Small gardens make big impact at RHS Chelsea

Two new garden categories celebrating urban green spaces made a big impression in 2021. They were packed with ideas for the tiniest of gardens

Balcony Gardens

We challenged five new-to-Chelsea designers to each create a pocket-sized realistic garden in the footprint of generous 2m x 5m balcony. These capsule gardens illustrated how to bring urban areas to life, with practical solutions for workable outdoor areas.

Martha Krempel’s garden Arcadia was about providing an escape from the bustle of city life with lush planting providing interest wherever one looks.
A central feature of this design was a set of doors, uncovered in a dusty lock-up in Surrey early in 2020. They had previously been rescued from a palace in India destined for demolition but were kept in storage for more than 20 years. They were discovered by Martha when she was searching for the perfect set of doors for her design.

Meanwhile Alexandra Noble demonstrated that small spaces can be both beautiful and practical in her Balcony of Blooms.

Two spindle trees (Euonymus planipes) provide a sense of enclosure while benches double as raised spaces for pots and hidden storage. A green perimeter of herbs surounds the balcony.

As well as creating a haven for humans, this garden emphasises environmental considerations with planting that is drought tolerant, beneficial to pollinators or both.

Also placing an emphasis on wildlife is The Landform Balcony Garden, designed to be a place to relax and entertain.

Nicola Hale’s design incorporated Helianthus, Salvia, Aster and Hyssop to create a bright, sunny palette attractive to bees and with late summer flowering interest.

Her balcony aimed to add habitat to the wildlife corridors that exist in cities.

The importance of gardening to mental health was a theme running through several of the designs but James Smith placed it at the very heart of his Green Sky Pocket Garden.
He aimed to create a space that improves mental health and wellbeing by cloaking the garden with vegetation.

People can take a breath, pause and enjoy the surrounding planting of Mexican fleabane (Erigeron karvinskianus), rosemary, lavender and two strawberry trees (Arbutus unedo). 

Meanwhile, Michael Coley aimed to provide a place of calm with his garden Sky Sanctuary aims to provide a place of calm.

His planting choice of ferns, Japanese anemones, Geranium Rozanne and a Burkwood osmanthus (Osmanthus × burkwoodii) would all do well on a north facing balcony.

It was a quiet place tucked away up high in the sky for contemplation and relaxation from the busy world around.

Plants seen in the Balcony Gardens

Container Gardens

This category provided plenty of ideas for using containers to maximise outdoor space or for those who want to take their gardens with them when they move. The 4m x 3m spaces featured an array of container styles from repurposed IBC containers planted to resemble tiny forests, to hand built ceramics, powder-coated metal and galvanised zinc containers full of lush, playful and exotic planting.

Gardens in this category include the The Hot Tin Roof Garden, designed by Ellie Edkins and inspired by a life lived near the beach. There’s also John McPherson’s vibrant, playful Pop Street Garden, inspired by pop art and The IBC Pocket Forest, designed by Sara Edwards and reminiscent of Milan’s Bosco Verticale.

Japanese designer Mika Misawa hopes to evoke a sense of calm with A Tranquil Space in the City which uses just five plants, while Anna Dabrowska-Jaudi attempts to translate human emotions into two contrasting planting schemes in The Stolen Soul Garden

Plants you might have seen in the Container Gardens

You might also like...

Get involved

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.