The highlight of many a gardener's calendar, Chelsea Flower Show returns for 2019 with its expected heady mix of outstanding show gardens and dazzling floral displays.
Unsurprisingly, among the key messages being told through the planting palettes this year are how the way we choose to garden can have important environmental and ecological benefits. Here, we take a look at some of this year's highlights.
Naturalistic planting at Chelsea Flower Show
There is a continuing trend towards informal planting designs, with the naturalistic look dominating many of the gardens this year at Chelsea Flower Show.
Prairie-style planting, with swathes of flowers left to their own devices and unstructured edging, continues to grow in popularity.
Many gardens feature easy-to-grow, low maintenance plants with a long season of interest, such as Verbena bonariensis and Erigeron karvinskianus.
Meadow plants make many appearances, such as Californian poppies, aquilegia, geum, common columbine and euphorbia, as do wild flowers, reflecting how gardeners increasingly want to bring a bit of the countryside into their own spaces.
The need for diversification in planting to create gardens resilient to changing climate conditions is a strong theme in a number of the show gardens at Chelsea Flower Show this year.
The Resilience Garden highlights how biodiversity is important to protect our landscapes and gardens from climate change, pests and diseases.
The garden, part of a year-long celebration of 100 years of forestry in Britain, includes a wide array of trees, both exotic and native, including a 42 foot giant redwood, the hardy monkey puzzle tree, which can tolerate almost any soil type, and the enduring and ancient Gingko biloba.
Both trees and plants have been selected to cope with varied and changing climatic conditions.
The designer, Sarah Eberle was inspired by the pioneering Victorian gardener William Robinson, who championed the wild garden, and whose experimental planting ideas had a profound effect on 20th century horticulture. ‘Robinson’s idea of the wild garden can be realised in even the smallest space,’ Sarah says. ‘We have to be innovative and clever to make our landscapes and cities greener and give nature the space it needs to thrive.’
Garden regeneration at Chelsea Flower Show
In a similar vein, the M&G Garden features a biodiverse range of pioneering plant species from around the world, all of which can grow in the British climate. These include many unusual plants making a first appearance at Chelsea Flower Show. It demonstrates how it is possible the regenerate and colonise spaces with new growth.
Relaxed beds are packed with shades of green with occasional pops of colour. This garden is all about contrasting textures and leaf form from trees, ferns and diverse plants.
‘I wanted to show how plants can colonise a landscape and create something new and beautiful,’ says the M&G's award-winning designer Andy Sturgeon.
Among the trees and plants that appear in the garden are Equisetum, Restios, Nothofagus antartica, Carpinus betulus, Gunnera killipiana, Epiolobium, Arisaema and Disproposis bodinieri.
A host of sustainable features are showcased in the Savills and David Harber Garden. These include biodiverse large trees and a green wall that filters pollution from the air; a water purifying wetland area, and permeable surfaces; and a filtration pool that cleans grey water and stores it via a water harvesting system for irrigation use.
The colour scheme is predominantly a shade of green with the introduction of soft whites and yellows to highlight areas.
These sustainable elements showcased at Chelsea Flower Show can be incorporated into our gardens, and it also demonstrates that even city-dwellers can do their bit to help the environment.
For this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, Ikea and designer Tom Dixon have imagined the future of urban farming, creating an experimental model for growing plants in a limited space. A mix of traditional planting methods and futuristic horticulture, the thousands of plants featured are predominantly edible, medicinal and have beneficial qualities for wildlife in urban areas. ‘We want visitors to feel inspired to grow and harvest their own food,’ says Tom.
Showcasing the potential of green spaces within UK cities, the Manchester Garden at Chelsea Flower Show explores the use of productive planting in urban areas. This includes using plants to clean and improve urban soil, the potential of planting for managing water through sustainable drainage systems, and trees chosen specifically for their resilience to future climate change.
Help the eco-system
The theme of sustainability is supported by the planting in The Harmonious Garden of Life, which promotes environmental awareness and offers solutions to regenerate our eco-system in response to global warming:
- The plants used require very little water – such as the stipa meadow;
- Clover enriches the soil naturally;
- Bamboo absorbs high amounts of carbon dioxide;
- Ivy absorbs many pollutants in the air;
- Aquatic plants filter water;
- Aromatics and honey plants nourish animals as well as humans.
There is much more at Chelsea Flower Show to inspire and get all gardeners thinking about how they can have a positive impact on the environment and do their bit for our ecosystem.
The Chelsea Flower Show runs until Saturday 25 May. Visit the RHS website (opens in new tab) for details and tickets.