The important role that gardening and growing plants can play in tackling some of the biggest issues facing us today was a key theme at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
Designs celebrated how gardens can be beautiful havens to escape and enjoy, bringing a sense of normality to fractured lives, as well as how they can help to tackle major environmental issues.
Sue Biggs CBE, Director General of the RHS says:
“It was fantastic to see the gardens at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show reminding us all of the power of plants and the huge impact gardening and green spaces can have on so many aspects of our lives.”
RHS Feel Good Garden
The RHS Feel Good Garden encouraged visitors to sit back and soak up the benefits that a garden can offer. Designed by Matt Keightley, two-time winner of the RHS/BBC People’s Choice Award at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, it was a contemporary and therapeutic space that focused on health and wellbeing.
The design highlighted how gardening, or simply being in a garden or green space, can make you feel happier and healthier. There's increasing evidence that gardens and gardening can have a positive impact our health, and promoting this important message was a key element of this garden.
Matt is also designing a health and wellbeing themed garden around the Centre for Horticultural Science and Learning at RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey, and the RHS Feel Good Garden at Chelsea has been inspired by his plans for the Garden there, which will open in 2020.
The Lemon Tree Trust Garden
The power of plants to improve people’s lives was embodied in debut designer Tom Massey's Show Garden, inspired by the ingenuity, resilience and determination of people in situations of forced migration.
Syrian refugees of the Domiz Camp in Northern Iraq were involved with the design, which showed their incredible ability to make the most from the harsh landscape and living conditions.
The garden showcased a drought-tolerant planting scheme typical of the region, with trees laden with fruit, providing scent and crops to harvest. The garden also included edibles and herbs used in Middle Eastern cooking, alongside cultivars of the Damask Rose - thought to originate from Syria - and renowned for its heady fragrance.
Ingenious vertical planting, inspired by refugees’ use of everyday objects, provided visitors with ideas for growing plants in limited spaces. The importance of the reuse of grey water was also acknowledged within the design, with recycled water emerging from an Islamic-inspired fountain in the centre of the garden.
The garden was filled with reclaimed, reused, repurposed and upcycled materials. From reclaimed brick walls, to plastic bottles used as planters, the ideas, although sourced directly from refugee gardens in the Domiz camp, were equally relevant for gardeners with small plots or limited space in the UK.
The Weston Garden
Tom Stuart-Smith, master planner for the new RHS Garden Bridgewater, took centre stage in The Great Pavilion with a celebration of 60 years of the Garfield Weston Foundation. The Weston Garden welcomed visitors into a romantic and inspirational garden, with secret spaces revealed around every corner. A secluded refuge was tucked away in the centre.
The garden, which balanced modernity with tradition, had plenty of ideas to take home. Most of the items were recycled; some of the plants had been to Chelsea before and were borrowed for the show, while reclaimed York stone and limestone slips helped to promote the message of environmental responsibility and sustainability.
At the heart of the garden, three large flowering Cornus kousa set the tone for the planting, which was dominated by plants that thrive in good, moisture-retentive soil such as Rodgersia, Iris sibirica, Thalictrum, Disporum and Euphorbia wallichii.
The garden was designed with four entrances to allow visitors to view it from different angles. This emphasised the open approach of the Weston Foundation and the support it has given to charities across the UK to help make them more accessible to the public. The openness at the front of the garden developed into a more wooded area at the back where there were steps up to a small terrace. A screen of tall trees including holm oak and beech created a tall leafy backdrop.
Along with the power to make us feel better, this year's gardens at Chelsea also highlighted the environmental challenges that face us, and provided some ingenius solutions.
Tony Woods, RHS Young Designer of the year 2013, designed his garden, Urban Flow, to accommodate the conditions of a changing climate. This design created a vision for water conservation and environmentally-considerate landscaping, while maintaining a practical and versatile outdoor living space. His clever planting within the design was used to deflect and process pollution and excess rainfall, as well as to attract and sustain wildlife.
The Pearlfisher Garden, from the Space to Grow garden category, addressed the devastating impact of plastic waste on our oceans while also celebrating the beauty of its underwater gardens. The garden featured a series of aquatic tanks containing fish with cacti and succulents used to imitate the structure and form of underwater coral. The design was a call-to-action to brands, businesses and designers to create sustainable lifecycles for products and packaging.
Discover more about the 2018 Chelsea Flower Show Gardens
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Explore the 2018 Highlights