Highlights and trends from RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023: sustainability, wildlife and weeds

Gardens that includes extra weeds and much less formality have taken centre stage at this 12 months’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show, inserting extra emphasis on letting nature take management.

Native crops and timber, nettles, dandelions and a predominantly inexperienced palette of planting characteristic in lots of the 36 present gardens, together with salvaged and upcycled supplies. Elsewhere, large bursts of color stay within the Great Pavilion, whereas first-time exhibitors embrace mushroom growers the Caley Bros.

This 12 months’s present is prone to spark controversy, reckons backyard designer Andrew Duff, co-chair of the Society of Garden Designers and managing director of the Inchbald School of Design.

“There’s a clear message about sustainability and environmental factors in an aesthetic way. There’s a loss about actually, what is a garden supposed to do?” he says. “Right across the show, the inference is that nature’s taking control… maybe that it’s OK to let weeds grow and let things get a little bit ruinous.

“But at the end of the day, people like a lawn, they like to look after a space – that’s part of being in a garden – and it’s time that we need (to address) that controversy,” Duff provides.

Reflecting on the subject, Matthew Pottage, curator of RHS Garden Wisley, says: “We are having a climate crisis. We do need to garden environmentally sensitively. Is this the place to be showing that? It’s arguably the world’s best flower show, so this is the place.”

5 spotlight gardens from this 12 months’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Centrepoint Garden

Love it or hate it, this backyard is prone to trigger a stir with its partly demolished home, so-called ‘weeds’ and a fallen tree. Designer Cleve West has admitted it’s a ‘Marmite garden’ – individuals will like it or hate it.

“There’s a sense of abandonment, which is so clever. Cleve West has done a partly demolished ruined house with the idea of nature taking over,” Duff observes. “He’s saying it’s a metaphor for what it is to be young and homeless. There are nettles and dandelion seedheads. It’s really going to question what beauty is in a plant – and I think we need to have that discussion.”

Nurture Landscapes Garden

If you’re trying to take house some crops with you, be impressed by the attractive Benton irises in wealthy shades of pastels and deep yellows which you’ll see in designer Sarah Price’s Nurture Landscapes present backyard, impressed by the artist and plantsman Cedric Morris.

Memoria and GreenAcres Transcendence Garden

Designers Gavin McWilliam and Andrew Wilson’s backyard goals to ship an uplifting non secular house, reflecting the emotional expertise on the finish of life (it’s going to a bereavement website after the present).

“Controversially, they’ve used concrete, but with the idea that this concrete is going to be around for hundreds of years,” says Duff. “It’s not a single use concrete.

“It has a simple palette of planting, is cool and calm and you immediately feel rested. The minimal use of materials and colour palette was really special and a moment of calm in the entire show. It was a relief to get to it,” Duff provides.

Myeloma UK – A Life Worth Living Garden

Top designer Chris Beardshaw’s backyard has a way more conventional backyard really feel, with a structured order within the vibrant planting in opposition to a backdrop of clipped yew, together with peonies and salvias, plus impressed woodland planting.

Horatio’s Garden

Putting wheelchair entry on the forefront of their design, Charlotte Harris and Hugo Bugg (Harris Bugg Studio), have created the eighth backyard for the eponymous charity, which builds gardens to enhance the lives of individuals with spinal wire harm.

The wheelchair-accessible house, influenced by the methods of seeing from a mattress or a wheelchair, options tactile stone cairn and a desk water characteristic to encourage wildlife, whereas a backyard pod supplies a cocooning place for bodily and emotional shelter. After the present it will likely be relocated to Sheffield’s Princess Royal Spinal Cord Injuries Centre.

“There’s an incredible depth of planting, which is mind-blowingly beautiful, and beehives of warm cut stone which kind of replace topiary – they’ve made topiary out of stone,” says Duff.

Top trends 

These are a number of the key gardening trends to emerge from this 12 months’s occasion.Wildlife

“Unsurprisingly, there’s going to be the awareness of wildlife-friendly planting,” says Pottage. “There’s lots of habitat in gardens, but hopefully showing that can be beautiful as well. There are lots of logpiles, lots of water, lots of native plants, but also lots of gardenesque planting.”

Reclaimed and reused

Crushed concrete, piles of rubble, naked sand, re-used bricks and different recycled materials dominate lots of the present gardens’ pathways and kind ornamental options in a number of gardens. There’s a message to get gardeners fascinated by how they could reuse supplies, which previously headed for the skip.

“All the gardens have a destination, which is really important,” says Pottage – the present gardens are all being relocated after the present.

Award-winning designer Tom Massey, who has this 12 months designed The Royal Entomological Society Garden, predicts: “Reuse of waste materials is going to be a big thing.”

He makes use of crushed development waste in his present backyard, together with crushed bricks and concrete to create a textured, aesthetic backdrop for the planting together with deadwood. “These waste materials are really good habitat for insects,” he factors out.


People will likely be inspired to develop native crops, from hazel to cow parsley, whereas these looking for color might go for irises, that are prevalent at this 12 months’s present. There’s additionally a resurgence of frequent yew (Taxus baccata) and different acquainted crops together with a cloud pine, Eleagnus ‘Quicksilver’

Drought-tolerant crops are additionally being pushed – some 55% of perennials within the present gardens are drought-tolerant, virtually double that of final 12 months, together with fennel, salvia and cistus.


Dandelions and different weeds characteristic in a number of the gardens. Chelsea gold medallist Cleve West notes: “People get their knickers in a twist about weeds but they are the pioneer plants that stitch everything together.

“It’s just getting people to understand that all the things we kill with herbicides and pesticides can look quite beautiful,” West provides. “Just be more tolerant, and if you have a space where you can let nature take its course, it’s got to be good for wildlife and insects.”

Massey provides: “Dandelions are an early source of pollen and nectar for bees – and insects are in mass decline, so we need to be more considerate in the way we manage and maintain our gardens.”


“We are seeing nature becoming the sculpture,” says Duff, citing designer Sarah Price’s Nurture Landscapes Garden Mediterranean cloud pine. There are pillows of yew within the Memoria and GreenAcres Transcendence Garden.

Nods to the Royal Family abound, from bronze bust of the King in A Garden of Royal Reflection and Celebration, which options a number of the Windsor household’s favorite crops together with roses and camassia, plus a number of crowns that includes flora and fauna.

Standing at just below 7m is the most important driftwood sculpture ever displayed at Chelsea, a Wyvern dragon perched on a tree, the centrepiece of sculptor James Doran-Webb’s exhibit.

And paying homage to the unsung heroines of horticulture at The Monument is the ‘Women in Horticulture’ exhibit honouring the likes of Janaki Ammal, Beth Chatto and Gertrude Jekyll.

Bigging up small areas

Guy Barter, chief horticulturist for the RHS, says individuals are prone to be planting greater timber on their balconies and additionally utilizing drought-tolerant species. “This year there’s a pollinator section, a wildlife bath, and drought-resistant plants.”

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