The top Chelsea Flower Show trends always lead the way for the latest and greatest in garden design. And this year is certainly no exception. After last year's one-off autumnal event – an anomaly as a result of Covid-19 restrictions – 2022 sees the show return to its usual early-summer form. And although 2021 offered a refreshing take, with opulent, jewel-like tones and dahlias aplenty, late May is arguably the most bountiful season when it comes to beautiful blooms.
As expected, attending this year's Chelsea Flower Show was as inspiring as ever. And we had our eyes open for the hottest looks, themes, and features that stood out the most throughout the designs. We've rounded up our top highlights for you to peruse – and perhaps apply to your own garden.
10 Chelsea Flower Show trends that caught our eye this year
From color palettes to wonderful ways with water, these are the top garden trends that stood out the most to us at this year's event. And the best part is, elements of all can be recreated at home – even with smaller plots and budgets.
1. Dazzlingly decorative screens
Helping to boost privacy levels, obscure less-than-lovely views (the compost heap, for instance), or simply divide a plot up into individual rooms, garden screening serves a multitude of purposes. And at this year's Chelsea, there are plenty of designs that are decorative design features in their own right.
The show-stopping structure in the Morris & Co. garden (opens in new tab), for instance, is made up of metal panels intricately patterned with a botanical, laser-cut design.
David Harber (opens in new tab)'s garden, meanwhile, features a modern twist on a trellis – an elegant metal structure to subtly divide a seating area from a water feature, softened by a climbing rose. The Stitchers' Garden (opens in new tab) – another example – includes woven-willow panels that bring an artisan flair to the surrounding scheme.
And in The RAF Benevolent Fund Garden (opens in new tab), metal screens take on a more sculptural quality, providing a textural and aesthetic contrast against the naturalistic planting and statement boulders.
2. Replacing gray with bold black
Shades of gray, move over – in many of the designs this year, things are taking a darker tone when it comes to garden color schemes. And by that, we're talking less of the subtle yet chic shades that have been oh-so-hot throughout the past couple of years, and more of the inky, moody tones of black.
Take The Boodles Travel Garden (opens in new tab), for instance, designed by Thomas Hoblyn. The meandering stream of water, elegantly curving alongside acid-green foliage, purple irises, and zingy yellow primulas, sports a modern black base. This contemporary design feature brings a striking sense of contrast to the space.
See too, the countless black-painted garden fences spotted all over the showground. It's the perfect backdrop for letting verdant planting take center stage unapologetically: the Wild Kitchen (opens in new tab) balcony garden, for instance. And in William Murray's design (opens in new tab), it's used to ground the bright pops of yellow furniture for a playful and graphic aesthetic.
Marcus Eyles, Horticultural Director at Dobbies Garden Centres (opens in new tab) comments on how they chose to move away from using gray in their trade stand at the show. 'Bringing black in as a color in containers, in screening, in railings and things like that – I think it complements green and black as well as strong flower colors and really gives you that lovely, modern feel,' he says. We couldn't agree more.
3. Wellness gardens
From outdoor showers and swim spas to yoga decks and calming water features, many of this year's gardens showcase how to carve out calm and restful areas in our outdoor spaces.
'The Sanctuary Gardens really show the positive impact our outdoor spaces can have on our physical and mental health, and Kate Gould's Out Of The Shadows Garden (opens in new tab) was a particular favorite of mine,' says Gardeningetc's editor Beth Murton. 'Although the luxurious swim spa that forms the centerpiece of the design is beyond the reach of many, there are plenty of brilliant ideas in this beautiful garden that you could recreate on a much smaller scale. There's a simple water feature made from standard copper piping that creates a soothing backdrop, while a small paved area of the garden is surrounded by lush, tropical planting to create a quiet, tranquil spot where you can indulge in a spot of morning yoga.'
Kate Gould is also quick to point out that creating a wellness space in your garden doesn't have to mean designing something on a grand scale. 'It can be as simple as creating a small space where you can sit and meditate, do some yoga, or even just have a cup of tea,' she says. 'As long as it feels calming to you, that's all that's important.
'And when it comes to planting, don't forget that green is an incredibly calming color. It doesn't have to be your background color either, it can be the primary color. There are 43 shades of green after all!'
With its elegant timber-clad garden cabin and adjoining decked terrace that's perfect for yoga, A Garden Sanctuary By Hamptons (opens in new tab) is another design that shows how to incorporate a relaxing wellness area into your plot.
'The small garden building with its expansive glazing allows you to feel instantly connected to the surrounding planting and greenery,' says Beth. 'For a more budget-friendly version, however, a small summer house or converted shed at the bottom of your plot could become your tranquil hideaway to escape from it all.’
4. Reusing and recycling materials
With sustainable gardens front and center, spaces that showed off clever ways to make use of leftover or salvaged materials caught our eye.
'I love the clever use of salvaged materials in Lynne Lambourne's ReThink garden for Gardena (opens in new tab),' says Beth Murton. As an eco designer, Lynne wanted to show that waste can actually be turned into something really beautiful. A lot of the wood used in her design came from waste recycling points from the build phase of the Chelsea Flower Show, and she's shown how it can be cleverly used to create features such as a unique garden wall. The decking is also made from old pallet wood, while the raised planters are made from salvaged wooden doors.'
'Everybody could recreate this in their own garden,' says Lynne. 'I wanted to do something that talks about the planet but that you could also do at home too.
'There are so many things left lying around, and with a bit of creativity they can be used. Even something as simple as breezeblocks can be turned into a bench or planter, for example.'
5. Fabulous flowers
The buzzword around Chelsea this year from horticultural journalists and garden designers is that ‘plants are back!’ And they are very pleased about it.
'Recent years have seen a decline in traditional planting and a greater emphasis on landscaping with trees, shrubs, often weeds, and unfortunately…concrete and rusty silos,' says Garry Coward-Williams, Editor of Amateur Gardening. 'At previous shows the ugliness was ignored like the Emperor's New Clothes, as many commentators waxed lyrical about concrete and weeds, but there was a palpable sign of relief this year that they could talk about plants again.
'A good example of this is the Perennial Garden designed by Richard Miers (opens in new tab),' Garry continues. 'Richard has created a quietly beautiful arrangement of deep purple lupins surrounded by beautiful snow-white peonies, foxgloves, roses, gladioli, alliums, gypsophila, and baltic parsley.
'And if you want to see an honest example of cottage garden style, then go to the Marshalls stand (opens in new tab) in the Great Pavilion. Designer Jon Wheatley has created a cottage garden that anyone can pick up planting tips from: a riot of color and shape, with huge purple alliums, red and yellow mignon dahlias, orange lupins, foxgloves, red cosmos, and salvias. Yes, the plants have returned to Chelsea, and we are all happy they have.'
Ruth Hayes, Gardening Editor of Amateur Gardening, also comments on the use of fabulous planting at this year's show and how there is plenty of inspiration for flower bed ideas at home. 'This year’s RHS Chelsea flower show was the best I've seen for several years, largely because most of the planting schemes could be copied by "ordinary" gardeners,' she says.
'Many of the varieties used were widely available springtime favorites; geum "Totally Tangerine" was everywhere, as were purple lupins and irises, pristine white alliums and foxgloves, creamy-yellow and dusky pink verbascums, a myriad salvias and delicate, floaty grasses.
'The gardens worked beautifully and even spots where bright orange geums should have clashed with deep purple irises coalesced to perfection. It was a joy to see, and I’ll be trying many of the ideas in my own garden.'
6. Stunning sculptures
'I have never been a great fan of horticultural accessories – the sun dials, water features, kitsch statuettes of nymphs and cherubs that sell for (what seem to me) ridiculous sums in garden centers everywhere,' says Ruth Hayes.
'However, I will gladly make an exception for anything by the sculptor David Harber, whose intelligently beautiful works of art have won him worldwide acclaim and accolades from the British Royal family.
'If I had to choose just one piece – a tough decision in itself – I would opt for "Mantle", a sphere made of a latticework of bronze petals, lined with gilt and ethereally illuminated from within. Inspired by the fracturing crust (the mantle) of planet Earth, it is a deceptively simple and utterly captivating piece that I could sit and gaze at, mesmerized, for hours.'
Many of the show gardens sport a sculpture or two, too – from the towering, metal pilot that takes center stage in The RAF Benevolent Fund Garden to the contemporary pieces rising from flower-filled borders in The Perennial Garden 'With Love'.
7. Shou Sugi Ban
One of Teresa Conway, Gardeningetc’s deputy editor's top trend picks was the Japanese art of charring wood. 'I spotted Shou Sugi Ban techniques had been used in a few show gardens this year. The Boodles Travel Garden, designed by Thomas Hoblyn, features some seats designed to look like Chinese noodle benches, in a rich chestnut wood. This wood had first been charred to make it black and next pickled in vinegar to give it a shiny finish.
'Lily Gomm used a light charring effect in her timber walls at the back of her Swiss Sanctuary Garden (opens in new tab), which really brings out the grain of the wood,' continues Teresa.
‘Jennifer Hirsh's use of Shou Sugi Ban in The Body Shop Garden (opens in new tab), aims to show regeneration from a state of burn out. “Not only does Shou Sugi Ban create an amazing visual effect, but it also creates a layer of protection to the wood, guarding it against termites and other insect damage,” Jennifer shared with me.’
8. Moody planting palettes
Shades of plum, burgundy, claret and darkest rose pink planting are a big trend at Chelsea this year.
'From huge dark and floaty poppies in tones of burgundy splashed with a dash of dark (in Andy Sturgeon’s Mind Garden (opens in new tab) and the Place2Be (opens in new tab) Sanctuary Garden), to dramatic maroon peonies and claret colored aquilegia (granny's bonnets) (in Ruth Willmott's Morris & Co. garden), there is a definite fashion for dark accents in the naturalistic planting that was everywhere,’ says Gardeningetc's gardens writer Sarah Wilson.
‘Even the more formal and structured classic garden design of Richard Miers Perennial Garden features deep purple lupins amidst a coolly classic palette of white and green. For me, it adds welcome drama and strong visual definition that sets off the more subtle planting perfectly.’
9. Eco-friendly spaces
'We all knew this would be a big theme running through Chelsea this year,' says Teresa, 'given the fact that a more eco-conscious and relaxed approach to gardening has been gaining momentum ever since the start of the pandemic.
'It's no surprise, therefore, that we saw this adopted across a few show gardens, with pollinator-friendly plants and wildlife sanctuaries taking the fore in many. And perhaps none take this theme of nature and rewilding further than Lulu Urquart and Adam Hunt's Rewilding Britain (opens in new tab) garden.'
'Different to a lot of Chelsea gardens, this is a real nature-scape,' explains Lulu. 'We are trying to have a very authentic depiction of nature. And through that, we want people to drop into a real memory space, with feelings of childhood and play, hilarity and joy.
‘A rewilded landscape can bring so much to the senses. So I would encourage people to be really brave about letting go and saying: you do it and I'll just sit and admire,’ Lulu adds.
10. Moving water
Water water everywhere. 'This is certainly true of this year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show and a design idea we can all be inspired by,' says Editorial Director of Gardeningetc, Rhoda Parry. 'Moving water creates a plethora of sensory emotions – sight, sound, and touch,’ she adds.
As you walk onto Main Avenue, you'll hear a babbling brook flowing through a glade of hawthorn, hazel and field maple in the Rewilding Britain garden. The bubbling water feels quietly energetic and flows into a dammed pool. Rivulets of water trickle through the dam echoing cool days in a rich landscape untouched by human interference.
Across the showground, a waterfall roars loudly on Sarah Eberle's design (opens in new tab) sponsored by Medite Smartply. Cascading over a striking rock strata to a pool below, you can feel the power of the water. 'The pool area features water-loving perennial farfugium – a statement architectural plant with huge dish-like leaves, often seen in hot climates.' says Sarah.
Meanwhile, moving water takes a more serene form in the Morris & Co. garden. Here, water swims through geometric channels lined with fretwork in the form of Morris' trellis design. And in the Circle of Life garden (opens in new tab), designed by Yoshihiro Tamura, water takes a circular, turning form. 'The Japanese water wheel provides sanctuary and respite from the digital world, with only the sounds of wind, wind chimes, and water,' says Yoshihiro.
The water falling from the hat-shaped sculpture by Susan Long (opens in new tab) was a smaller-scale example. 'The water falling into the garden pond signifies a cloak of protection,' says Susan. 'The pool of water below portrays the reality of life. One moment hectic, the next calm and quiet.' Finally, on the Giles Rayner (opens in new tab) display, centrifugal whirlpools elegantly create endless circles and mesmerizing sounds in vast bowls.
From pipes to pools, moving water creates sound, texture, and interest at Chelsea this year – and gave us plenty of inspiration for water feature ideas in our own backyards.