Sustainability and wellbeing will once again take centre stage at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, taking place from 23-27 May. Restorative gardens, in particular, will be a key theme amongst the 12 show gardens announced by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) at a press conference this month.
Gold medal winner Tom Massey returns to the show with The Royal Entomological Society Garden, inspired by the biodiversity of brownfield sites. Design duo Charlotte Harris and Hugo Bugg are also returning to Chelsea with Horatio’s Garden, a wheelchair accessible space for patients recovering from spinal injury – a garden which Professor Alistair Griffiths, RHS director of science, says is “close to his heart” following his father’s accident last year.
The Hoban Cultural Foundation: Land of Healing, Korean Mountain Light garden by Korean designer Jihae Hwang will explore the success of a rewilding project in her home country. Following the theme of biodiversity, Jilayne Rickards is back with her second Chelsea garden, The Fauna & Flora International Garden, and Mark Gregory will be using zero concrete and exploring new techniques for The Savills Garden, the sixth show garden he has designed and his 108th garden at Chelsea as a contractor. This kitchen garden will be “almost like a chef’s table,” says Mark, and he’ll be working alongside the new sustainability manager at the RHS to create a sustainable space.
Chelsea itself will be more sustainable than ever this year. Every show garden must be relocated in some form, whether in full or in parts, and single use plastic will be banned. Greener Festival has been helping the RHS explore how to reduce the show’s carbon footprint, and the organisation will now be working towards its events being entirely peat free and as green as possible by 2025.
Outside of its events, the RHS has appointed a peat-free postdoctoral fellow to help the horticultural trade transition to sustainable growing media. A £1m co-funded, five-year project led by the charity will convene government, growers and growing media manufacturers through the Growing Media Association and horticultural product supplier Fargro to research sustainable alternatives to peat in large-scale commercial settings.
The RHS has also appointed its first senior ecologist to help boost biodiversity across UK gardens. Gemma Golding will be designing and leading ecological surveys across the gardening charity’s five gardens, establishing baseline data on wildlife and developing recommendations to increase biodiversity in domestic spaces
Next year’s Chelsea will be the first for new RHS director general Clare Matterson. As one of her first initiatives, Clare has announced a Children’s Picnic will take place at the spring event to help make the RHS more accessible and welcoming. In its first year, one hundred children will attend the picnic from schools in some of the most disadvantaged areas of London.
Several show gardens this year will also once again be supported by Project Giving Back. Seven charities have been selected for show gardens to be funded and raise awareness of their cause.
There are undoubtedly more announcements to follow of what else we can expect at Chelsea next year, but the biggest message coming across from the gardens so far is that the RHS is eager to have a wider impact and to steer conversations towards gardening and gardens being recognised for their vast benefits.
The full list of show gardens announced for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023 so far:
Centre for Mental Health’s The Balance Garden
Designers: Jonathan Davies and Steve Williams (Wild City Studio)
Sponsor: Project Giving Back/Centre for Mental Health
Contractor: Stewart Landscape Ltd.
The RBC Brewin Dolphin Garden
Designer: Paul Hervey-Brookes
Sponsor: RBC Brewin Dolphin
Contractor: GK Wilson
The Centrepoint Garden
Designer: Cleve West
Sponsor: Project Giving Back/Centrepoint
Contractor: Crocus Ltd.
The Fauna & Flora International Garden
Designer: Jilayne Rickards
Sponsor: Project Giving Back/Fauna & Flora International
Contractor: Living Landscapes
Hoban Cultural Foundation: Land of Healing, Korean Mountain Light
Designer: Jihae Hwang
Sponsor: Hoban Cultural Foundation
Contractor: The Landscape Tailor
Myeloma UK Garden
Designer: Chris Beardshaw
Sponsor: Project Giving Back/Myeloma UK
The Nurture Landscapes
Designer: Sarah Price
Sponsor: Nurture Landscapes
Contractor: Crocus Ltd
Designers: Charlotte Harris and Hugo Bugg
Sponsor: Project Giving Back/Horatio’s Garden
Contractor: Ryan Alexander Associates
The Royal Entomological Society Garden
Designer: Tom Massey
Sponsor: Project Giving Back/The Royal Entomological Society
Contractor: Landscape Associates
Samaritans’ Listening Garden
Designer: Darren Hawkes
Sponsor: Project Giving Back/Samaritans
Contractor: Landform Consultants Ltd.
The Savills Garden
Designer: Mark Gregory
Contractor: Landform Consultants Ltd.
Designers: Gavin McWilliam and Andrew Wilson
Sponsor: Darwin Alternative Investment Management Ltd.
Contractor: The Outdoor Room