The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is a flagship event of the gardening world, always celebrating boundary-pushing, forward-thinking design. The 2023 show is no exception, with a number of intriguing trends and ideas that have been prevalent throughout the various garden designs.
Edimentals: A Feast for the Eyes and Palate
One of the most noticeable trends this year is the focus on edibles and ‘edimentals’ – plants that are both edible and ornamental. This reflects the current interest in grow-your-own produce, which has spiked during the pandemic and continues to be a focus for gardeners. Traditional edibles star in the Savills Garden, designed by Mark Gregory, taking the form of a hotel’s seasonal kitchen garden with a variety of vegetables. However, edimentals are the true buzzword this year, with gardens such as Harry Holding’s School Food Matters Garden showcasing plants that are as tasty as they are beautiful, from fruit trees to artichokes, asparagus, fennel and various herbs.
Brownfield Gardens: Biodiversity in Unlikely Places
A more surprising theme emerging this year is the focus on brownfield sites – land that has been used by humans, typically in an industrial capacity, and then abandoned. These sites, despite appearing neglected and devoid of life, are in fact hotbeds of biodiversity. Tom Massey’s show garden for the Royal Entomological Society is inspired by these sites, featuring wildlife panels and gabions filled with a variety of materials, while Cleve West’s Centrepoint Garden represents a garden grown up around the ruins of a demolished house, complete with piles of rubble.
Recycling and Reusing: Sustainability in Action
Several designers are championing recycling and reusing materials at the show. Sarah Price, in particular, is aiming to have the lowest carbon footprint of any Chelsea garden ever built. For the Nurture Landscapes Garden, she has sourced all her materials, many of them waste or reclaimed, from an ‘imagined corridor’ linking Surrey to Chelsea. The garden features unique elements crafted from waste materials such as old brick, canvas, rope made from plant stems and wooden objects crafted from fallen trees.
Dappled Woodland Gardens: A Peaceful Retreat
If there’s a style that has predominated at Chelsea over the past decade, it’s the spring woodland garden, and 2023 is no different. These gardens provide a serene atmosphere with their dappled shade and woodland-edge planting. Harris Bugg has opted for an immersive experience for Horatio’s Garden to provide a calm, sensory place as an antithesis to the clinical feel of a hospital. While Chris Beardshaw’s design for the Myeloma UK – A Life Worth Living Garden, is a curated woodland garden with jewel-like highlights amongst the lush planting, with nine mature trees including a majestic ginkgo and a selection of shade-loving plants.
The Chelsea Flower Show 2023, with its focus on edimentals, brownfield gardens, recycling and reusing materials, and dappled woodland gardens, is a testament to the creativity, resilience and sustainability of the gardening world. As it continues to inspire and inform gardeners across the globe, one thing is for sure: the Chelsea Flower Show remains the most cutting-edge garden show on earth.