Bees and lavender

Highlights from Chelsea

Nicky Roeber looks at key trends and highlights from this year’s Chelsea Flower Show.

As one of the biggest horticultural events in the UK, the Chelsea Flower Show celebrates everything we love about the garden, setting the course for the rest of the year. Here are some of the highlights of this year’s show, as well as the key trends that will come from them.

Kate Middleton got back to nature

The Back to Nature garden was designed by Kate Middleton in partnership with the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), and this was one of the most high-profile gardens of the whole show. It intended to inspire future generations to spend more time outdoors and connect with nature. The garden was filled with a whole host of interesting plants, adding some height and texture to aid in the sensory development of children.

The Duchess of Cambridge was very in tune with the purpose of her garden, encouraging children to interact with nature by building a tree swing, campfire, and treehouse made from a mixture of wood from chestnut, oak, hazel, and larch trees, which formed the garden’s centrepiece. Although the garden didn’t receive an official award from the judges, the royal children themselves had a lot of fun in the space. Prince George even gave it a successful 20 out of 10!

Following in the Duchess’s footsteps, we’re bound to see a bigger emphasis on creating child-friendly gardens this summer. One easy way to make your garden more child-friendly is to introduce a few sensory plants like lavender, greater quaking grass, and lamb’s ear.

We saw a focus on bee-friendly gardens

Recent years have seen bee populations decline, and there’s been a big effort from both professional and domestic gardeners to plant species to help support and restore their numbers. This trend is showing no signs of slowing down and this year’s Chelsea Flower Show has featured a number of bee-friendly gardens to spread awareness of their importance and generate support.

One of the most notable bee-friendly gardens was the tunnel-shaped Per Oculus Apum (Through the Eyes of Bees) from McQueens Flowers. This showstopping instalment featured a concrete tunnel lined with upside down lavender plants. To give guests a chance to see what life would be like as a bee, the designers of the garden used UV light and a honey scent to demonstrate how bees find their way to flowers.

There was an emphasis on eco-friendly gardens

This year we’ve seen a huge emphasis on climate change, and the Chelsea Flower Show has been no stranger to environmental messages. It featured a number of eco-friendly gardens aiming to highlight the importance of sustainability, water conservation, waste reduction, recycling, and clean air.

Floella’s Future, a garden designed by Birmingham City Council and supported by Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE, tackled the issue of waste and recycling. The garden featured a 3m-high sculpture of a human head drinking through a plastic straw to represent the harmful amount of single-use plastics we’re throwing away, and how the actions of just one individual can make all the difference.

The environmentally conscious Harmonious Garden of Life from Laurélie​ de la Salle utilised the power of plants to create an almost entirely self-sufficient garden. Water was filtered by a selection of irises and Typha, which were planted in the garden’s water pool. A swing chair then activated a circulation system to spray its plants using the filtered water. The garden also featured some air purifying bamboo and photoluminescent gravel to light pathways and reduce the need for outdoor lighting.

Nicky Roeber is the Online Horticultural Expert at Wyevale Garden Centres