Naturalistic landscapes, pollinator plants and sustainability are all trends that are likely to take off after the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
This year’s show (running from May 24-28) celebrates wildflowers and woodlands, with naturalistic plantings dominated by green, says 2019 Chelsea Gold Medal winner Joe Perkins.
He has designed The Meta Garden: Growing The Future at the event, championing the connection between plants and fungi within woodlands and forests.
Garden designer Andrew Duff (andrewduffgardendesign.com), of the Society of Garden Designers and managing director of the Inchbald School Of Design in London, says: “There’s a very clear trend for foliage, almost harking back to the Seventies, with architectural planting coming through.”
There are far fewer typically manicured traditional gardens at this year’s show, replaced by a more informal, naturalistic look, as seen in A Rewilding Britain Landscape, designed by Lulu Urquhart and Adam Hunt — featuring unclipped hawthorn, hazel and field maple over a brook, with an old timber walkway and wildflower planting intermingling with grasses and marginal plants.
“It feels like the rule book’s been ripped up a bit,” says Duff. “All those quintessential things we expect in a garden — the symmetry, the amazing use of sculptures” — aren’t quite as present. “We will still have the colour pops, but with more of a green background.”
These are some of the biggest trends to emerge from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show…
“Multihued greens counterbalance rich plums and purples, seen in almost every garden,” says Perkins. “The majestic Papaver somniferum ‘Lauren’s Grape’ steals the show with its papery velvet deep plum petals, contrasting beautifully with its verdigris foliage.”
Dusky pink Verbascum ‘Petra’ are also evident in many of the gardens, along with deep purple lupins, foxgloves and deep red cirsium, a magnet for bees. White alliums have largely taken precedence over the classic deep blue varieties in this year’s show garden.
“British native trees can be seen in abundance too, including Crataegus monogyna (Hawthorn), Alnus glutinosa (alder), Cornus (dogwood) and Salix species (willow),” says Perkins.
“This year’s show is nature, nature, nature,” says RHS chief horticulturist Guy Barter.
“Wild meadows, wildflower roofs, plantings of herbaceous perennials, which are good for bees and pollinators and mimic the native meadow, are what we are seeing.”
This could impact trends at home, with Barter adding: “People will be leaving a bit of the lawn to grow and planting wildflower containers.”
Barter predicts people with small spaces will be planting in recycled containers and growing their own herbs and vegetables, as is demonstrated in some of the container and balcony gardens.
“Edibles and herbs can easily be grown in small spaces and balconies. Rosemary, hyssop and thyme can be grown in south-facing plots, and mint and chives do well in north-facing gardens. ”
Gardeners may be taking away ideas for creating their own yoga areas, outdoor gyms and even swim spas, from the 12 ‘sanctuary gardens’ at the show – spaces highlighting the benefits of gardening on our wellbeing.
Award-winning garden designer Sarah Eberle, an advocate for environmental sustainability who has designed the MEDITE SMARTPLY Building the Future show garden, a celebration of sustainability, innovation and wellness, says: “What will gardeners take away with them? It may be as simple as that plant with that plant, or it may be a sustainable product that I can use in future – to a whole discussion about sustainability.
“It’s about the importance of choosing your building materials wisely. In garden furniture, they use a lot of hardwood. Why? In my show garden I’m using a sustainable exterior grade MDF, which captures carbon as other timbers do, is guaranteed 50 years outside, and is sustainably made.”
Perkins says: “There’s no doubt about the fact the environment and our impact upon it has been at the forefront of the designers’ minds when the majority of the gardens were envisioned.
“Talking to fellow designers and contractors, an astonishing amount of repurposing and recycling of materials has taken place.”
Paving offcuts have been repurposed as dry stone walls, old tongue and groove school panelling has a new life as benches and seating, while a mix of recycled tarmacadam has been crushed and mixed with slate and bracken, to create paths and mulch.
“Natural materials abound with boulders, clay render, slate and timber all being used in different ways,” says Perkins.
While Duff has also noticed “a big turn towards traditional materials, such as York stone and brick”, he adds: “The big trend is recycling things. People want to know where it comes from how it got to their garden, and where it’s going next.”