The RHS Chelsea Flower Show, is held for five days in May in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London. It is the place to go, to see the latest trends in garden design, fabulous floral displays and innovative garden products. It is attended by royalty, celebrities and over 150,000 visitors over the 5 days. Many new plants are given their debut at the Chelsea Flower Show. This exposure can turn them into household names amongst gardeners. Here are some notable plants from Chelsea in the past, which are grown on our nurseries and still popular today.

Rosa ‘Iceberg’ This pure white floribunda rose, stole the show at Chelsea in 1958 with its pure white flowers and strong scent. It is still widely sold at Garden Centres in the UK, including Tates of Sussex. It can be found as a bush, standard or climbing form.

Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’ was first shown at Chelsea in 1982 and named RHS Plant of the Decade 1973 – 1982. It continues to be sold in large numbers in the UK every spring. This perennial wallflower flowers over a very long season. In fact, it is not unknown for it to continue flowering through a mild winter. It is also drought tolerant, low maintenance, attracts pollinators and looks great in mixed borders. It lasts about 3 to 4 years before needing to be replaced.

Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’ was discovered at Kew Gardens in 1980 and first introduced at Chelsea in 1983. It became incredibly popular through the UK and America, igniting an interest in foliage plants, which continues to this day. It was the first of the coloured foliage heucheras, and inspired the breeding of the wide variety of different colours and leaf styles of heuchera and heucherellas that can be found today

Geranium ‘Rozanne’ was introduced in the year 2000. Three years later in 2013 it was named RHS Plant of the Centenary to mark 100 years of the Chelsea Flower Show. To date, around 20 million Geranium Rozanne have been sold around the world. This is testament to the garden worthiness of this plant. It flowers over a long season. When it gets tired in August cut it back to the base and it will send up a new flush to last until Autumn. It is a brilliant plant for filling gaps, scrambling between other perennials and hiding any scrappy lower stems of other plants.

Anemone ‘Wild Swan’ was named Plant of the Year in 2011. It flowers well and over a longer period from May to November than most Japanese anemones. Best in dappled or partial shade, the white flowers glow in the low light and the grey-blue streak on the back adds an extra dimension. There are now four ‘Swan’ Anemones, with the others being Elfin Swan, Dainty Swan (pink on the reverse of the petals) and Ruffled Swan.

Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’ was RHS Plant of the Year winner in 2013. Since then, it has become a firm favourite amongst gardeners. Unlike other mahonias, it is not prickly. It forms a pleasing bushy shape to about 1m, with the honey-scented spires of yellow flowers appearing from late summer to autumn. It is very low maintenance just requiring a mulch in spring.

Viburnum ‘Kilimanjaro Sunrise’ Was RHS Plant of the Year winner in 2015. It has also recently been Plant of the Week here at Tates Garden Centres. You can see our video about this plant on our YouTube page:

It is a compact shrub with white lacecap flowers in spring to early summer, which become tinged with pink as they age. The flowers are followed by red to black berries and gorgeous autumn leaf colour. A plant for 3 full seasons of interest in the garden and low maintenance too.

The winner in 2019 of Plant of the Year was Sedum takesimense ‘Atlantis’ 2019. It is the second and third place plants however, which have made the most impact.

Second place in 2019 was Digitalis x valinii ‘Firebird’. A reliable perennial foxglove with a branching habit, flowering from May to October. It always sells well. The warm colours mix beautifully with dahlias.

Third place that year was Agapanthus ‘Fireworks’. This is a really beautiful agapanthus with the purple-blue bases contrasting with the flared white petal tips. The clusters of flowers can last for up to 12 weeks. They form strong plants and will flourish in patio pots.

Cercis canadensis ‘Eternal Flame’ Won plant of the Year in 2021. Grown as a multi-stem shrub or small tree its colour changing leaves provide interest from spring to autumn. The young heart-shaped leaves emerge a deep glossy red before changing through different variations of red, orange and yellow. With all the colours being shown at the same time the resulting effect is that of a warm flickering fire.

Salvia ‘Amistad’ has been a favourite of UK gardeners for over 10 years and now it is available in another colour – pink! Salvia ‘Pink Amistad’ came third place in the Plant of the Year competition in 2022. I think this cultivar is sure to be as popular as the original purple ‘Amistad’.

All information correct at time of publishing May 2024.

Hazel Still Tates of Sussex Garden Centres
By our resident horticultural expert

Hazel Still