When it comes to setting the agenda for our outdoor spaces for the rest of the year, Chelsea Flower Show is effectively the Paris Fashion Week of the gardening world. The highlight of the horticultural year, the RHS show shines a light on bold new emerging garden trends and design talent, but it also showcases what can be achieved in small gardens, or in some cases no garden at all.
We were fortunate enough to attend the illustrious gardening event on press day and used the opportunity to track down the best AND most accessible trends for you. If you’re looking for a smart way to update your front garden ideas, or simply want to be in the know of what’s next for the rewilding garden trend. Here are all the Chelsea Flower Show garden trends to know about.
Chelsea Flower Show Garden Trends
Chelsea Flower Show 2023 focused on the themes of inclusivity and accessible gardening for all, minimum effort for maximum reward, the benefits of gardening on health and wellbeing, and gardening responsibly in light of an ever-changing climate.
Throughout the show, we saw these themes translating into trends in the ground cover, planting, hard landscaping and materials that were used across the show gardens and other displays. Here were a few of the trends we spotted that you can easily add to your garden right now.
1. Living pantry
Outdoor kitchen ideas are booming in popularity alongside the trend to grow your own following recent vegetable supermarket shortages. The Savills Garden was one of the show gardens that highlighted this with a fully working kitchen garden, whipping up food growing in nearby raised beds for the Chelsea Pensioners (a Chelsea Flower Show first). It wove together ornamental and edible planting, demonstrating how beautiful and functional what we’re going to call a living pantry can be.
If you want to try this at home, consider adding a mix of raised planters around your outdoor kitchen. Alternatively, if you are short on space, you can recreate the concept of a living pantry with vertical planters made out of old pallets. If you’re new to growing your own start with easy herbs or try out a subscription service such as pot gang.
2. Pollinator friendly-planting
The Chelsea Flower Show’s shift to highlighting the importance of our gardens in supporting insects, bees and other wildlife through rewilding might have come under fire from celebrity gardener Alan Titchmarsh, however, the trend for pollinator planting is thriving. Building on the tapestry lawn trend, the Royal Entomological Society Garden designed by Tom Massey, showed how beautiful planting for pollinators can be – and by that, we mean all insects, not just bees.
This garden isn’t just for show, at the end of the week it will be relocated to a permanent location at IQL Stratford in East London for insect research. You can channel the trend without spending a penny, by taking part in no-mow May and embracing lawn weeds such as dandelions.
However, if you want to take it into your garden border ideas look to colourful, nectar-rich blooms such as lavender, cosmos, asters and borage. Another quick hack is to try adding wildflower turf to your garden from a brand such as Lindum Wildflower turf, shortlisted for Chelsea Flower Show sustainable product of the year.
3. Nostalgia planting
While we noticed that much of the planting at Chelsea this year was quite paired back in colour, we saw plenty of lovely traditional cottage garden ideas creeping in. Nostalgiacore is an interior trend recognised by mental health experts as a way to ease anxiety by filling your home with comforting and familiar items. It doesn’t seem surprising then that in the midst of an anxiety-inducing cost of living crisis, this nostalgia is seeping into our gardens with a renewed fascination with traditional British blooms many of us remember from our nans gardens growing up.
In fact, two new cottage garden plants were wow-ing audiences in the Chelsea Flower Show plant of the year shortlist. A beautiful purple clematis, bred by RHS Chelsea veteran Raymond J. Evison at his Guernsey Clematis Nursery called Clematis ‘Tumaini’. Alongside two new beautiful light pink sweet pea varieties from Darren Everest Dahlias called Lizanne Davies and Dawn Everest.
4. Grow your own mushrooms
Yes, you read that right, grow your own mushrooms. Mushrooms are making a splash this year, taking centre stage in the Centre for Mental Health’s The Balance Garden and in the Pavillion. The first specific mushroom growers ever at RHS Chelsea Flower Show also took their place in the great Pavillion, in the form of Caley Bros, suppliers of grow-at-home kits.
We were sceptical at first as mushrooms aren’t often considered an aesthetically pretty addition to a garden. But we won over by the blush pink and mauve sculptural growths, not to mention the culinary potential of growing your own at home.
If you’re a mushroom-lover keen to hop on this trend don’t expect immediate results. While one of the Caley Bros mushroom growing kits costs just £15, you will have to wait 9 months to 1 year for your first batch. However, once you get your first mushroom you can expect many more for the next three years.
5. Terracotta landscaping
An extension of the Mediterranean garden trend, terracotta landscaping was having a serious moment at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show this year. The earthy hue was showcased the best in Hampton’s Mediterranean Sanctuary Garden, where it was paired with traditional Mediterranean planting including scented shrubs, aromatic herbs and drought-tolerant ornamental perennials.
We also spotted the soothing terracotta hues in The Nurture Landscapes Garden, which features a stunning ombre terracotta wall, alongside creative brick structures.
6. Sustainable materials
Whether it was in repurposed wooden stumps in the show gardens, or wooden cladding and seating in the container and sanctuary gardens, sustainable materials, especially wood, played a big role in the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Our favourite example of this trend was in the Restorative Balcony Garden sponsored by Viking which featured wooden cladding as a stunning backdrop to the serene space. It was a genius balcony garden idea to create the illusion of a spacious and peaceful outdoor space.
Throughout the show gardens, sustainable and recycled materials were elevated into works of art, showing how you don’t need to spend a fortune to create a Chelsea-worthy garden.
Jumping on this Chelsea Garden Show trend might require a little elbow grease, but it can often work out cheaper or even completely free if you know where to look for secondhand or reclaimed materials.
7. Jewel gardens
A jewel garden was at the heart of the Myeloma UK – A Life Worth Living Garden. An explosion of colour it sat in the opposing camp to other gardens opting for serene and peaceful greens.
A jewel garden is just like it sounds a garden filled with an explosion of rich, gem-stone coloured flowers. Think emerald greens, sapphire blues and ruby reds, with plants such as Alliums, Dahlias, Tullips, Calendula and Buddleja. This garden trend isn’t just for spring and summer, include autumnal plants to ensure you have year round colour to bring a smile to your face.
8. Gravel gardens
Nearly every Chelsea show garden had one feature in common – gravel. We have seen gravel garden ideas coming through as a trend over the last year as an alternative to traditional mulch.
It is a secret weapon for anyone looking for a low-maintenance garden idea. While gravel gardens lend themselves to Mediterranean-style drought-tolerant planting, the design duo behind the Memoria & GreenAcres Transcendence Garden, Gavin McWilliam and Andrew Wilson, were keen to highlight that it can still be used with more traditional British plants as they had used it. In fact, it has the added benefit of creating a myriad of weaving paths through a garden.
If we had to give one plant a shout-out from Chelsea it would be the humble hosta. Hosta envy was very real at Chelsea Flower Show, alongside other low-maintenance plants such as ferns. We spotted them adding texture and making a statement in the most serene green show gardens.
The shade-loving and easy-going plants will work in most gardens that have a little bit of shade and moist planting medium. They can be planted straight into borders or work brilliantly in containers. Just watch out for slugs with hostas as they love munching on their green leaves.
Whether you have a windowsill or a sprawling garden, be inspired to get a little creative with the small patch of outdoor space you’re responsible for in this world.