RHS Chelsea trends – going wild with plants

The world’s greatest flower show always has surprises up its floral sleeves – 2022 was no exception with some familiar native plants seen in a whole new light


It might be a familiar hedgerow plant but hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) took centre-stage at RHS Chelsea 2022. Multi-stemmed specimens featured in several show gardens, including the Brewin Dolphin Garden and The New Blue Peter Garden, but most striking of all were the table-top or parasol-trained hawthorns in The Perennial Garden

Why hawthorn? Firstly it's one of our toughest native shrubs, shrugging off drought and growing well in almost any soil. It also has brilliant wildlife value, with bee-friendly spring blossom and red fruits in autumn that are much loved by birds. As The Perennial Garden ably demonstrated, they're also brilliant for training into all sorts of shapes.


Move aside cow parsley, valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is the new Chelsea wildflower favourite! This hardy perennial has tall stems (to 1.5m) topped with hundreds of tiny white flowers. It was seen in A Rewilding Britain Landscape and The Place2Be Securing Tomorrow Garden, among others.  

Valerian's flowers have a warm, musky vanilla scent, and its roots are used to make herbal teas which have sleep-promoting qualities. Plant in a sunny or part-shaded location and enjoy its airy, see-through quality which makes it useful for giving height without too much density. 


One native plant in particular came to the fore. Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) is increasingly used for hedging as it is more tolerant of waterlogging than many other hedging plants, which helps its resilience to climate change. Visitors saw hornbeam hedges around many of the Show Gardens and the Balcony Gardens . 

Chris Beardshaw's RNLI Garden featured a remarkable multi-stemmed hornbeam, grown around a large rock. Its lower branches were removed to allow views through to the rest of the garden, which included other natives once used in lifeboat building such as Scots pine, Pinus sylvestris


Sometimes considered as weeds, buttercups were one of the more surprising native wildflowers to make an appearance at Chelsea. However, they cropped up in several gardens by top designers. Multi-award winners Sarah Eberle and Chris Beardshaw both used them in their gardens (MEDITE SMARTPLY and RNLI gardens respectively). Meadow buttercup (Ranunculus acris) also featured in A Rewilding Britain Landscape by Chelsea first-timers Lulu Urquhart & Adam Hunt, which won the coveted 'Best Show Garden' award.

Buttercups have brilliant chrome-yellow flowers, and grow especially well in damp soils. Sarah mixed them with bold and unusual exotic foliage plants, while Chris included them at the base of his multi-stemmed hornbeam.


The foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) is a classic cottage garden plant that's finding a place in many modern and contemporary designs too. Native to woodlands, field banks and hedges, it grows well in both shady and sunny gardens. 

Foxgloves come in a range of colours from pure white to deep pink. In The Perennial Garden, white-flowered forms shone out against hornbeam hedges, which made a calming and wildlife-friendly combination.

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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.