Designers went for relaxed, natural planting
The overwhelming trend at the 2019 show was that of using native plants, or at least selections of plants that grow wild in the UK. So many of the gardens were woodland inspired featuring lush, if understated, naturalistically styled underplanting, including plants such as Digitalis (foxglove), Anthriscus (cow parsley) ragged robin, red campion and grasses such as Deschampsia. Many also had boundary hedges of native species such as field maple (Acer campstre). Linked to this was the feel many gardens have of re-wilding – being reclaimed by nature. The manicured look is out, soft and relaxed is most certainly in.
Green was the colour of choice
Linked to the wild, native plant trend, the predominant colour from almost all gardens this year was green, mostly from the preponderance of lush foliage (there were relatively few Mediterranean-style, drought conscious gardens in 2019) but also from green flowers such as Tellima grandiflora, Angelica archangelica, euphorbias, and on at least two gardens, rare evergreen Trochodendron aralioides, covered in its green bell-shaped blooms. The Greenfingers Charity Garden even used green wall tiles.
Big trees are in
Trees – lots of trees as big as possible – were the essential garden feature. Statement specimen trees are a Chelsea mainstay, but seldom has a show featured gardens as filled with large trees as 2019. Some such as the RHS Back to Nature Garden (mixed) or the M&G Garden (lots of Nothofagus, southern beech) were filled with them, using them not as specimens but collectively to provide a sense of enclosure and serenity. And often the trees were selections of familiar species, or they at least avoid an exotic fee. Gone were the silvery olive trees of just a few years ago.
If you plant a perennial, plant a geum
Many of the gardens included geums in their planting. These easily grown perennials often begin flowering at Chelsea time, so have often been seen at the show, but there seemed to be more than ever in 2019. This was partly due to an increase in new selections and the fact these varied plants fit well into 2019 trends. Some were understated (and native such as G. rivale, water avens) as seen on the M&G Garden, others taller, showier and of fiery hues, such as the selections glowing like fallen embers in the Walkers Forgotten Quarry.
Low-key garden structures were on trend this year
Building on the understated feel, few gardens in 2019 included elaborate pavilions, studios and garden rooms as focal points. While many had a building of sorts, they tended to be simple and open to the elements such as in the RHS Bridgewater Garden and the Warners Distillery Garden.
Simple flowers used sparingly
Although lush foliage was a take-home planting trend, a closer look and flowers were everywhere, used as jewels sparkling amid the greenery, such as the mix of ragged robin, borrage, Echium and other bee-friendly flowers at the front of the Resilience Garden. They tended however to be blooms of understated beauty; Cornus (flowering dogwood) were a key example, be they tree-sized selections such as on the Greenfingers Charity Garden or ground covering C. canadensis, as on RHS Back to Nature Garden. Blousy double flowers were few and far between.