In Garden Design, News

The first September Chelsea Flower Show and it was much needed. You could sense the hunger not only amongst us garden designers but throughout the horticultural industry and the gardening community. If any positives have come out of this pandemic, then it is how humans have connected with nature, gardens, and their outdoor space.

The usual May show is known for a palette of purples and oranges and many people have remarked that over the years the gardens have blurred into one. But not this September. It was very refreshing to see every garden had an identity of its own even though there was a similar message running through all of them.

Guangzhou Garden designed by Peter Chmiel and Chin-Jung Chen. The pods are constructed pressed, laminated, steamed and bent moso bamboo which is sustainable.

Photo Credit: Manoj Malde


This years Chelsea Flower Show was all about climate change and sustainability. The gardens were about health, wellbeing, a lighter touch and humanity and hope. Quite rightly this is at the forefront of the news with the COP26 summit to be held in Glasgow. My friend Arit Andersen has designed the BBC One Show Garden of Hope which illustrated how gardening and growing plants provides hope and joy as we enjoy the fruits of our labour. One of my favourites was the Guangzhou Garden. It highlights the benefits of responsible city planning and how planners must work in harmony with nature to better connect people with the natural world. A strong message that our planners would do well to take notice of. In this garden the living wall at the rear was used to filter air. The clean air was then pumped through underground channels to the large bamboo pod. Clean cool air could be felt as you entered the pod.

The pocket park garden designed by Hugo Bugg and Charlotte Harris, sponsored by M&G. The pool of water at the front encourages and supports wildlife in the garden. Natural stone and tree trunks have been re-purposed into seating.

Photo Credit: Manoj Malde


It was wonderful to see a different colour palette with vermilions, tangerines, apricot, blush, magenta, butterscotch, burnt umbers, treacle, and flax. Never before have rosehips and seed heads made an appearance at the Chelsea Flower Show. Grasses are often used as fillers but this time they came into their own with beautiful feathery plumes on show.

The Blue Diamond Forge Garden was inspired by a 15th century forge in Branscombe, Devon which has been in constant use for centuries. The natural woodland setting creates a beautiful backdrop to the forge. Apart from the riot of colour the garden also includes fruit trees, herbs and medicinal plants.

Photo Credit: Manoj Malde


With climate change and sustainability at the heart of this year’s show, the designers had turned to natural materials. There was a lot of timber used for cabins, pergolas, arches, and seating. Natural stone was seen in the form of large boulders, paving, steps, setts, and gravel. Nearly every single garden has water. Sarah Eberle’s The Psalm 23 Garden had a thunderous waterfall, whilst Jonathan Snow’s Himalayan Garden that celebrated Trailfinder’s 50th Anniversary had water driven prayer wheel with streams coursing through the garden.

Designers Hugo Bugg and Charlotte Harris had approached sustainability in a different way by embracing found materials and turning them into something extraordinary, sustainable, authentic, and beautiful. Precious urban green spaces are being lost in the constant drive to build and develope. It has taken a pandemic to show us how important these spaces are. Their garden sponsored by M&G incorporated reclaimed and re-used materials wherever possible. 100 linear meters of repurposed metal pipe weaves through the planting of the garden.

The BBC One Garden of Hope designed by Arit Andersen. The timber is steam bent to create a cosy sheltered seating area but it’s sculptural form also acts as focal point to the garden. This garden also had a mix of ornamental, edibles, herbs and fruit trees.

Photo Credit: Manoj Malde


There was a definite change not only in the colours but also the planting palette. Hugo and Charlotte had chosen Nyssa sylvatica, Hippophae rhamnoides and Elaeagnus umbellata in naturalistic shape. These trees are tolerant to urban climate extremes. Ornamental grasses such as Deschampsia and Seslaria autumnalis were also seen. Echinacea, Anemone, Kniphofia, Asters


This year saw the introduction of new categories to the show. With more of us living in inner city apartments with smaller outdoor spaces it seemed appropriate to have Balcony Gardens at the show. Martha Krempel merged reality with fantasy on her balcony garden with a painted backdrop, an idealised English landscape hinting at the exotic. The planting on the balcony merged into the painted landscape whilst the canopy became more tropical with Yucca and Punica granatum. James Smith’s balcony maximised every part of the outdoor space. He included texture, scent, and edibles. Two strawberry trees, planted in feature containers, appealing to pollinators. He even managed to have a bronze sculpture as a contemplative focal point. To finish it all off a timber bench from which you can truly enjoy the space.

The Green Sky Pocket Garden was one of the balcony gardens. James Smith designed this garden as an antidote for busy city living.



Another new category was the Container Gardens. These pocket gardens were all about maximising opportunities of your outdoor space no matter how small they are. An awkward space can sometimes benefit from the addition of plants. A container planted with a small tree and a little bit of underplanting has created a beautiful outdoor living space at little cost. If you are renting, then this is the perfect solution as you can take the materials with you when you move. You will also be providing essential corridors for wildlife.

The Stolen Soul Garden designed by Anna Dabrowska-Jaudi. The container garden was about invisible mental health issues. The living wall at the rear represents the dark scope of emotions such as fear, emptiness and despair whilst the planting in the containers symbolises empathy, joy and light.

Photo Credit: Manoj Malde


If you have no outdoor space think about creating an indoor garden. The garden design industry always talks about bringing the indoors outside. Here the roles reverse. How about bringing the outdoors inside? The Millennial generation have shown a real interest in house plants, and they are investing a bit more by buying large specimen plants. House plants are important for our wellbeing both indoors and outdoors. They lift our spirits, and they also purify the air by absorbing toxins.

The Psalm 23 Garden designed by Sarah Eberle. ‘The Lord is my Shepheard’ is a message of hope, encouragement, and solace. Sarah’s intentions of this garden are to offer a place to breathe, re-engage with nature and feel mentally, physically, and spiritually restored. A perfect tonic after the pandemic.

Photo Credit; Manoj Malde

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