by Naomi Slade and Ed Barsley.

Salvaged timber fence plus reclaimed water tanks in the Flood Re garden by Naomi Slade and Ed Barsley. You can also make ponds out of agricultural equipment, such as cattle troughs. Find out how in how to create a beautiful container pond out of a trough here.

Recycled garden ideas in real gardens…

This post with 15 ways to transform your garden with upcycled junk has a list of the various ways you can buy thing to recycle or upcycle. This includes how to do swaps and exchange sites. It features my friend, Anna’s garden, which is decorated with quirky and intriguing upcycled things from offices, shops and more.

And see Kathy Pickering’s tips on finding things for free in this post on creating a rustic cottage garden on a shoestring budget .

She has used the frame of a sprung sofa as a trellis and using old bins and buckets for planters.

Vintage and upcycled garden ideasVintage and upcycled garden ideas

The top photo shows Kathy’s sofa-frame trellis and the picture below it shows Anna’s collection of upcycled garden art.

Pin to remember recycled garden ideas from RHS Chelsea 2024

And do join us – see here for a free weekly email with more gardening tips, ideas and inspiration.

Recycled garden ideasRecycled garden ideas