Take inspiration from the landscaping trends at RHS Hampton Court

Top landscaping tips from the inspirational show gardens at RHS Hampton Court and how to use them in your own garden

Seating in the Hurtigruten: The Relation-Ship Garden.The RHS Flower Shows are the perfect source of inspiration for your own gardens, be they big or small. Where else would you find world-class designers, renowned plants people and highly experienced landscapers at your fingertips?

Stand out landscaping features 

RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival this year features powerful gardens,  full of brilliant ideas. With sustainability and climate change mitigation at the forefront, Designers have really considered the impact of their gardens and their construction. There is a notable change in how much concrete is used, with more emphasis on how best to choose materials that either have a long life or have been recycled. 

Using boulders in your garden

Boulders are everywhere. Used as gateways, pond edges, seats, ground retainers, as stepping stones and focal points. From Welsh slate to Purbeck stone, the boulder is king of the show and used in so many different ways, all of which you can use in your home gardens. Often we find large rocks buried in the ground when we start exploring a new garden and worry about how to get rid of them but try using them on site instead; less waste is key.

Boulders in the Hurtigruten: The Relation-Ship Garden.Use them to create edges, place them on their edge to make interesting paths, stand them upright to make an entrance, as seen in Hurtigruten: The Relation-Ship Garden, designed by Max Parker-Smith, “The Scottish granite boulders gave us lots of opportunities and they’re a really fun focal point for kids too. Some of these are recycled from Jilayne Rickard’s Flora and Fauna garden at Chelsea this year. The largest one has been affectionately named Simba from Disney’s The Lion King,” says Max. 

Boulders in the The Korea LH Garden. Designed by Danbee KimAlso seen in:  The Oregon Garden, America's Wild, RHS Iconic Horticultural Hero Garden, RHS Resilient Garden, Cancer Research UK Legacy Garden, Inghams Working with Nature Garden.

Creative paths and surfaces

Decking made a mini-comeback with deckboard paths in several gardens. A zig-zag pathway made from recycled wood cuts an interesting shape through the Hurtigruten: The Relation-Ship Garden, allowing the space in between to be used as a seating area by the pool. In the America’s Wild garden, a greenheart deck stretches in front of the waterfall, its sandy tones blending beautifully with the Purbeck stone and wooden benches.

Decking path in the Hurtigruten: The Relation-Ship GardenIn Tom Massey’s RHS Resilient Garden, a reclaimed deck provides a raised walkway through the forest of food.

Deck path in the RHS Resilient Garden by Tom MasseyGravel features heavily, mainly Breedon gravel - a fine sand-coloured aggregate that sits well in most situations and forms a fairly compact surface. Often used on country estate paths it’s easy to lay, best over a compacted hardcore base with some form of edging to stop it moving around. With the cost of living crisis forefront in our minds, gravel is a reasonably cost-effective way of covering ground and doesn’t necessarily need any specialist knowledge. 

In the Cancer Research UK Legacy Garden by Paul Hervey-Brookes, gravel forms generous, sweeping paths blending gently down to a pond surrounded by lush hostas. Welsh slate is laid in the gravel in places, creating interest on the journey along the path. If you’re thinking of creating a new path at home, consider where it leads. Is there a focal point that draws you onwards or a place to sit when you arrive?

Gravel in the Cancer Research UK Legacy Garden. Designed by Paul Hervey-BrookesA particularly pretty path is seen in The Traditional Townhouse Garden – a black engineered brick edge encloses dark grey and white flint, the shards of which are repurposed in the little pond. When choosing a gravel, the most sustainable, carbon-friendly choice is to use your local stone.

Path in The Traditional Townhouse Garden. Designed by Lucy TaylorGravel paths can also be seen in: RHS Iconic Horticultural Hero Garden, RHS &BBC Morning Live Budget-Friendly Garden, RHS Resilient Garden, RHS Wildlife Garden, America’s Wild, Explore Charleston Garden, The Lunar Garden, The Wildlife Trusts:Renters’ Retreat

Water features

Falling, rippling and still; there is an abundance of water in the Show Gardens, with one garden making a particular splash – America’s Wild, presented by Trailfinders and Visit the USA. The three designers – Emily, Imogen and Jude have created a masterpiece; a waterfall spectacle with a contemporary twist. “We wanted to create a waterfall that seamlessly blended natural stone with a conceptual rendered wall. We think this mix of naturalistic and conceptual is the future of garden design.”

Waterfall in America’s Wild, Presented by Trailfinders and Visit the USA. Designed by Emily Grayshaw, Imogen Perreau Callf and Jude YeoShallow bowls of carved stone also hold water in the garden and a gentle stream flows through the centre making this garden a delight for the senses.

Framing views

A good garden design creates interest, gives us focal points, exciting things to look at but the perfect picture needs a good frame and there are some interesting ideas at the show. Willow features in several of the gardens. Inghams Working with Nature Garden uses woven willow to form a boundary that resembles sweeping hillsides. Willow is also used in panels on the Landform Mental Wealth Garden and in the Firedance Sensory Pocket Planting.

Willow fence in the Inghams Working with Nature GardenIn the America's Wild garden they have framed views and created simple dividing screens using black-painted timber spaced at regular intervals, an idea that could easily be replicated at home.

Framed view in America’s Wild, Presented by Trailfinders and Visit the USA. Designed by Emily Grayshaw, Imogen Perreau Callf and Jude YeoThey have also used a rectangular arch with waves of peach-toned blocks to create a picture frame through to the exotic plants beyond.

Frame in America’s Wild, Presented by Trailfinders and Visit the USA. Designed by Emily Grayshaw, Imogen Perreau Callf and Jude Yeo

Easy ways to create levels

Creating height in the smallest of spaces makes a garden feel bigger and there is a wealth of ideas at the show.  In the Nurturing Nature in the City garden, a pool of differing levels and water shoots is a wonderful feature. Created using reclaimed sleepers, which are easily laid, the pools are filled with water plants and bring wildlife in adundance.

Levels in the  Nurturing Nature in the City. Designed by Caroline and Peter ClaytonThis garden also uses gabions to create levels and are a great way of building simple walls. They can be filled with all manner of materials, or even with waste from the garden as seen in the Plastic Fantastic garden and they make perfect homes for creatures too.

Gabions in the Nurturing Nature in the City, Sponsored by Viriditas Garden Design Studio

The APL (Association of Professional Landscapers) have created a ‘not-so-perfect’ garden; laying poorly spaced decking, paving with irregular joints and wonky carpentry in a bid to raise awareness about poor construction and educate visitors. “We’re showing how all surfaces can be permeable, using the correct aggregate ratio and you can even harvest the rainwater runoff. We have to change the mind-set so that gardeners stop thinking, ‘What can I do?’ and start thinking ‘What should I do?’”

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Top tips from the inspirational Show gardens at RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden

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