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  • Writer's pictureSarah Kay

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024 - my highlights

I had a fantastic day last Thursday visiting the Chelsea Flower Show 2024. I am always in awe of the designers who create the amazing show gardens along with their landscaping and planting teams. This year's show did not disappoint. Here are a few of my hightlights.

  1. The Octavia Hill Garden by Blue Diamond with the National Trust by Ann Marie Powell

Pond with marginal plants and steel platform
Wildlife pond and viewing platform

Shade planting under a tree with benches
Vibrant planting and hand carved benches

This was my favourite Main Ave show garden, as the vibrant use of colour contrasted with so many other of the large show gardens, which mainly contained woodland planting of greens, whites and purples. The planting in this garden, although still naturalistic and wild in parts, had lovely colour ranging from the deep purple poppies through to the pink foxgloves and apricot Geums and Irises. The hard landscaping features of this garden were incredible especially the corten steel lattice, steps and wildlife observing platform and hand carved benches dotted throughout the garden. The public loved this garden too, winning both the Peoples Choice and new Children's Choice awards and receiving a Silver Gilt Medal.

2. The Ecotherapy Garden by Tom Bannister

Concrete planters, rill and shade planting
The Ecotherapy Garden by Tom Bannister

The Balcony and Container Gardens was my favourite category of gardens this year, as I think the creativity and variety of ideas was outstanding. This simple courtyard garden, which celebrates biophilic principles (human's inate attraction to nature) and cold plunge therapy for physical and metal well being was a master class in simple planting and hard landscaping to create a calming, cooling rejuvenative space. Concrete planters, evergreen shade loving plants and running water unite perfectly to show how this could be created in a compact urban space. A well deservied winner of a Gold medal and Best in category.

3. Forest Bathing Garden designed by Ula Maria

Silver birch , water bowl and insect habitat wall
Calming water bowl amidst woodland planting

This was a beatiful garden, based around the Japanese practice of Shinrin-yoku or forest bathing, which highlights the work of the Muscular Dystrophy UK charities in helping people living with the disease. Over 50 Silver Birch trees were used to create this woodland edge garden, underplanted with shade and semi shade tolerant plants in a calming colour palette of mainly green with accents of white, light pink and purple. The hard landscaping is subtle and integral to the main concept of the garden with a feature flint wall reminiscent of muscle cells, benches made with Yakisugi, the Japanese method of preserving wood and the wildlife habitat wall made up of reclaimed bricks, tiles and stone. A worthy winner of a Gold medal and Best in Show 2024.

4. The Water Aid Garden by Tom Massey & Je Ahn

Grated corten raised walkway and bog planting
Water Aid Garden by Tom Massey and Je Ahn

This beautiful garden highlights the important water crisis message that almost one in ten people don't have access to clean water close to home, a fact which is being made worse with climate change. The planting in the garden is either tolerant of very wet or very dry conditions and excellent for wildlife. The corten rain water harvesting pavillion cleverly provides shade whilst collecting rainwater, filtering and distributing it around the garden and the grated raised paths show how passage through the garden can be created without disturbing the wildlife and plants below. This garden also received a well deserved Gold medal.

5. Tomie's Cuisine the Nobonsai by Tsuyako Asada

Black stained wood and water and waste saving features
Tomie's Cuisine the Nobonsai by Tsuyako Asada

My final selection is another balcony garden, designed by Japanese designer Isuyako Asada which optimises the design of an old Japanese 'Machiya' (townhouse) to make it look wider, surrounding the balcony with plants and using clever use of water and waste products to enrich the planting in a circlular ecosytstem. The dark staining of the exterior wood is created with caligraphy ink and the overall effect is very beautiful.

What were your Chelsea highlights this year?


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