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Everything You Need to See at the Chelsea Flower Show 2024

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show officially kicks off on Tuesday 21 May, here’s everything you don’t want to miss

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By House & Garden | May 21, 2024 | Gardens

There are lots of new names at the Chelsea Flower Show this year which makes a visit to the show more interesting than ever. Here are highlights from the show gardens this year, before things officially open on Tuesday, 21 May 2024.

The best of the show gardens

The WaterAid Garden by Tom Massey and Je Ahn

This is the most visually dramatic of the show gardens, with a wonderful sculptural rainwater pavilion designed not only to funnel rainwater into underground tanks but as a structure for roof planting to boost biodiversity. The curving, cut-out sections of the pavilion frame leafy views to the tree canopy above, as well as offering glimpses of the colourful planting on its roof, including poppies, centranthus, catmint and dianthus.

Underneath, the planting is soft and subtle, with built-up rocky edges for dry-loving plants such as Euphorbia myrsinites and Armeria maritima, woodland edge planting in the dappled shade of the pavilion, and bog-garden planting underneath and around the metal grid walkway that leads from one end of the garden to the other.

‘The shifting topography gives space for a wider range of plants that like different conditions,’ says Tom. ‘The swales and channels are designed to collect rainwater so that all the rainwater is utilised rather than being washed away.’

The National Garden Scheme Garden by Tom Stuart-Smith

This beautifully planted garden is calm and introspective, and the more you contemplate, the more you see. Under a simple hazel coppice, the woodland edge planting is pared back and sophisticated with a palette of cool greens, cream and pale yellow around repeated Azalea daviesii with its lovely scented blooms.

At the front of the garden the planting is light and hazy, with umbellifers like Meum anthemanticum and Cenolophium denudatum weaving in with Gilenia trifoliata and the pale lavender Geranium pratense ‘Mrs Kendall Clark’ which thrives in sun or dappled shade.

At the back of the garden, the eye is drawn downwards to the tapestry of plants that weave together, showing what you can do with contrasting foliage colour and shape. The glossy-leaved Farfugium japonicum is set against Bohemeria platanifola and Smyrnium perfoliatum, while the unusual Saruma henryi with heart shaped felty leaves and tiny pale yellow flowers, provides the perfect ground cover for shade.

A curving Belgian brick path leads to a simple timber hut at the far end of the garden - the perfect place for NGS garden visitors to congregate for tea and cake. After the show, this garden will be rebuilt at a new Maggie’s Centre at Adenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge.

The RHS No Adults Allowed Garden by Harry Holding

This fun garden is the first ever Chelsea garden to be co-designed by a class of primary school pupils from nearby Sullivans Primary School, where the garden will be rebuilt immediately after the show. The children wanted a secret den with a slide that went into an underground cave, and this is exactly what Harry has given them.

Around the den, the garden has been designed with different planting zones so that the children can become familiar with as many different plants, habitats and insects as possible. One of the other requests from the children was to have some carnivorous plants so a sunken bog garden features a collection of trumpet pitcher plants (Sarracenia).

@rhshome Find your inner child with this sneak peek of the RHS No Adults Allowed Garden, co-designed by Harry Holding and pupils from Sulivan Primary School for #RHSChelsea Flower Show 2024. For the first time in the show's history, the RHS feature garden has been designed by children, for children. The garden is a joyful journey through a fantastical landscape where they can explore the magic of lush woodland, meadows and a wetland with heightened colour and oversized bog plants. Their adventure culminates at the final destination – a natural den set within a pool of water. Sliding down into the water, this sunken children's only space is a sanctuary where they can play, learn, and explore the natural world around them. To be allowed on the garden, adults will have to pledge to donate to the RHS Campaign for School Gardening, plant a tree or find a plant that has the same initials as their name! #RHS #gardendesign #flowershow #behindthescenes #sneakpeek #chelsea ♬ Two Islands - EL MANGA

Look out for the unusual flowering Chinese fringe tree (Chionanthus retusus): allegedly this is the first time it has ever been seen in flower at Chelsea as it has flowered earlier than usual this year. Immediately after the show, the garden will be reconstructed at Sullivans School so that the class who helped design it will be able to use it.

The Muscular Dystrophy Forest Bathing Garden by Ula Maria

First time Chelsea designer Ula Maria has designed another woodland garden with ethereal planting under a canopy of silver birch and flowering Crataegus x lavallei ‘Carrierei’. Bound together by a river of sparkling woodland grasses, Melica uniflora f. albida, the planting includes valerian, cenolophium and pale pink martagon lily ‘Fairy Morning’, with splashes of purple from Thalictrum ‘Black Stocking’ and Iris sibirica ‘Persimmon’.

A large water bowl by Torq pots provides a central focus in front of a decorative flint feature wall. Another wall along the side of the garden is made from blocks of stone interspersed with upright tiles, curved roofing tiles and open bricks, showing how a decorative feature can also provide niches for insects and other wildlife.

The Stroke Association Garden by Miria Harris

This colourful sensory garden is designed by another first-time designer, Miria Harris, who herself suffered a stroke aged 44. From this first hand experience, she has designed a peaceful space where patients can be surrounded by plants and nature to help the healing process. Brightly-coloured, tactile plants such as the hybrid broom Cytisus ‘Lena’ with its deep red and rusty orange flowers, anchor the planting.

A rich mix of meadow-like plants flows around a small pool and stream, while curving lime-rendered walls encircle sheltered seating areas. After the show Miria will oversee the reconfiguration of the garden at the Stroke Unit at Chapel Allerton Hospital in Leeds.

The Ecotherapy garden by Tom Bannister

Some of the smaller gardens are full of inspiration for your own gardens. Head to the leafy Serpentine walk on the east of the showground to see the Balcony and Container Gardens. Of these, the Ecotherapy Garden by Tom Bannister is the perfect example of what can be achieved in a small space, with a green wall, beautifully planted containers and a series of small pools including a plunge pool.

The Size of Wales Garden by Dan Bristow

If you are interested in unusual plants, visit the Great Pavilion to find the Size of Wales Garden designed by Dan Bristow. This intriguing exhibit showcases 313 species of plant, including some tiny Alpine specimens that you must really slow yourself down to see.

The Bowel Research UK Microbiome Garden by Chris Hull and Sid Hill

Also in the Great Pavilion, the Bowel Research UK Microbiome Garden by Chris Hull and Sid Hill showcases an edible foraging meadow to explore the connection between the health of the soil, wildlife and our own microbiome.

This story originally appeared on House & Garden UK.

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