Greening Grey Britain Garden

With more pollution and flooding in towns and cities, plants and gardens have never been needed more - this RHS garden tackled these pressing problems


Green Grey Britain Garden at Chelsea 2017
To illustrate the challenges of climate change and rapid urban development, the RHS Greening Grey Britain Garden, at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, was set within an urban landscape. The garden focused on practical and creative solutions for where space is at a premium, including balconies, and areas on and around the buildings themselves.
Designer, Professor Nigel Dunnett, said:

“Gardens and plants are no longer an optional and decorative ‘nice-to-have’, they’re essential. With pollution levels dangerously high in cities and flash-flooding devastating areas of the country, we need to all embrace the fact that plants help mitigate against some of the biggest environmental threats facing us today.”

Nigel used plants that soak-up pollution, as well as those which are drought tolerant, and incorporated water-sensitive design ideas, such as rain gardens and wetland areas to deal with flash flooding. Nigel’s typical ‘low-input, high impact’ planting style was used throughout to deliver a long-lasting, colourful display with minimal maintenance and high wildlife value. The modern garden was full of ecological ideas.
Greening Grey Britain garden

Large, multi-tiered structures which mirror apartment blocks also featured in the garden. These ‘creature towers’ provided a home for a wide range of wildlife such as insects and birds.

The garden was full of inspirational take-home ideas which were directly relevant to home gardeners and community groups, and Nigel used realistic and readily-available materials to make sure that this was an achievable project.

Other notable elements include:

  • bike storage
  • recycling and composting facilities
  • edible planting (including a 2.5 metre long communal meeting table which integrated fruit trees and herbs in its structure). 

Nigel added that:

“We know that gardens and gardening bring people together, and there’s now overwhelming evidence that they make us feel better and healthier. These ideas were central to the design.”

The garden, which is an unjudged show feature, also contains RHS Chelsea’s first ever street-art wall.

Key features:

  • RHS Greening Grey Britain Garden contained inspirational ideas for the future development of urban spaces
  • Adapted to climate-change, with ‘low-input, high-impact’ planting, water-sensitive design, biodiversity and habitat features, and pollution-soaking plants
  • Aimed to inspire people, communities and urban developers, set in the context of a high-rise apartment block
  • Showcased the first ever street-art wall at the RHS in the history of the show

Read more about Greening Grey Britain

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.