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  • Writer's pictureSarah Kay

Countdown to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023 starts on Monday. Unfortunately I don't have a ticket this year, but I will be avidly watching the tv coverage and really look forward to seeing what the exhibiting designers have produced this year. The theme for sustainable, environmentally conscious gardens continues as expected in a climate crisis situation and another prominent theme is gardens for positive wellbeing and mental and physical health.

Here's a selection of the show gardens I'm really looking forward to seeing.

Artists visualisation of Chelsea show garden
Royal Entomological Society Garden - Tom Massey

1. Royal Entomological Society Garden - Tom Massey

This garden focuses on the biodiversity found in brown field sites, particularly insect habitats and pollinator friendly planting. The centrepiece is an outdoor laboratory, styled like an insects eye, which looks down over the diverse topography including rammed earth floors, hoggin pathways, dead wood and rubble piles, all of which are beneficial habitats for insects.

This garden will be relocated to IQL in Stratford after the show.

Artists impression of garden with irises
The Nature Landscapes Garden - Sarah Price

2. The Nature Landscapes Garden - Sarah Price

One of my favourite garden designers returns to Chelsea. Sarah Price has taken her inspiration for this garden from Cedric Morris's paintings and plant collection. He's well know for collecting and painting bearded Irises and these feature heavily in the design.

The trees, sapling and grasses hint at a self abandoned garden and the colour palette of plums, mauves, olive yellows and creamy browns reflect the watercolour paintings of the artist.

The hard landscaping showcases contemporary uses of locally sourced, sustainable materials.

Artists impression of Chelsea show garden
The Centrepoint Garden - Cleve West

3. The Centrepoint Garden - Cleve West

Cleve West returns to Chelsea with what has been described as the 'marmite' Chelsea garden in the press due to the inclusion of dandelions and creeping buttercup in his planting. The central structure is a part demolished house where nature has taken over and is a metaphor for being young and homeless. The planting, a thriving, evolving mixed planting scheme including both native wildflowers, 'weeds' and topiary highlights the importance of a garden in creating a 'home'.

The Yew paintings are made up of 120,000 dots - the number of young homeless in the UK.

Artists impression of Chelsea show garden
The Sadlers Wells East Garden - Alexa Ryan Mills

4. The Sadler Well East Garden - Alexa Ryan Mills

For the first time a garden designer I know personally is exhibiting at Chelsea. The plants are the stars in this garden which celebrated the newly created Sadlers Wells East in the Olympic Village, Stratford. The forms of distinctive trees and shrubs and the rippling textures of the herbaceous layers echo the movements of dancers with the bent steel structures hinting at a stage. The reclaimed materials used refer to the manufacturing heritage of East London.

The garden will be rehoused at School 21, an associate school of Sadlers Wells.

Artist impression of garden promoting children's education of food and nature
The School Food Matters Garden - Harry Holding

5. The School Food Matters Garden - Harry Holding

This is an immersive, forage friendly, naturalistic landscape full of edible, climate adaptive plants for children to explore and be educated. Paths are child size and exploration around the garden is encouraged. The central themes are nutritious food, a healthy planet and access to nature as a human right.

If you're visiting Chelsea next week, please let me know your thoughts on the show gardens.


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