Find out the trends to expect from the Chelsea Flower Show 2024

rhs chelsea flower show
The top trends from RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024Tom Massey and Je Ahn

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We have been lucky enough to have a sneak peek ahead of this year’s Chelsea Flower Show and asked the designers what their key gardening trends are for 2024. As you would imagine, one of the overarching themes is climate change and dealing with its effects, including the need to use water more wisely. The RHS have been trying to reduce the environmental impact of the shows for many years, as Gemma Lake, Chelsea Flower Show Manager explains.

‘This year we are working closely with all our garden designers to bring the most sustainable gardens we can to the show,’ she says. ‘Together, they are using eco-techniques, low carbon materials and processes that are not only reducing their impact on the environment, but also reducing our waste at the end of the show. Every garden has a final relocation post-show where communities around the country will gain from having a beautifully designed space.’

Health and nurturing is also a big trend this year - so there are soothing sanctuaries and touching on forest bathing. Friendship and community is another key trend, so conceptual gardens have been created on brownfield sites in inner cities with a view to bringing communities together for the common good. And not forgetting the ever-popular small gardens, including balcony and container gardens, offering inspiration for those with smaller spaces or for those renting.

Chelsea Flower Show 2024 Trends

Health and Nurturing

chelsea flower show garden designers
World Child Cancer Nurturing Garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024 - Designer: Giulio Giorgi, Sponsor: Project Giving Back, Contractor: Landesigns LtdGiulio Giorgi

Part of the Sanctuary Gardens section, The World Child Cancer Nurturing Garden designed by Giulio Giorgi focuses on creating a space that offers solace and joy to children with cancer, through immersive nature experiences. ‘I was inspired by keyhole-style raised beds which are prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa,’ explains Giulio, ‘where they are used to grow all sorts of plants on difficult soils through extreme climates from drought to heavy rain. The beds are displayed as circular, cocoon-style nests. Each bed will vary in height to allow children of all ages to access the gardens and offer accessible planting surfaces that serve as sensory experiences. Soft touch plants, fragrant herbs, edibles, moss and miniature rock plants allow children to see plants grow and flourish.’

Designed by Miria Harris, herself a stroke survivor, the Stroke Association’s Garden for Recovery is created as a peaceful, sensory space for recovery and is located within the Show Gardens category. Colour, scent and the sound of water provide soft, way-finding for those with visual or mobility impairments. The trees frame views and a complimentary colour palette of pink, orange, yellow, purple and green guide visitors through the garden. The interconnected pathways acknowledge the difficult road to recovery with its ups and downs. A wildlife pond and stream add a further soothing dimension.

What to plant

Confetti Bush (Coleonema pulchellum)

‘The Confetti Bush is a pretty shrub with reflexed petals and darker eyes for colour which also emits a delicate scent when touched, so it’s perfect for stroke sufferers,’ says Miria Harris.

Urban Regeneration and Community

chelsea flower show garden designers
St James’s Piccadilly: Imagine The World to be Different Garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024 - Designer: Robert Myers, Sponsor: Project Giving Back, Contractor: Stewart Landscape ConstructionRobert Myers

It has been said that one-in-three people in Britain still don’t have access to local nature-rich spaces. So that was the spur for Ann-Marie Powell’s design for The Octavia Hill Garden by Blue Diamond with The National Trust, one of the Show Gardens. Channelling pioneering social reformer Octavia Hill (1838-1912), a founder of the National Trust, believed that the ‘healthy gift of air and the joy of plants and flowers’ were vital in everyone’s life. Located on an imaginary urban brownfield site, Ann-Marie explains ‘I wanted to create a beautiful, plant-filled, wildlife garden designed to stimulate physical, mental and social wellbeing. The garden is built around open-air sitting rooms, where visitors feel like they are part of nature.’

In the same vein, designer Robert Myers has created the St James's Piccadilly: Imagine the World to be Different Garden, which celebrates the restorative power of green spaces in cities. Robert explains that his garden design ‘takes its inspiration from St. James's Church in Central London, bombed during the second world war.’ In the Show Gardens category, the garden imagines an alternative world where St. James's was only partially restored, becoming a biodiverse garden space built around the remaining walls. The ‘borrowed’ plane trees at the RHS Chelsea showground echo similar trees at St James's, as do the materials used. ‘Pioneer plants found a foothold in the ruins of St James's after wartime bombings,’ says Robert, ‘and the seeds, carried by the wind, represented new hope and growth.’ Seven ‘pioneer’ species will feature in the garden, as a reminder of nature’s resilience and capacity for regeneration.

What to plant

Trachelospermum jasminoides (Star jasmine)

‘Climbers play a big part in the garden, taking the eye upwards, so Star jasmine is ideal,’ says Robert Myers. ‘An evergreen climber with dark leaves which turn bronze in winter. It has clusters of highly fragrant, pure white flowers from mid to late summer and is best grown against a warm, sunny wall.’

Water Saving and Management

chelsea flower show garden designers
WaterAid Garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024 - Designers: Tom Massey and Je Ahn, Sponsor: Project Giving Back supporting WaterAid, Contractor: Landscape AssociatesTom Massey and Je Ahn

Flashing forward fifty years is the thought behind The WaterAid Garden by Tom Massey and Je Ahn, part of this year’s Show Gardens category. It images how a UK garden may look in half a century. ‘The garden celebrates our most precious resource – water,’ says Tom. ‘Inspired by WaterAid’s work alongside communities around the world, the garden harnesses the power of rainwater. The striking pavilion is made with a steel subframe, clad in overlapping steel sheets where rainfall is collected, filtered and stored for future use.’

‘It’s more important than ever to manage water’ agrees Sam Proctor, designer of The Water Saving Garden, part of the Balcony and Container Garden section. ‘There are several useful takeaways from this garden including collecting rainwater in a water butt; redirecting water from hardscape straight onto planting beds; saving water from rinsing vegetables to use in the garden and collecting the water from your shower – remember to allow warm water to cool before using on your plants.’

In The Flood re: The Flood Resilient Garden designed by Naomi Slade and Dr Ed Barsley, the pair have concentrated on reduced flood risk and recovery. The garden is located in RHS Chelsea’s Sanctuary Gardens section. ‘With so many homes in the UK at risk of flooding, this garden has been designed to illustrate how any outdoor space can be adapted to cope with heavy rainfall, high groundwater and run-off,’ explains Naomi. ‘The technique is to use dense planting to slow the flow, while water is captured and stored for later use in large tanks that double as ornamental ponds.’

What to plant

Alnus glutinosa ‘Pyramidalis’ (common alder)

‘A great choice of tree in a wet garden is alder,’ suggests Tom Massey, from The Wateraid Garden. ‘Alder wood hardens in water and can survive being submerged. The roots have nodules that capture nitrogen improving soil fertility. They can also absorb toxic heavy metals from the ground helping to restore waste industrial land or contaminated areas.’

Balcony Gardens

chelsea flower show garden designers
The Addleshaw Goddard Junglette Balcony Garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024 - Designers: Mike McMahon and Jewlsy Mathews, Sponsor: Addleshaw Goddard, Contractor: Mike McMahon StudioMike McMahon and Jewlsy Matthews

The small garden section at Chelsea is always a big draw, offering people inspiration for their own small space garden or that increasing trend – lush and architectural balcony gardens. One of the most dramatic designs is by Mike McMahon and Jewlsy Mathews and is inspired by their own balcony in London’s Kings Cross. The Addleshaw Goddard Junglette Balcony Garden is in the Balcony and Container Garden section. ‘To bring this vision to life, embrace a maximalist ethos and start with bold statement plants such as Musa basjoo and Dicksonia Antarctica,’ explains Jewlsy. ‘A city’s microclimate often allows for tropical varieties, so add more plants to create a lush, vibrant, jungle ambience. On the balcony itself, a seating area is cocooned by cascading flora, evoking an enormous hanging basket.’

The second balcony garden offers a much softer, gentler space but with structural, patterned pergola frames draped with climbing plants, and was designed by Michela Trinca. La Mia Venezia is an imagined balcony in the UK designed as a homage to Venice and also part of the show’s Balcony and Container Garden section. ‘The pergola frames can be used to highlight a beautiful view or church spire for example, or to hide something less pleasing,’ explains Michela. ‘Plant for height, sound and scent and consider planting trailing plants at height to extend the landscape. Balustrades can be used for hanging plants. Think about watering too, a trough that collects rainwater via a rain chain, can be both useful and a nice visual feature.’

What to plant


‘Any ‘jungle’ plant will add a tropical feel’ says Jewlsy Matthews. ‘Colocasia is a lush architectural plant with large, emerald-green leaves and is happy in a garden, on a balcony or indoors as a house plant. They like plenty of warmth, humidity and moist soil.’

Sanctuaries and wellbeing

rhs chelsea flower show
The Sue Ryder Grief Kind Garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024 - Designer: Katherine Holland, Sponsor: Project Giving Back, Contractor: Greenscape Gardens LtdKatherine Holland

A lot of us use our gardens to relax after a long day at work, and it becomes a place to reflect as well as unwind and recharge our batteries. Forest bathing was a natural progression, especially for those with no outside space, and was chosen as the theme by designer Ula Maria for the Muscular Dystrophy UK – Forest Bathing Garden in the Show Garden section. ‘The garden is inspired by the ancient Japanese practice of Shinrin-Yoku,’ explains Ula, ‘which means bathing in a forest atmosphere and reconnecting with nature. The planting includes a birch grove with more than 40 trees blended with woodland edge-style plants, selected for their foliage to create a green tapestry, rich in texture.’

Also offering a peaceful sanctuary to sit within the beauty of nature, is the Sue Ryder Grief Kind Garden designed by Katherine Holland and in RHS Chelsea’s All About Plants section. ‘I am using my own experiences of grief to create a ‘green hug’,’ says Katherine. ‘I explore the theme through an evocative, sensory garden which provides a peaceful, safe and secluded space in which people can feel embraced and supported in the beauty of nature. I used ornamental grasses which provide movement and sound, and roses with a single bloom. A lavender hedge gives a relaxing fragrance when touched. I layered the plants and factored in the heights for each area of the garden to offer varying sightlines from the benches and chairs.’

What to plant

Sesleria Greenlea

‘I love to use grasses in my designs’ says Katherine Holland, ‘and particularly Sesleria Greenlea and Stipa Lessinginia. They both move beautifully in a breeze and have massed plumes of soft feathery seedheads to sweep your hand through. Both are easy to grow and tolerant of a wide range of soil types and aspects.’

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