Chelsea is a great place to see what’s going on in the garden design world. It’s full of the best of the industry doing incredible work, and there’s always loads of great ideas you can take home to your own garden.
I’ve picked the top ten trends from the show this year – click on the images to enlarge them!
Usually there’s one overriding colour, and this year it was purple. One of the main trends was purple lillies around the water features, which cropped up in loads of show gardens!
Purple flowers were also used to great effect with green foliage. It works with rich, dark shades and lighter yellow-greens. In the Help for Heroes garden, white flowers contrasted with the purple, and deeper reds and pinks added more colour.
Help for Heroes garden
There were plenty of great woodland-style gardens at the show this year. Trees bring height and shade, so this trend uses a lot of shade-loving foliage. Ferns are the easiest way to get a forest look, but you can go the whole hog like Hillier by edging borders with hosta-covered logs. I also liked the traditional woodland path – complete with leaves!
For colour, traditional white flowers always work, but reds and pinks were also used to give a richer feel. Try this pink pleione with lily of the valley. Make sure plants have interesting foliage too.
Try reds and pinks with rich foliage
Planting wild meadow flowers is very much in fashion at the moment, and they featured heavily at Chelsea. I loved the delicate pink flowers of this silene dioica. The grasses gave the flower beds a wilder feel, and I liked the delicate irises cleverly planted among them.
To stop this looking scruffy, try repeating plants. This basically means putting the same plant in different places in the bed. And why not mark the centenary of the First World War with these great ladybird poppies?
Round water features
Tree water feature
I couldn’t believe how many of the water features were in circles! I love the tree waterfall – it has a really calm, trickling sound. This black metal pool also contrasted nicely with the natural stones and planting in the garden.
For something more modern, try a sleek silver water feature with underwater lighting set in sharp paving. Or my favourite, which was the round pond in the No Man’s Land garden, surrounded by green vegetation. People often leave pond planting quite sparse, but this is so lush!
No Man’s Land
I spotted these everywhere. They make great features in small gardens, despite their size. You can use them to break up the view, making the garden appear bigger because you can’t see everything in one go. Plus it creates a little window, like you’re looking into a secret garden.
You can try traditional stone or contemporary metal, and they give great shadows when the sun shines through the hole!
Alan Titchmarsh garden
The ‘From the moors to the sea’ garden by Alan Titchmarsh and Kate Gould set the coastal tone this year. There was a wide range of tough seaside plants at the show, from saxifrage to succulents.
It’s also a great idea to add to the mood with coastal knick-knacks like boats, life belts, driftwood and fishing cages.
Another popular colour was orange, especially for meadow flowers. I loved this on the Perennial GRBS stand mixed in with purple blooms (three trends in one!). Geum is a great tall flower for wild planting.
It was good to see lots of harmonious planting with reds and yellows – it’s an easy way to make such a vibrant colour feel like part of the garden. And check out these lovely rhododendrons!
This is a simple way to give structure to casual planting – there were loads of squares, rectangles and blocks built into garden beds. My favourite was the lovely Help for Heroes garden, with sharp grey stones and neatly clipped box. Elsewhere, wooden blocks doubled up as ornament stands!
The concrete blocks and squares also gave the Mind’s Eye garden a contemporary feel and helped make the water feature blend in with the design. The geometric walls and mirrors at the back made it feel like a modern art gallery garden!
Mind’s Eye garden
White and green
This is a classic garden colour combination, and was used to great effect this year. There is a risk of looking boring if you only use two colours, so the trick is to plant a wide range of shapes, heights and textures. My favourite look was the Hillier garden, where abstract zinc structures made the classic colour scheme feel modern.
The cornus alternifolia is a great shrub for both colours – it has marbled leaves and delicate white blossom. The white lavender also works well alongside soft, silver foliage, and white foxgloves are a key plant for height and flowers.
Metal has been a feature in gardens for years, but now it has gone modern! The pyramid water feature is both contemporary and ancient-looking at the same time, like the mock African statues. For something more understated, try an abstract sculpture among the trees and paint your fence grey!
The most eye-catching piece was the water feature in the Stoke City Council garden. It looked like the water was gushing out of one half and into the other, though in fact it was running over Perspex. The modern metal contrasted with the rich pinks and reds in the flower beds.
David Domoney is a Chartered Horticulturalist, Broadcaster, and Author. David has worked with a number of the UK’s leading garden retailers as a plant buyer and strategic consultant. With more than 30 years experience, in horticulture, David is as passionate about plants now as he was when he bought his first plant at a village fete.