The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is the most prestigious horticultural event in the world and each year, the Show Gardens, Artisan Gardens, Space to Grow Gardens and various feature gardens give us inspiration to take home and recreate in our own outdoor spaces.
For 2019, green roofs, dramatic boulders and mini forests are the hallmarks of this year’s show. But what else makes the list? Here are the biggest trends from this year's show, as seen in gardens designed by members of the , including Andy Sturgeon, Tom Hoblyn, Jo Thompson, Tom-Stuart-Smith and many more. It's time to get inspired!
The natural landscape is a major influence in gardens of all sizes this year. Joe Perkins MSGD imagines the ever-changing coastal landscape using naturalistic seaside planting including Agapanthus, Sea Kale and the Australian Cushion Bush, while Tom Hoblyn MSGD takes inspiration from the wind-blown sand dunes of arid landscapes for his Middle Eastern garden.
More easily replicated is the planting on the Warner’s Distillery garden by Helen Elks-Smith MSGD, inspired by the English countryside and including a wildflower turf embedded with local species of Cowslip, Achillia and Harebell and a swathe of native hedgerow. Elsewhere, in Sue Hayward’s artisan garden, the designer has created a haven for wildlife.
Image: Tom Hoblyn MSGD
Woodlands and forests abound at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, suggesting that we’ll be seeing a lot more domestic woodland gardens in the future, including ‘mini forests’ in smaller urban gardens.
Aside from Kate Middleton's Back to Nature garden, most notable is the Resilience Garden designed by Sarah Eberle FSGD, which showcases the 'forests of the future' by using trees that are resilient to climate change. Andy Sturgeon FSGD has also chosen a woodland landscape, colonising it with young trees, ferns and jewel-like flowers; while Andrew Duff MSGD has created a sustainable woodland clearing featuring bio diverse trees that celebrate the environmental benefits of woodland. Elsewhere, Jonathan Snow brings the temperate rainforests of South America to the show.
Image: Andrew Duff MSGD
If you shy away from bright colours, you’ll be pleased to see that greens, whites and pale yellows are dominating the planting palettes of the gardens this year with texture and form supplying extra interest.
Ferns, once left languishing in the shadows, are seeing a particular resurgence creating a vibrant green foliage on both Andy Sturgeon and Sarah Eberle’s gardens, as well as featuring on the Warner’s Distillery garden designed by Helen Elks-Smith. In Addition, Kate Gould MSGD has mixed Aspidistra, normally used as an indoor plant, with swathes of Hostas and trees ferns punctuated by explosions of yellow Irises and Lupins to create a calming and uplifting space for Greenfingers Charity, and Tom Stuart-Smith MSGD uses a palette of greens on his garden for RHS Bridgewater.
Image: Kate Gould MSGD
A wonderful way to draw the eye to different parts of the garden, frames created by architectural forms such as pergolas are an easy way to add a little bit of Chelsea to any garden. Jo Thompson’s garden is dominated by a striking classical colonnade guiding the visitor through it by offering ever changing framed views, each with a different perspective on the landscape that has been created, while Tom Stuart-Smith has incorporated two large steel frames to create a sense of containment and drama in his large, contemporary garden for the RHS.
Image: Jo Thompson MSGD
Rocks are big at this year’s RHS Chelsea, a trend easily replicated at any scale to add drama to gardens big or small. Going big, Jilyane Rickards MSGD has included huge red boulders, roughly hewn and balanced on top of one another in her African-inspired garden for CAMFED, while Andy Sturgeon’s garden features a staircase of vast English ironstone platforms and Joe Perkins includes dramatic rock formations inspired by the coast. Sarah Eberle also incorporates large lichen-covered boulders to punctuate her woodland setting.
On a smaller scale, Tom Hoblyn uses burnt sienna gravel on his paths to mimic the eroded rocks of an arid landscape, and for a more structured look, Helen Elks-Smith has designed a pavilion made of traditional dry stone walling alongside a rustic limestone water trough.
Leaving no space untouched, the growing trend for green roofs and walls is evident on gardens large and small at this year’s show, including Helen Elk-Smith’s garden for Warner’s Gin which features a vibrant living roof of Sedums, Euphorbias and Thyme; and Andrew Duff’s garden featuring the largest green wall ever seen at RHS Chelsea planted with a mix of ferns, grasses, ivies and herbaceous flowering plants.
With outdoor space at a premium, vertical gardens are a wonderful way to incorporate greenery into any garden especially in urban areas.
Image: Helen Elks-Smith MSGD
There are lots of ways to add water to the garden and this year inspiration comes from the natural world. If you’re looking for a dramatic effect, Jonathan Snow incorporates waterfalls cascading into a pool below, while Joe Perkins uses the eroding force of coastal waves as the inspiration for the water in his garden.
For a calmer, more relaxed feeling, Helen Elks-Smith takes inspiration from natural springs creating a series of water features that appear and disappear throughout the garden creating gentle arcs and streams that flow quietly through the space. Creating a similar effect, Andy Sturgeon incorporates a series of clear streams trickling quietly through his design, while Tom Hoblyn and Andrew Duff have both designed oasis-like pools of water to create a feeling of tranquility and calm.
Image: Tom Hoblyn MSGD
The delicate white flowers and fern-like foliage of cow parsley has proved especially popular on Show Gardens this year, a planting trend that will add a naturalistic charm to any garden.
Andrew Duff uses the umbrella-like clusters of white frothy flowers to decorate his woodland glade alongside bright yellow buttercups, and Helen Elks-Smith incorporates it into a swathe of native hedgerow that wraps around the central pavilion on her garden for Warner’s Distillery.
Elsewhere, Jo Thompson adds it to a mass of dynamic planting around a central stone colonnade creating a soft, textured feel.
Image: Andrew Duff MSGD
A mainstay of RHS Chelsea, bold sculptural forms are a wonderful way to add drama to a garden. This year, Andy Sturgeon and Tom Hoblyn lead the way, both incorporating striking features inspired by the power of nature into their gardens.
In his garden for M&G, Andy Sturgeon uses huge burnt timber sculptures to represent natural rock formations that slice through the woodland planting, while Tom Hoblyn uses traditional earth rendering techniques to create sand dune-like shapes weaving through the garden to create a series of dramatic raised beds.
Image: Andy Sturgeon FSGD
An easy element to introduce into any outdoor space whether as a sculpture, planter or screen, metalwork has taken on a more decorative edge this year. The copper fascia framing the roof of Helen Elks-Smith’s dry stone wall pavilion features a beautiful hammered detail creating a pattern of patinaed pit marks.
Colm Joseph and Duncan Cargill have designed a series of freestanding lazer-cut metal screens in galvanized steel for their first RHS Chelsea garden, and Jo Thompson MSGD uses striking industrial metalwork to offset the delicate planting in her garden for Wedgwood.
Image: Colm Joseph & Duncan Cargill