RHS Chelsea 2023

RHS Chelsea 2023 Flower Show

It's about Weeds (aka wild-flowers!)

A non-gardeners guide to the bits from RHS Chelsea 2023  – you should try at home

I went to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show on Monday, and I have to say it was so much more interesting than last year. The Show Garden designs were really thought-provoking and innovative in so many ways. There were still elements of the show I find hard to equate with its promoting of sustainability and working with Nature, but on the whole, I walked out with a smile on my face as well as  2 sore feet!

I will upload a podcast about the show later this week as well as a quick video showing the reality of learning to garden with nature more. A busy week for me then!

Show Garden Awsomeness

Show gardens, Sanctuary Gardens, Balcony Gardens and Container Gardens

Last year I attended the show and was impressed by the gardens, but left feeling rather at odds with the designers. I agreed with Monty Don’s opinion then, that simply replicating a landscape does not make a garden. This year it felt different, because the designers had rethought what sustainability actually meant, and there were some super ideas.

Replicating a natural landscape in a garden does not work, it can’t, as the garden is surrounded by other gardens in most urban settings, it would simply look out of place and odd. However, this year the designers have merged natural plants (aka weeds) with domestic plants.

The result is a far more relaxed and actually easier style of gardening we can all copy. It is in fact a style I have been advocating for some time, whereby we are not ‘gardeners of the garden‘ but merely referees. If a plant (purchased or naturally acquired) appears in the garden then it is only if it misbehaves or breaks the rules that it is dealt with, if it is causing no real harm then let it be!

The show gardens also advocated another new Chelsea attribute, in that spaces between plants are fine, if you can see the ground that is OK, the planting did not have to be a wall-to-, a floor-to-ceiling tapestry of green. But these empty spaces were not bare soil, as this is bad for the environment. Bare soil erodes away through wind and rain, it needs a covering or either plants or mulch (and this year anything goes!) or it needs an underpinning of roots to prevent it from being washed away.

Having said that, the Biophilic Garden by Otsu-Hanare was mind-blowing. There was not a spare space without a plant, however, it did not look like a landscape, it looked like a garden, albeit one only a truly dedicated and expert garden could aspire to. It was my favourite garden of all, it was the most impressive garden, by far, and it showed both a sympathy for and a master of the natural world. That type of garden cannot be replicated here, we don’t have the climate, but it was beautiful.

This year there were 2 show gardens that did not hit the mark for me because they simply replicated a landscape and the other because it was in my opinion a Disneyfication of a productive garden. That’s not to say these gardens were not in any way beautiful and impressive, just that you or I could never replicate any part of them (in reality) in an ordinary garden. And that for me is not what a garden should be anyway.

My other favourite was the Nuture Landscapes Garden by Sarah Price. Again this would not be a garden you could recreate, but she turned the accepted rules of a garden colour palette on its head – and it was fabulous.  Again I will add the reason this will be hard to replicate at home is the weather. This planting needed warm weather, but more importantly, it needs dry winter weather to perform the following year. In a setting managed by professional gardeners, this garden will be fine, I doubt it would thrive as well if copied in an ordinary suburban setting.

On the whole there were some truly amazing gardens created by a team of professionals and experts, they were stunning, but maybe do not try to copy this at home.

Green Ideas you can do at Home

We all know we need to upcycle, reuse, reduce and consume less:

and indeed everything this year, (well most things) followed that ethos. All the show gardens had to be relocated to a new home afterwards, and much of the hard landscaping was built using recycled materials, which is great. But the problem is that these environmentally sensitive options are still too expensive for the average garden budget. Show gardens do set the trends, but in horticulture, the filter down of these trends to the main operators supplying the general public is very slow.

Some gardens used crushed rubble as mulch – but it’s still going onto/into the ground in a garden, so can that really be classed as a green alternative? Horatio’s Garden by Harris Bugg Studio just won the Best in Show, and it showcased a new type of path material – yet to be named. This is porous and uses a binding agent that is Cement free using a product called Cemfree, now this needs to become a product that does become affordable and accessible to the public in general.

But there was one common theme amongst all of the gardens and that was the repurposing of plants – and I mean by that a reclassifying of plants for the garden. If we call unplanned plants ‘weeds’ the inference is these are a problem that needs dealing with. So money is spent on weedkiller, time is spent digging and unwanted plant waste material is transported to the tip. All of this uses resources unnecessarily, your resources and the cost of resources to create those products.

If you reclassify unwanted plants as natural flowers, not weeds you will alter your perception of the issue, they no longer become plants we must deal with or these will spoil the look of the garden. On the contrary, many ‘weeds; add to the biodiversity and improve the natural feel of most gardens.

The issue is US, we need to change our opinion of what a garden should look like, and be a little less worried about nature coming in! Oh and I have popped a couple of images of really good products you could try out this summer too.

The Wonder World of Flowers

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is all about plants – so here are some lovely pictures of some….

If you want to be on trend with plants then these are the types of plants you want to have….. Cornus Kousa, Aquilegia, Dropteris (well any fern) Orlaya Grandiflora, and Libertia Grandiflora, Lychnnis, Thalictrum and Cirsiums. Fennel was big, well the plants were little (for now), but every garden used fennel. NB: this will love self-seeding around the garden and can grow to several feet tall, but it is lovely.

Finally, Sisyrinchiums, Armerias and Melica (which is a grass with seed heads that look like rice grains) – it’s very pretty. For an underrated shrub, Viburnum opulus and for a new one Pittosporum Tobira (get ‘nana’ the other one is rather big)

Why Plants can be bad for the Planet

Green-washing may well become the word of the year, but you need to know how it does and will affect your garden

A couple of years ago I wrote an article ‘how green are bedding plants‘ which looked at how the sales of annuals by large garden centre chains and supermarkets is not very green. The production cycle of these plants was resource intensive for a plant most people would throw away. The same is true now with regard to houseplant sales.

The popularity of houseplants has sky-rocketed in recent years, with 18-35’s being the largest purchasers. Sadly once again the large scale commercialisation of houseplant production is also contributing to the problem. But because we are dealing with plants,  most consumers don’t really consider the environmental impact of their plant purchases.

Fortunately, there are now more environmentally aware suppliers of house plants, who grow and produce in the UK. Have a look at GebandGreen.co.uk , tropicalplantsuk.com and patchplants.com

Houseplants are a wonderful addition to any home, but when buying, do ask questions. You would not want your benefit to come at a cost of a less well off region of our planet.

How to Garden with Weeds

There are two types of plants in your garden, those you have chosen and bought for the garden, and those you have not!

My Favourite Things from Chelsea 2023

My favourite things and eye-candy moments from  the Chelsea Flower Show

My absolute favourite thing from Chelsea this year were moss-balls. I’d love to have some, but my sunny dry garden is not the place for them. Coming in a close second was Sarah Price’s Garden, for the audacity of colour choice and plants – I loved it. Then I think the Bison/Yak got my ‘that’s amazing’ vote.

PlantPlots design service is just perfect if…

  • You want to make your garden better; but don’t know how
  • The garden is an awkward shape
  • It’s your first ever garden
  • You’ve seen lots of pictures you love – but aren’t sure it would work in your garden!
  • You only want help with part of the garden