RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024: My top 5 trends

On Monday 21st May, I was lucky enough to be invited to the preview evening of the Chelsea Flower Show 2024.  What a treat to look around the show and the gardens before it opens to the public and the medals have been awarded. This year, I was so inspired by all the ideas and beautiful plants it's been difficult to choose just a few favourites! Looking back through my many photos, there are five key themes that really stood out.

Whimsical: Chelsea in Bloom

Stepping out of Sloane Square tube station we were immediately hit with the scent of flowers and whimsical floral feast displays. The Hungry Caterpillar has taken over Sloane Square, complete with giant watermelon, cupcakes, apples and pears all created from flowers, plants and moss. Following the Kings Road we came across Willy Wonka’s chocolate world arch and Winnie the Pooh’s picnic. Most of the shops have been beautifully decorated with the most amazing floral displays. I would say it’s worth a visit to this area of London even if you don’t have tickets to the flower show. Running all week, visit Chelsea in Bloom's website for a handy map and more information. 

White out

Following on neatly from the white-themed shop front at Ralph Lauren, the colour that kept repeating itself throughout the Chelsea show gardens was white.  From stunning white flowered American hawthorns (crateagus) to the surprising, but beautiful, 2024 Chelsea flower show plant of the year – ornamental flowering cherry tree Prunus ‘Starlight’.  White stemmed silver birch trees were planted in amongst camassia, foxgloves and azaeleas. A new plant to me was a disporum, Green Giant Fairy Bell, which I thought was very pretty and delicate. Sometimes sticking to a single colour theme like this in a garden can really help pull the design together. It’s not for everyone, but I really liked the soft and natural look of these all-white designs. 

Wild 


Along with the cultivated white flowers, a prominent plant in a lot of the show gardens was cow parsley.  Considered a weed by some, I think the addition of this plant to the Chelsea Flower Show demonstrates the transition to wilder gardens. What is a weed anyway? Just a plant in the wrong place! My garden is no stranger to cow parsley, I love it in amongst my perennial border, but a small word of caution – left to its own devices it will take over a border so make sure to dig it up or thin out to keep them in check. 

I really loved the RHS No Adults Allowed Garden. Designed by children for children, it is described as a joyful journey through a fantastical landscape where children can explore the magic of lush woodland, bountiful meadows and a wetland with oversized bog plants. I was lucky to see this at the end of the day as the sun set and the lighting really brought the space and the plants to life. I liked the contrasting colours of the yellow kniphofia and the bright pink gladiolus. I think it really showed how much you can fit into a small space, while bringing a sense of exploration and adventure to the mix.

Something that really stood out to me were the number of bees in all the displays! The RHS have really encouraged designers to focus on environmentally-friendly gardening techniques and wildlife-friendly plants. The fact that bees had found all these plants in just a matter of days really demonstrates the power of planting pollinator-friendly plants – if we plant them, the bees will come! 

Wood and woodlands

Wood in both senses of the word! Firstly there is a real trend for woodland gardens, particularly in the Muscular Dystrophy Forest Bathing Garden which was awarded Gold for Best Show Garden. Forest bathing is a Japanese meditation practice that takes place in woodland. Whether or not you are into forest bathing, being amongst trees and plants is very relaxing and is well known to improve our mental health. I loved the soft colour, woodland edge planting with foxgloves, iris and geraniums. Several of the gardens featured woodland and shade-loving plants, and the fact the show plant this year is a tree, demonstrates a real trend for tree planting. The RHS No Adults Allowed Garden allows entry to adults only if you pledge to plant a tree. I firmly believe there is one for every shape and size of garden, so let’s hope this trend continues and leads to more trees being planted. 

Secondly, the use of wood as a hard landscaping material – partly driven by the RHS requirement for gardens to build with sustainable materials alongside the versatility of wood as a material. Everything from amazing benches and seating in the National Trust Octavia Hill Garden (which I was lucky enough to test out!) to unusual, charred cork walls in the National Autistic Society Garden. Cork is a really interesting material as the bark regenerates itself every 10 years and is amazingly versatile when made into flooring, screens or sculptures.  

Water

There were some lovely water features and ponds throughout the show gardens. I loved the large rainwater filled bowl and stream in the forest bathing garden, but my favourite has to be the tumbling waterfall and pool in the Japanese inspired MOROTO no IE Garden.  A firm Chelsea favourite Japanese designer, Kazuyuki Ishihara, has been to Chelsea many times and I love his attention to detail of the moss and planting amongst the rocks and water.   

The WaterAid Garden by Tom Massey and architect Je Ahn features a rain harvesting pavilion which gathers every drop of rainfall and stores it for drinking and irrigation. Many of the gardens focused on rainwater harvesting, using permeable surfaces and rainwater collection ponds or streams to capture and slow down the flow of run-off water. I particularly liked the rainwater chains used instead of downpipes on several of the gardens, creating something beautiful from a functional feature. 


As always, Chelsea offers so much inspiration. Although some of the ideas are out of reach of most gardeners, I think it's really interesting to look at the trends and themes that run through the show. They are probably things that we will start to see in our garden centre before too long. Sustainability within gardening continues to be a big trend this year - from planting more trees and harvesting rain water to using natural materials and planting plants that are more resilient to climate change. At Millbrook, we are very aware of the importance of gardening for the planet, and we're looking forward to sharing lots more Planet Positive ideas and new products with you in the future!

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