Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival trends: the top 12 looks from the show

Our pick of the top Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival trends will have you inspired in no time

tom stuart-smith's garden design for 2021 hampton court palace garden festival trends
(Image credit: Neil Hepworth/RHS)

Looking for the lowdown on this year's Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival trends? Then you've come to the right place.

The Gardeningetc team had the pleasure of visiting the world's largest flower show before it opened to the public. And after last year's cancellation, its well-awaited comeback did not disappoint.

Naturally, we were scouting for the hottest garden trends to share with you. And there were plenty of stunning designs that could easily transfer to your own backyard. From veg-growing to show-stopping seating, whatever your preferred style, you're bound to find something you love from this mix.

You'll find our pick of the top Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival trends below – get ready to feel inspired for your own plot.

1. Prairie-style gardens

Tom Stuart-smith garden at RHS Hampton Court Garden festival 2021

Beautiful echinacea at Tom Stuart-Smith's garden

(Image credit: Holly Crossley/Future)

This year's Horticultural Hero at Hampton Court Flower Show was Tom Stuart-Smith, and his prairie-style, drought-tolerant planting scheme was nothing short of spectacular. 

Visitors were guided through billowing borders via weaving pathways. This resulted in an immersive experience whereby every angle of the display could be appreciated to the max. 

Tom Stuart-smith garden at RHS Hampton Court Garden festival 2021

Tom Stuart-Smith's drought-tolerant garden

(Image credit: Holly Crossley/Future)

The color palette was a soothing blend of blues, purples, and silvery foliage, punctuated by bursts of neon orange kniphofia. Plenty of echinaceas, salvias, geraniums, miniature Digitalis lutea, wisps of ornamental grasses and sea hollies featured, amongst other beauties well-loved by both people and pollinators alike.

A garden like this not only looks fantastic, but it's low-maintenance too. Want to recreate something similar? Our guide to the best drought-tolerant plants has plenty of good picks for this style.

2. Sleek outdoor kitchens

garden house design outdoor kitchen at hampton court flower show 2021

A chic set-up by Garden House Design

(Image credit: Beth Murton/Future)

In keeping with the recent boom of outdoor living trends, there were plenty of gorgeous garden kitchens at this year's show. The look was modern and contemporary, with plenty of clean lines. Practicality was at the forefront of designs as well as style – with shelving and storage solutions featuring, as well as durable materials.

The Viking Friluftsliv Garden designed by Will Williams for Hampton Court Garden Festival 2021

The 'Viking Friluftsliv Garden' designed by Will Williams

(Image credit: Holly Crossley/Future)

What's more, the designs showed how outdoor kitchen ideas can slot seamlessly into a garden. Take 'The Viking Friluftsliv Garden', designed by Will Williams, for instance – a show-stopper with its slatted shelter, surrounding stretches of soothing water, pale pathway and beautiful borders beyond.

3. Vertical planting

vertical planters at Lucy Hutchings' allotment at hampton court garden festival 2021

Pots of herbs and marigolds adorn this vertical space in an allotment by Lucy Hutchings

(Image credit: Holly Crossley/Future)

We spotted lots of vertical planting, too – always a great option for small garden ideas. Impressive and easily-assembled living walls caught our eye, as did this alternative approach by Lucy Hutchings on her allotment design.

Jolly pots of marigolds and herbs proved that you don't need acres of space to make an impact (and grow your own crops). It was fixed to an impressive archway, which was a thing of beauty in itself, but something like this could easily be recreated on a fence or wall at home.

4. Sustainable veg growing

compost bin at RHS No Dig Allotment designed by Charles Dowding and Stephanie Hafferty at Hampton Court Garden Festival 2021

The 'RHS No Dig Allotment' designed by Charles Dowding and Stephanie Hafferty

(Image credit: Beth Murton/Future)

Sustainable gardens are becoming increasingly popular, and the 'RHS No Dig Allotment', designed by Charles Dowding and Stephanie Hafferty, demonstrated eco-friendly approaches which can be applied to the humble veg patch.

Learning how to compost is one of the easiest and best ways to recycle your food scraps (and save money). But not only did their plot feature a generously sized one, it had been built from old pallets. We also loved how the sides had been transformed for extra color and interest. As Teresa Conway, Editor of Easy Gardens magazine says, 'Add built-in planters to the edge of your compost bin and it can become a pretty feature as well as a must-have source of nutrients for your garden.'

Further along the plot was a greenhouse, which demonstrated a clever mechanism for recycling rainwater. Guttering was fixed to a 'rain chain' to allow water run-off to drain into a butt beneath, ready to be used to water the plants in spells of drought.

5. Gorgeous greenhouses

alitex greenhouse at rhs hampton court garden festival 2021

A greenhouse of dreams from Alitex

(Image credit: Holly Crossley/Future)

Speaking of greenhouse ideas, there were plenty at Hampton Court this year – not just in show gardens but at many of the beautiful stands, too. Hartley Botanic was particularly memorable, as they treated guests to a showcase of designs throughout the ages, including one from the 1950s.

greenhouses at Hampton Court Garden Festival 2021 by Hartley Botanic

Greenhouses through the ages at the Hartley Botanic stand

(Image credit: Hartley Botanic)

There was lots of sleek shelving included, whilst some had in-ground beds and even lighting. A few designs demonstrated how they can double up as chic garden rooms too. All you need is a comfy chair, a good book and you have the perfect spot to while away the afternoon surrounded by plants. 

greenhouse staging in a timber framed greenhouse

The interior of a stunning wooden greenhouse by Gabriel Ash 

(Image credit: Beth Murton/Future)

'There was plenty of inspiration for how greenhouses can be stunning garden features in their own right, both inside and out,' says Gardeningetc editor Beth Murton. 'With greenhouse shelving and staging, the interior of the space can be used as a both a practical workspace as well as a spot for showing off some of your favorite planting displays.'

6. Rustic water features

water feature at Hampton Court Garden Festival 2021

Tin bath water features also made an appearance

(Image credit: Holly Crossley/Future)

Although there were a handful of contemporary water feature ideas dotted throughout the gardens, we noted a good few designs which took a more laid-back approach.

More than one tin bath pond made an appearance. These offered a beautifully rustic edge, especially when tucked amongst plenty of planting. Fuss-free terracotta designs also featured – from rounded styles to vintage-looking versions that held a neat pool of water and gravel.

Down memory lane garden at hampton court palace 2021

A simple water bowl in the 'Down Memory Lane' garden by The Blue Diamond team

(Image credit: Neil Hepworth/RHS)

The design above – a water bowl filled with stones and topped with a small sculpture – was particularly charming. And, it demonstrated how sometimes simple can be just as effective.

7. Shaded spaces to sit

'Lower Barn Farm: Bounce Back': garden designed by Consilium Hortus at Hampton Court garden festival 2021

The 'Lower Barn Farm: Bounce Back' garden designed by Consilium Hortus

(Image credit: Holly Crossley/Future)

Every good garden needs a spot for sitting and admiring the view, and there were many show-stopping outdoor seating ideas at Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival this year. Pergolas were definitely a theme but had been given a modern twist – think adjustable roofs, slatted sides, and angular shapes.

Seating in 'A Place to Meet Again' garden by Mike Long Garden Design at Hampton Court Garden Festival 2021

Statement seating in 'A Place to Meet Again' by Mike Long Garden Design

(Image credit: Holly Crossley/Future)

We also loved this rounded bench, featured in 'A Place to Meet Again' by Mike Long Garden Design. It added a sculptural appeal to the space, whilst plenty of bold yellow cushions upped the comfort level. A perfect place for whiling away an afternoon outdoors.

sunken seating area under a pergola in the

Sunken seating space in the 'A Place to Meet Again' garden by Mike Long Garden Design

(Image credit: Beth Murton/Future)

‘Carving out a space in our gardens where we can catch up with family and friends outdoors was a strong focus in many of the gardens at the festival,' says Gardeningetc editor Beth Murton. 'Whether it was the beautiful sunken seating area nestled beneath a plant-covered pergola in the 'A Place To Meet Again' garden [see above], the timber seating blocks dotted around 'The Communication Garden' [below] or the more contemporary outdoor living space in the 'Lower Barn Farm: The Bounce Back Garden', it was wonderful to see so many different ways of creating a space that encourages people to spend time together once more.’

8. Textural ground

log pathway in 'Friends of Ascot' allotment at RHS hampton court garden festival 2021

The log pathway in the 'Friends of Ascot' allotment

(Image credit: Beth Murton/Future)

There were plenty of inspiring paving ideas and garden path ideas used throughout the designs this year. But one thing that stood out was the mix of materials used.

For instance, in the 'Friends of Ascot' allotment, slices of log in a range of sizes sat amongst fine bark chippings. This created an organic, relaxed feel that perfectly complemented cottage-style vegetable beds and terracotta planters.

The communication garden at hampton court garden festival 2021

'The Communication Garden' by Amelia Bouquet

(Image credit: Joanna Kossak/RHS)

'The Communication Garden' by Amelia Bouquet took a more modern approach but also turned heads. We loved the arrangement of sleek pavers alongside gravel, greenery and water – a visual feast that held your interest.

9.  Ornamental veggies

pak choi at RHS No Dig Allotment designed by Charles Dowding and Stephanie Hafferty at Hampton Court Garden Festival 2021

Vegetables growing at the 'RHS No Dig Allotment' designed by Charles Dowding and Stephanie Hafferty

(Image credit: Beth Murton/Future)

Growing your own fruit and veggies and raised garden bed ideas has had a surge in popularity for the past year or so. And this was reflected at this year's show, which featured a whole area dedicated to allotments.

From smaller plots to larger designs, there was plenty to get visitors inspired. But one thing we noticed was how vegetables were being embraced for their ornamental beauty as well as their taste. 

Rows of colorful chard, heads of frilly kale and globes of violet-hued kohlrabi showed how crops can have just as much visual appeal as flowers. And in many instances, the traditional approach of a neat and orderly arrangement went out the window. Instead, space under trees were filled with the likes of pak choi and lettuces, whilst beds were crammed with a wild mix of herbs and flowers alongside cabbages and courgettes.

veg beds with flowers by wild barn flowers at hampton court

A pretty raised bed from Wild Barn Flowers

(Image credit: Teresa Conway/Future)

'We've been inspired to plant a vegetable garden which is tasteful in every sense of the word,' says Teresa Conway of Easy Gardens. 'This patch [shown above] from Wild Barn Flowers includes flowers for cutting and edibles in a contemporary color palette.'

Garden writer and Instagrammer Lucy Hutchings says, 'I grow nasturtium instead of rocket, it has the same great taste in salads and is much better for visual appeal.

'I think having a beautiful vegetable patch is particularly important for people in urban areas where space is precious,' she adds. So when you're considering how to grow veg next year, think about slotting edibles in your borders with the rest of your planting. Use leafy greens as you would shrubs and choose edible flower varieties for floral interest.

10. Making gardening fun

'A sanctuary from Covid' designed by Sandridge Road Allotment Association for Hampton Court Garden Festival 2021

'A sanctuary from Covid' designed by Sandridge Road Allotment Association

(Image credit: Holly Crossley/Future)

'One of things that really stood out for me when looking at the RHS allotment area at the show was the overriding sense of fun to the entire space,' says Beth Murton, editor of Gardeningetc. 'Growing your own fruit and veg doesn't have to be a serious undertaking, especially if you want to encourage more people to give it a go or even get younger children involved too. 

'From quirky log pathways to fun scarecrows and imaginative ways to maximize your growing space, there was plenty to inspire anyone wanting to join the increasing number of people who have taken up growing their own crops in the last 18 months,' she continues. 

This bug hotel was another case in point. The smiley face brought one to our own, as did the sleeping (pretend) hedgehog tucked in amongst the mix. Not only is a feature like this ideal for wildlife, but it's fun for all the family to get involved in. Our guide on how to build a bug hotel has step-by-step instructions if you want to make your own.

'With the area divided up into individual plots created by different local groups, it also showed that you don’t need acres of space to start growing a few crops successfully,' Beth adds. 'With just a single raised bed, a few containers on a patio or balcony, or even some pots hanging on a garden wall, there's plenty of opportunities to give it a go.'

11. Accessible gardens

the ability garden at hampton court garden festival 2021

'The Ability Garden' designed by Tony Wagstaff and Ben Wincott

(Image credit: Neil Hepworth/RHS)

Approaches to accessible gardening were also highlighted at the show in Tony Wagstaff and Ben Wincott's design. The space was designed with everybody in mind, and championed the fact that not all disabilities are visible.

It contained mobile raised beds as well as a circular raised space to enable wheelchair users to participate in gardening. Some of the raised beds also doubled up as seating to make the area more suitable for those with reduced mobility. Planting-wise, a colorful, fragrant mix was chosen to delight the senses.

You'll find more inspirational designs in our accessible garden ideas feature.

12. Fabulous flowers

alliums in floral marquee at hampton court garden festival 2021

Alliums in the Floral Marquee

(Image credit: Garry Coward-Williams/Future)

A trip to Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival wouldn't be complete without a visit to the Floral Marquee.

'The star for me is the Floral Marquee where there are always stunning displays by the very best growers and this year is no exception,' says Garry Coward-Williams, Editor of Amateur Gardening magazine. 'There may be a few less exhibitors, but the quality still shines through and some of the exhibitors are selling plants and bulbs from their stand. This meant I was able to come away with precious allium "Globemaster" and "Red Mohican" bulbs. That's a great result!'

Amongst alliums, there were plenty of acers, heucheras, peonies and ferns to marvel at. It just goes to show that fantastic flowers and foliage will always be in fashion.

Holly Crossley
Holly Crossley

The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then. She's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator – plants are her passion. But, she loves all things digital too. She joined the team at Gardeningetc after working as a freelance content creator for a web agency, whilst studying for her M.Sc. in Marketing. Now she feels lucky enough to combine both digital and botanical worlds, every day!