The world’s greatest flower show is back and it’s better than ever, says Sam Wylie-Harris.
We’ve waited a long time to immerse ourselves into the wonderful world of haute horticulture and, when it comes to drama, elegance, cutting-edge design and thrill of the unexpected, nobody does it better than the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
For the first time in its 108-year history, we’re swinging through the turnstiles in September (21 to 26), rather than the darling buds of May, so the planting, colour schemes and petal power are a gamechanger for exhibitors, with designers having to adapt to the change in season.
It’s set to be a very exciting show. Here’s what’s hot, so you can get a head start…
The show gardens…
The M&G Garden
Show sponsors M&G have enlisted award-winning garden designers Charlotte Harris and Hugo Bugg to bring their pocket park vision to life, with the help of repurposed metal pipework. Cited as an urban slice of green and mapped out to be a shared garden in a public space, the flagship show garden features more than 3,000 pollution-tolerant plants, re-used industrial sheet piling, reclaimed paving and pools of water fringed by pipework sculpture. Look out for special surprises as you journey through.
The Florence Nightingale Garden: A celebration of modern-day nursing
A restorative garden with wellbeing at its core, the ‘nurture through nature’ theme will pull at many heart strings after such a turbulent year and a half. Honouring 200 years since Florence Nightingale’s birth, nursing and healthcare, think an imaginary courtyard garden for a new hospital. Late-flowering perennials, grasses and bulbs are topped by a timber pergola with shady places to sit, reflect and relax.
The Trailfinders’ 50th Anniversary Garden
A green adventure marking 50 years since the travel company first organised trips to Kathmandu in 1970, intrepid travellers will love getting lost in the landscape of the Himalayan foothills. Here, you’ll discover a shelter inspired by the vernacular architecture of the region, a wonderful collection of native plants, such as coniferous evergreen trees, flowering meadow rues, knotweeds and exotic ginger lilies. Just the ticket for a smattering of fragrant wanderlust.
The Saatchi Gallery
Art in the open air, The Saatchi Gallery is showcasing works by Watford-born contemporary artist Dan Rawlings, whose vision of a forest is brought to life by a van. Hand cut into the walls of a repurposed transit van, the work’s aim is to ‘spark a dialogue about our interaction with nature and dependency on industry’. Surrounded by reshaped traffic lights and roadworks signage, we’re giving Rawlings the green light – who wouldn’t want to hitch a ride in his eye-catching installation?
The Yeo Valley Organic Garden
The first organic show garden approved by The Soil Association, this haven of healthy, fertile soil is home to a range of habitats and plants to encourage wildlife and support pollinators – inspired by the real organic garden and farmland at the Yeo Valley family-owned farm in Somerset Adapting to the season, it’s teeming with gauzy grasses, late-summer hues and trees in fruit instead of blossom. Beyond the meadow and flowing stream is an egg-shaped structure to sit and admire this glorious setting and natural beauty.
Houseplants are making their entrance to demonstrate how you really can create a lush oasis within your four walls, and fill every room with glorious greenery.
Six studios – Forest in Your Home, Pharmacy of House Plants Green Bathroom Retreat, Celebrate Autumn with House Plants, The Green Room and The Office by the RHS – are showcasing a wide range of foliage, from palms to orchids, an abundance of trailing ferns, cacti, terrariums and air plants, to illustrate how living with green is good for the mind, body and soul.
Inspiring new categories…
Balcony and Container Gardens
Pots with panache and chic containers are where it’s at when it comes to creating something special without, um, a garden. And we couldn’t be happier to know you can cultivate a petite plot – a patio or terrace will do nicely, thank you. A prominent theme running through the boutique designs is the benefit of plants for our health and the environment, plus the bonus of being able to take your botanicals with you.
The 4×3-metre spaces provide an array of container styles, from those planted to resemble tiny forests, to metals, glass and ceramics full of floral flair.
Check out Pop Street Garden for its pops of colour and playful planting.
The Hot Tin Roof Garden is inspired by ‘a life lived by the beach’ and a cosy coastline no one knows about but you.
And make a beeline for the Balcony of Blooms where pollinator-friendly flowers and culinary herbs bookended by two leafy trees imbibe happy thoughts of a room with a view.