A review of the 2018 Chelsea Flower Show

The Wedgewood Garden with a pavilion and planting around it

Were you watching the BBC coverage from this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show? Perhaps you were lucky enough to go. Jack Lindfield, Assistant Head Gardener at Ickworth went along and shares his take on this year’s show.

Like every year, there was the grandest of show gardens, star of the show plants and of course all the new trends that are now set for the rest of the year. I always leave the RHS Chelsea Flower Show knowing what I liked and what I could take or leave. But whatever is remembered has great effect and opens up new ideas to take back to your own garden.

The Show Gardens

The main attraction for most who visit are the show gardens and it’s the main reason I go back every year. 2018 wasn’t a disappointment and three of the gold medal winning gardens caught my eye. 

The Wedgewood Garden designed by Jo Thompson was a garden to socialise in, with the calm planting scheme and height of its trees. Huge boulders made for an elegant path whilst the bronze pavilion created a focal point. Having a woven sculpture like this meant you didn’t lose any of that key planting which was set towards the back of the garden.

The Morgan Stanley Garden for the NSPCC, designed by Chris Beardshaw was another highlight for me. A great week for the designer, as he celebrated 20 years of designing RHS show gardens and won the Best in Show award. Chris always delivers on his planting schemes. Here he used tall trees and large shrubs to create a woodland theme, heavily under planted with large foliaged herbaceous made everything feel very tranquil.

Everyone around the garden was asking about one plant in particular, Enkianthus campanulatus was placed along the path edge so you could get up close and see those amazing racemes. 

Enkianthus campanulatus from Chris Beardshaw's garden
Enkianthus campanulatus
Enkianthus campanulatus from Chris Beardshaw's garden

The Pearlfisher Garden got a lot of people talking too, as it took a different approach through its design. A sunken garden with three aquatic tanks acting as supports for the structure above. These were filled with ocean plants, coral and fish, all three elements had a lot of people stop in their tracks to admire a range of plants not usually seen in a show garden at Chelsea. The garden was designed to highlight the threat our oceans are up against with plastic waste and a call out for everyone to think about.

The Pearlfisher Garden, RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018
The Pearlfisher Garden
The Pearlfisher Garden, RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018

The return of the lupin

If there was one plant I saw more of this year at Chelsea, it was the lupin. An old cottage garden favourite, which fell out of fashion not too long ago has made a comeback. In the Welcome to Yorkshire Garden by Mark Gregory, with its cottage garden style planting, the lupins not only stand tall and look proud, but also compliment the neighbouring flowers. Another lupin packed garden was The Seedlip Garden, which was all about shining a light on the pea family, so lupins felt right at home with its legume cousins. 

The Seedlip Garden, RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018
Seedlip Garden
The Seedlip Garden, RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018

The future of Chelsea

One thing I noticed about Chelsea this year was the common theme of living walls. Living walls can often blend into the background and get over-looked, particularly if a garden is already heavily planted. But one that really got my attention was Tony Woods Urban Flow Garden. Using an edible wall to surround the outdoor cooking area means you can literally turn around and pick what you need, there and then, it makes so much sense. It also looks beautiful.

How about creating a living wall in your garden?
Lettuces growing on the wall in front of an outdoor eating area
How about creating a living wall in your garden?

Another trend which has made a huge comeback over the last couple of years is the house plant. This is something I thought the great pavilion would be packed with, but not so much. Ian Drummonds #plantswork had a lovely design and was all about interior planting, showing a great example of how to use plants in a contemporary home office. 

Is indoor planting making a come back?
An office surrounded by indoor planting
Is indoor planting making a come back?

I have no idea what 2019 has in store for the Chelsea Flower Show, but I would love to see more from the world of house plants and new ways on how we can use them through designs much like this one. But who knows what will happen, all I know is, I now love lupins....again.