What to learn from the RHS Garden Shows 2022

RHS garden shows

RHS Garden Shows 2022

Listen to the Podcast on Apple  I was very fortunate to be able to attend all the 3 main RHS garden shows this year. So, Chelsea in May, Hampton Court and Tatton Park in July. All three shows have very different flavours, but there are themes that are common to all.

Now, not all the elements in these garden shows are worth copying, these are shows after all. But some are; so what are they?

Nature & Wildlife

The overriding assessment of all the RHS garden shows was one of life. Every garden used an abundance of flowers that attracted bees, butterflies, moths and all manor of tiny flying insects. The message was very loud and clear.

Gardens should DO good as well as LOOK good!

In fact the contrast between the show gardens and some of the flower displays in the marquees was quite startling. Now I now these displays were under cover, but it was only in reality a large tent. These was little stopping a bee flying in.

But whilst outside the show gardens buzzed and hummed with life, many of the plants on display did not. And given the concentration of scent and flowers inside the tent, that was rather surprising.

What it did show was that although design is forging ahead in an more environmentally sensitive way to create a garden; much of horticulture is still focussed on producing blooms that satisfy only our human senses.

Naturalised Landscapes

Many of this years show gardens resembled landscapes; and personally, I don’t think these work in a garden. The wider landscape can’t really be lifted pick and mix style into suburbia – and work.

Aside from the simple practicality issues, (small garden and hawthorn trees!) these naturalised landscapes can’t deliver what a garden needs to be a functional space outside the back door.  So for all the good design intentions, you cannot borrow and copy from the landscape. A classic example of this is the forest bathing garden – firstly I don’t know about you, but lying on a wooden bench surround by trees in the shade, may sound romantic, the reality would be less so.

In the UK our climate would ensure you had to wipe green algae, moss and detritus off the loungers and hope they weren’t too damp to sit on, with a jumper on as it’s in the shade. And then you would have fight the midges and cover your cup of tea to prevent things falling or flying in!

Naturalised flower garden at Hampton Court Flower show depicting a grassland with a few shrubs as trees
Naturalistic planting in a RHS show garden 2022, ox-eye daisiy wild flowers and multistem silver birch
Orange flowers in the show gardens

Orange is in

I don’t know why orange is not a more widely used colour in many gardens. It is a brilliant colour to add a pop if interest and it adds both warmth and happiness to any garden border.

However, you need to use the colour in moderation. Think ‘bling’ if you saw a person wearing a beautiful necklace you would admire it, however if you saw a person wandering around adorned everywhere with huge chunky necklaces, big sparkly rings and chandeliers for earrings, the effect is lost.

Orange is a case of ‘less is more’; so use small but brightly coloured flowers over large big blousy orange blooms. Make sure these will pop up and catch your eye in the planting scheme – do not overuse the orange.

Upcycling, Recycling and Sustainability

There are two elements to consider when repurposing objects for the garden. Will it be fit for purpose and how attractive is it – really!

Lets not beat around the bush, you are going to be staring at these objects a lot, so the recyled element has to be worth looking at in its own right.

Consider how the upcycled piece will look after two years – or will it just be thrown away again because it has become a bit of a eye-sore in the garden?

Upcycling at the shows

Bee Bold & Bee happy!

Make sure at least 80% of the plants in the garden are good for you AND good for wildlife. You will double your enjoyment of the garden.

Use colour combinantions that make YOU happy. You can have shocking pink and orange if you love it, or go dramatic with dark black purples and brilliant white. Cool subtle and minimalistic architectural plant chic can make for a dull garden. So next year put some big strong colours in the garden.

But just like orange, use in moderation for greater impact.

Upcycling at the shows
collour combor crocosmia lucifer and helenium
Cirrus garden at the RHS Garden Shows 2022

The Cirrus Garden

Gardens are supposed to make you FEEL something. And if they don’t its just a place with plants.

Whether you love this garden or not The Cirrus Garden  just made you smile, and it’s creator made you smile even more.

Remember it is YOUR garden it only has to make YOU happy.

The RHS garden shows had a lot of good ideas this year, but the best ones involved the bees too.

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