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21 May 2024

These are the trends likely to catch on from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show

21 May 2024

From the blend of historical literary inspiration with contemporary design excellence to the use of native plants, there has been an emphasis on sustainability and allowing nature to be itself at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

These are some of the key gardening trends to emerge from this year’s event.


According to the chair of The Society of Garden Designers (SGD) Andrew Duff, the main trend at this year’s RHS Chelsea is sustainability.

“It’s become the norm, and I don’t see it as a passing trend. There is a lot of native planting of plants from the UK, which makes it more adaptive. These are like birch trees, native grasses and a big move away from lawns,” said Duff.

“People are more conscious of climate change. We will get a lot more rain as well as increased temperatures, which broadens the level of planting that’s being celebrated.”

The way people are using their gardens has changed, mainly due to the pandemic, Duff said.

“They are enjoying planting again and want to be outside, nurture a living thing in their garden and see how they can plant their own food and conserve rainwater.

“We can’t continue to water our gardens in the way we are doing. So plants need to be tougher and that’s why British natives are so important. It can also show that it’s okay for the garden to do its thing, which is a refreshing change – the garden is not seen as a big burden as it once was.

“Gardens should be fun and shouldn’t be precious. Families with young children should be able to kick a ball and see bees on plants. Gardens also have other functions, like drying clothes.”


Landscape designer Tom Massey and architect Je Ahn, who designed The WaterAid Garden, which featured flood and drought-resilient plants to adapt to a changing climate, agreed with Duff.

“There are so many gardens here dealing with sustainable water management, including The WaterAid Garden, which is really all about rainwater harvesting.

“In this country, we had a lot of flooding this winter and in previous summers we have had 40 degrees Celsius heat and drought. So even here, in the UK, this is something we should all be thinking about. It’s really important,” said Massey.

Gentle gardening

‘Gentle gardening’ is a term Massey used to describe another trend to better support biodiversity.

“Planting that is designed for pollinators and insects. So I think a looser and more gentle approach to gardening, one that is more in tune with nature and moves away from the very clipped, formal and sterile landscapes that maybe we would have seen 10 years ago,” he said.

“This requires less chemical use, being more patient, not demanding perfection immediately, just being a bit more relaxed in the way we approach our gardening.

It’s also about having the right plant and knowing the right location to plant them, Ahn added.

“That’s a really important message. After Covid, more people started to buy house plants and are learning more about how to properly take care of them.

“But people just need to do a little more reading, make use of social media, the enormous amount of resources the RHS have or even work with a professional.”

Growing your own food

Garden designers and passionate growers Lucy Hutchings and Kate Cotterill, who founded their heirloom seed company She Grows Veg in June 2023, have tried their best to get rid of the gardening jargon, avoid using the Latin names and anything else that can put people off from growing their own food.

“Growing your own food can be straightforward,” said Hutchings. “You don’t need a big garden, and can literally sprinkle some lettuce seeds in a pot and leave it by the windowsill. And if it doesn’t work or dies, it really doesn’t matter, just have another go. It’s about taking out the fear of failure.

“People have become a lot more conscious of where their food comes from, especially young people. They care and want to know that it hasn’t had too much impact on the planet as well.

“For these reasons, they’ve also realised that they don’t have much control when you buy food from a shop. But if you grow it yourself, you know exactly what happens to it, it’s from nothing but love and you can taste the difference. You know it’s massively nutrient-packed.

“With anything grown, as soon as it’s picked, the nutritional levels start to decrease, so if you pick a fruit or vegetable from your garden or windowsill – wherever you grow it – you can eat it almost straight away and it’s so much better for you.

“People love anything that’s brightly coloured, which has the highest level of nutrients in it. This allows you to eat other things you wouldn’t usually see in the supermarket aisle. Swiss chard is a great example of this, it’s a bit like spinach with a big fat stem, lasts for pretty much a year and it doesn’t die in the winter – a brilliant one for beginner gardeners.”

Colourful plants

A variety of summer plants were used throughout RHS Chelsea, which could mean an increase in colourful plants in gardens untill September, including the tall yet familiar Foxglove – also known as Digitalis – and perennials, which featured in many different designs.

“The subtle use of planting colours is a nod to people’s desire to feel more immersed in nature and be part of their countryside. I think there is a link to interiors too, which are becoming bolder and brighter, and often gardens would go the opposite way,” said Duff.


The power of trees can sometimes be overlooked, especially how they adapt to climate change.

Bonsai, the Japanese art of growing and shaping miniature trees in containers, was also featured at the show.

“We’ve seen a huge increase in people getting into bonsai. If you are suffering from depression or any other mental health issues, this helps you become extroverted instead of introverted,” said amateur grower Nick Payne from The Bonsai Boys.

“When I’m working with my trees, I completely forget about everything. A lot of these trees are pretty old and you can carry them around. They are fed, pruned and looked after very well.”

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