Chelsea Flower Show 2019 highlights the importance of sustainable gardening

Chelsea Flower Show 2019 promotes gardening for a sustainable future

Chelsea Flower show garden Savills

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

Chelsea flower show trailfinders garden

The Trailfinders 'Undiscovered Latin America' Garden is inspired by the temperate rainforests of South America, threatened from urbanisation and logging. Its natural looking planting features species that thrive with high levels of rainfall, cool temperatures and wet conditions

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.

chelsea flower show wild wall

The Wild Wall at Chelsea Flower Show is a reminder of the incredible things that grow without the helping hand of humans, including foxgloves, cow parsley and many other wild flowers

Diverse planting

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.

chelsea flower show resilience 1

Dame Judi Dench being shown around The Resilience Garden at Chelsea Flower Show. The garden explores how we can protect our gardens for nature and future generations to explore

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.’

Chelsea flower show manchester garden

The Manchester garden champions green spaces and sustainability in urban areas

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.

chelsea flower show M&G

Nature's extraordinary power to regenerate with new growth is shown through the M&G garden at Chelsea Flower Show

‘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.

Sustainable features

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.

Chelsea Flower show garden Savills

A celebration of the environmental benefit of trees and plants in urban spaces – the Savills and David Harber Garden at Chelsea Flower Show

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.

Urban growing 

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.

Chelsea flower show yorkshire

The Welcome to Yorkshire garden, designed by renowned designer and landscaper Mark Gregory of Landform Consultants, has been awarded an RHS gold medal at RHS Chelsea Flower Show

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.

Chelsea flower show harmonious

The Harmonious Garden of Life at Chelsea Flower Show

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 for details and tickets.

Rachel joined the Period Living team six years ago after freelancing on a range of titles covering everything from homes and gardens, history and arts to wildlife. As the magazines Content Editor, she still gets to enjoy all of these things handily packaged together (one way or another) in the pages of Period Living. She loves her Victorian home, but is wrestling with making its cracks, quirks and draughty bits work for a family home.