Highlights and traits from RHS Chelsea Flower Present 2023: sustainability, wildlife and weeds

Gardens that includes extra weeds and fewer formality have taken centre stage at this yr’s RHS Chelsea Flower Present, inserting extra emphasis on letting nature take management.

Native vegetation and bushes, nettles, dandelions and a predominantly inexperienced palette of planting characteristic in most of the 36 present gardens, together with salvaged and upcycled supplies. Elsewhere, large bursts of color stay within the Nice Pavilion, whereas first-time exhibitors embody mushroom growers the Caley Bros.

This yr’s present is more likely to spark controversy, reckons backyard designer Andrew Duff, co-chair of the Society of Backyard Designers and managing director of the Inchbald College of Design.

“There’s a transparent message about sustainability and environmental elements in an aesthetic approach. There’s a loss about truly, what’s a backyard speculated to do?” he says. “Proper throughout the present, the inference is that nature’s taking management… perhaps that it’s OK to let weeds develop and let issues get a little bit bit ruinous.

“However on the finish of the day, folks like a garden, they prefer to take care of an area – that’s a part of being in a backyard – and it’s time that we want (to handle) that controversy,” Duff provides.

Reflecting on the subject, Matthew Pottage, curator of RHS Backyard Wisley, says: “We’re having a local weather disaster. We do have to backyard environmentally sensitively. Is that this the place to be exhibiting that? It’s arguably the world’s greatest flower present, so that is the place.”

5 spotlight gardens from this yr’s RHS Chelsea Flower Present

Centrepoint Backyard

Find it irresistible or hate it, this backyard is more likely to trigger a stir with its partly demolished home, so-called ‘weeds’ and a fallen tree. Designer Cleve West has admitted it’s a ‘Marmite backyard’ – folks will find it irresistible or hate it.

“There’s a way of abandonment, which is so intelligent. Cleve West has finished a partly demolished ruined home with the concept of nature taking on,” Duff observes. “He’s saying it’s a metaphor for what it’s to be younger and homeless. There are nettles and dandelion seedheads. It’s actually going to query what magnificence is in a plant – and I feel we have to have that dialogue.”

Nurture Landscapes Backyard

For those who’re seeking to take house some vegetation with you, be impressed by the gorgeous Benton irises in wealthy shades of pastels and deep yellows which you’ll see in designer Sarah Value’s Nurture Landscapes present backyard, impressed by the artist and plantsman Cedric Morris.

Memoria and GreenAcres Transcendence Backyard

Designers Gavin McWilliam and Andrew Wilson’s backyard goals to ship an uplifting non secular house, reflecting the emotional expertise on the finish of life (it’s going to a bereavement web site after the present).

“Controversially, they’ve used concrete, however with the concept that this concrete goes to be round for a whole lot of years,” says Duff. “It’s not a single use concrete.

“It has a easy palette of planting, is cool and calm and also you instantly really feel rested. The minimal use of supplies and color palette was actually particular and a second of calm in the complete present. It was a reduction to get to it,” Duff provides.

Myeloma UK – A Life Price Dwelling Backyard

Prime designer Chris Beardshaw’s backyard has a way more conventional backyard really feel, with a structured order within the vibrant planting in opposition to a backdrop of clipped yew, together with peonies and salvias, plus impressed woodland planting.

Horatio’s Backyard

Placing wheelchair entry on the forefront of their design, Charlotte Harris and Hugo Bugg (Harris Bugg Studio), have created the eighth backyard for the eponymous charity, which builds gardens to enhance the lives of individuals with spinal twine damage.

The wheelchair-accessible house, influenced by the methods of seeing from a mattress or a wheelchair, options tactile stone cairn and a desk water characteristic to encourage wildlife, whereas a backyard pod supplies a cocooning place for bodily and emotional shelter. After the present will probably be relocated to Sheffield’s Princess Royal Spinal Wire Accidents Centre.

“There’s an unimaginable depth of planting, which is mind-blowingly lovely, and beehives of heat minimize stone which form of exchange topiary – they’ve made topiary out of stone,” says Duff.

Prime traits 

These are among the key gardening traits to emerge from this yr’s occasion.Wildlife

“Unsurprisingly, there’s going to be the attention of wildlife-friendly planting,” says Pottage. “There’s a number of habitat in gardens, however hopefully exhibiting that may be lovely as properly. There are many logpiles, a number of water, a number of native vegetation, but additionally a number of gardenesque planting.”

Reclaimed and reused

Crushed concrete, piles of rubble, naked sand, re-used bricks and different recycled materials dominate most of the present gardens’ pathways and kind ornamental options in a number of gardens. There’s a message to get gardeners fascinated with how they could reuse supplies, which previously headed for the skip.

“All of the gardens have a vacation spot, which is absolutely vital,” says Pottage – the present gardens are all being relocated after the present.

Award-winning designer Tom Massey, who has this yr designed The Royal Entomological Society Backyard, predicts: “Reuse of waste supplies goes to be a giant factor.”

He makes use of crushed building waste in his present backyard, together with crushed bricks and concrete to create a textured, aesthetic backdrop for the planting together with deadwood. “These waste supplies are actually good habitat for bugs,” he factors out.


Individuals will likely be inspired to develop native vegetation, from hazel to cow parsley, whereas these in search of color might go for irises, that are prevalent at this yr’s present. There’s additionally a resurgence of frequent yew (Taxus baccata) and different acquainted vegetation together with a cloud pine, Eleagnus ‘Quicksilver’

Drought-tolerant vegetation are additionally being pushed – some 55% of perennials within the present gardens are drought-tolerant, virtually double that of final yr, together with fennel, salvia and cistus.


Dandelions and different weeds characteristic in among the gardens. Chelsea gold medallist Cleve West notes: “Individuals get their knickers in a twist about weeds however they’re the pioneer vegetation that sew every thing collectively.

“It’s simply getting folks to grasp that each one the issues we kill with herbicides and pesticides can look fairly lovely,” West provides. “Simply be extra tolerant, and when you have an area the place you may let nature take its course, it’s bought to be good for wildlife and bugs.”

Massey provides: “Dandelions are an early supply of pollen and nectar for bees – and bugs are in mass decline, so we must be extra thoughtful in the best way we handle and preserve our gardens.”


“We’re seeing nature turning into the sculpture,” says Duff, citing designer Sarah Value’s Nurture Landscapes Backyard Mediterranean cloud pine. There are pillows of yew within the Memoria and GreenAcres Transcendence Backyard.

Nods to the Royal Household abound, from bronze bust of the King in A Backyard of Royal Reflection and Celebration, which options among the Windsor household’s favorite vegetation together with roses and camassia, plus a number of crowns that includes wildlife.

Standing at slightly below 7m is the most important driftwood sculpture ever displayed at Chelsea, a Wyvern dragon perched on a tree, the centrepiece of sculptor James Doran-Webb’s exhibit.

And paying homage to the unsung heroines of horticulture at The Monument is the ‘Ladies in Horticulture’ exhibit honouring the likes of Janaki Ammal, Beth Chatto and Gertrude Jekyll.

Bigging up small areas

Man Barter, chief horticulturist for the RHS, says individuals are more likely to be planting larger bushes on their balconies and in addition utilizing drought-tolerant species. “This yr there’s a pollinator part, a wildlife bathtub, and drought-resistant vegetation.”

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