Chelsea Flower Show Highlights 2024

What a garden designer takes from the show

CEO & Garden Designer
Ruth Marshall

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It is always a privilege to go to Chelsea Flower Show. Having designed and built our own garden at Chelsea Flower Show back in 2006 and had many years of construction for others, as well as designing planting for some great trade stands, this year was a delightful change. It was the first in nearly 20 years that we were not involved in any way other than as guests of our colleagues at Blue Forest Tree Houses with whom we are currently collaborating on a client project. It was a wonderful opportunity for 2 of the Design Directors at CGLA to reflect on some of the changes, and pick our Chelsea Flower Show highlights 2024.

The changes to the show over the years are clear – the focus on sustainability in the themes of the gardens and the show itself is admirable. All of the gardens are now expected to be relocated (in total or in part) and the use of sustainable materials is the norm. It remains eye-opening for many visitors in terms of the scale of the endeavours – we build these creations from a flat bare site in a matter of a few weeks so there is no reason that a similar degree of change cannot be achieved in a domestic plot (although budgets are always a challenge!). The style changes in the planting are also apparent, with an almost wholesale shift to more loose and naturalistic planting from the more structured minimalist schemes of a decade ago. If I am honest, whilst I love the richness of the current favoured planting style, and all the gardens are a delight, I would like to see a little more variety across the show ground. Many of our clients find the loose planting daunting for a domestic garden, and examples of what can be achieved with simpler schemes would be welcome.

In terms of the show gardens, I think my favourite was the Water Aid Garden designed by the fabulous Tom Massey and Je Ahn, with drama, amazing structure, a good story and some delightful details (I love the metal boardwalks ‘floating’ across the planting).

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I loved the planting in the National Autistic Society Garden, designed by Sophie Parmenter and Dido Milne- the massed camassias are a gorgeous sight, paired with ferns and paperbark birch multi stems and the delightful curved stepped deck.

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In many ways, I thought the smaller ‘sanctuary gardens’ were more inspirational, showing ambitious schemes for smaller plots. My favourite was the Freedom from Torture garden designed by John Warland and Emma O’Connell. A delicious use of the space, with amazing detailing and fabulous curved willow structures in the background

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The trade stands at Chelsea can feel a little ‘samey’ to regular visitors (no offence to the purveyors of successful products, just disappointing to those of us looking for new inspiration!) but there are always delights to find and great new suppliers, designers, and artists to chat to.

This chesterfield seat from Kubucu is stunning – a sculptural piece to delight any seating area

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These bespoke wooden seats from Angus Ross are amazingly tactile and unusual – they would grace any garden.

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I also rather fancy one of these panthers from Mike Clancy  – designed to be gorgeous by day or night they can be lit from inside to cast wonderful patterns on the surroundings.

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I salivate at these pots from Italian Terrace every year, and thought the rose planting particularly inspired…

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For me, Chelsea would not be Chelsea without checking out the roses, and the one I have just ordered from David Austin (who are celebrating their 28th RHS Chelsea Gold medal) is Vanessa Bell – I rarely choose yellow, but I love both the delicate colour and gorgeous shape of this one.

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And my parting shot is the amazing colour of Clematis Issey – isn’t it a delight?

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Overall, always plenty to love at Chelsea Flower Show, perhaps the drinks reception in a treehouse as the sun was going down on a summers day was the best bit, but it remains a highlight of the horticultural year.

CGLA are an award winning team of Garden Designers, Landscape Architects, Landscapers and Garden Maintenance Operatives working in Buckinghamshire, London and the South East, as well as on prestigious design projects across the UK and abroad. We are currently working in Oman, Jersey and France, and welcome enquires for design, landscaping or garden maintenance. Contact us here