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See All the Best Plants At the 2024 RHS Chelsea Flower Show to Plant in Your Garden

See all the plants that caught visitors’ eyes at the 2024 RHS Chelsea Flower Show

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By House & Garden | May 26, 2024 | Gardens

This year’s Chelsea Flower Show was full of interesting trees and shrubs with lots of dreamy woodland-edge planting in dappled light underneath leafy canopies. Native trees such as hawthorns, hazels and silver birch were the favoured choices in many of the show gardens, with a mixture of native and non-native ornamental plants selected for resilience and sustainability. In Ula Maria’s Forest Bathing Garden, white foxgloves, cow parsley and other umbellifers like Baltic parsley (Cenolophium denudatum) and valerian (Valeriana officinalis) were mixed with the simple shade-loving grass Melica altissima ‘Alba’ while Tom Stuart-Smith showcased intricate tapestries of interesting foliage in different shapes and textures. In other gardens, orange was a popular colour in many shades, from deep rusty orange irises to pale orange geums, especially in Ann Marie-Powell’s exuberant Octavia Hill Garden. As always, the Grand Pavilion is the ideal place to discover new and interesting plants showcased by some of the country’s leading nurseries.

Semiaquilegia ecalcarata

This delightful dusky pink flower gets my vote as the plant of the show. Displayed by Derry Watkins on the Special Plants stand, it is a charming woodland relative of the more common aquilegia, from China. Thriving in dappled shade, it produces dainty, nodding flowers on wiry stems that rise up in loose sprays above a low mound of foliage. Muted in colour and graceful in habit, it fits in perfectly with the naturalistic, woodland-edge theme at this year’s show.

Saruma henryi

The plant that caught the Chelsea zeitgeist this year was this understated foliage plant from China which popped up all over the place. It has large, heart-shaped leaves in pale apple-green that form a pleasing backdrop to the small, pale yellow flowers. An excellent ground cover underneath a tree, this easy-to-grow plant thrives in moist but well-drained soil in partial or full shade. See it on Tom Stuart-Smith’s NGS garden, in Dan Bristow’s the Size of Wales Garden, and in a large container on Ula Maria’s Forest Bathing Garden.

Boehmeria platanifolia

Another useful foliage plant for shade, this woodland perennial produces generous clumps of attractive, saw-toothed leaves in a soft mid green. Adaptable and easy to please, it thrives in a partially shaded spot in soil that doesn’t dry out too much.

Isodon umbrosus

This is an intriguing, rare plant displayed in Dan Bristow’s garden in the Great Pavilion. Superficially similar to the boehmeria, it is grown for its distinctive tailed leaf shape, but also produces spikes of purple, salvia-like flowers in late summer into autumn. It is native to China and Japan, where it grows in partial shade in a light woodland setting.

Maianthemum paniculatum

A key plant in Tom Stuart-Smith’s garden, this elegant woodland plant produces arching stems of lance-like leaves with delicate creamy-white, starry flowers. It grows best in dappled shade in a moisture-retentive, humus-rich soil.

Chionanthus retusus

Winner of the Tree of the Show award at Chelsea this year was the rare Chinese fringe tree that appeared on the No Adults Allowed Garden designed by Harry Holding. This delightful small tree grows to about 3m high, producing pure white flowers with long, narrow pendulous petals set against dark glossy leaves. Allegedly this is the first time it has ever been in flower at Chelsea.

Colutea x media ‘Copper beauty’

This shrubby member of the pea family was found in Ann Marie Powell’s garden, its orange flowers echoing the colours of the geums and irises in other parts of the scheme. The flowers are delightful, in a coppery orange colour with darker veining and lighter yellow centres, maturing to form bronze-coloured seed pods. Drought tolerant when established, it likes an open sunny spot in well drained soil and will form a large, branching shrub up to 3m tall.

Cytisus ‘Lena’

Also in the pea family is this striking form of broom, which Miria Harris showcases in her garden for the Stroke Association. A compact form, it produces arching sprays completely covered in flowers in shades of crimson, orange and yellow, giving a rusty orange appearance from a distance. It is easy to grow in most soils in full sun.

Lathyrus nervosa

Spotted on the Special Plants stand in the Great Pavilion, this is the final member of the pea family in this round up. A perennial sweet pea, it hails from South America and has large, lavender-blue flowers set against leathery leaves, sometimes beautifully veined. Described by Derry Watkins as a scrambler rather than a climber, it is easy to grow from seed, and is perennial in warmer areas of the UK.

Iris sibirica ‘Persimmon’

Siberian irises were dotted around many of the gardens at Chelsea this year, and ‘Persimmon’ was the variety that appeared most often. Their clear purple-blue flowers hover above dense clumps of narrow strap-like leaves like butterflies. Tough and adaptable, Siberian irises are described by iris specialist Kellways as ‘totally reliable perennials’, thriving in most normal soils but doing particularly well in moist to damp soil.