Home Gardening news RHS Chelsea 2018: show gardens preview

RHS Chelsea 2018: show gardens preview

Welcome to Yorkshire Garden. Picture; RHS
Welcome to Yorkshire Garden. Picture; RHS

Fantasy gardens battle it out for best in show

Ten show gardens grace Main Avenue in 2018 – two up on last year. Here are the main landscaping and planting trends of each designer:

The M&G Garden

Sponsor M&G Investments, designer Sarah Price, contractor Crocus

This romanticised haven is set in a warm, sunny climate. The design is based on three core elements, a wall, trees, and seating, to create an intimate oasis of calm.


Raw materials dug directly from the earth, including clay, aggregate, pigment, and tile are used as contrasts in colour and texture, light and shadow. A large pool reflects rugged pomegranate trees.

Informal gravel pathways will be interspersed with scree planting and drought-tolerant plants highlight the warming climate and the need for water conservation.

Planting/colour scheme

Mediterranean flora dominates, with Lagerstroemeria indica making its RHS Chelsea debut. The bark is smooth with pale cream, sepia, and rich red tones. In contrast, two mature pomegranate trees, Punica granatum, will have a low and rugged character.

The planting will be built up in layers with ground-hugging, scented herbs, sub-shrubs and taller, wispy, diaphanous flowers.

Semi-opaque glazes on tiles pick out the silvery tones of sub-shrubs, while clashing scarlet, pink, lilac and yellow flowers are held together by grassy swathes.

M&G Garden by Sarah Price for RHS Chelsea 2018. Picture; RHS
M&G Garden by Sarah Price for RHS Chelsea 2018. Picture; RHS

Trailfinders: A South African Wine Estate

Sponsor Trailfinders Ltd, designer Jonathan Snow, contractor Stewart Landscape Construction Media

Inspired by the winelands of the Western Cape of South Africa (Franschhoek and Stellenbosch) in the valleys of the Cape Fold Mountains.


The architecture of the Cape Dutch homesteads, with their verandas and neat, manicured gardens will contrast with the vineyards and the area’s fynbos vegetation, a fire-adapted ecosystem that requires regular burning in order to survive.

Planting/colour scheme

Fynbos vegetation will include proteas, pincushion flowers, agapanthus, gladioli, and pelargoniums, plus evergreen, hard-leaved Mediterranean type shrubland with occasional splashes of primary colour and unusually shaped leaves.

In contrast, the homestead garden will have calmer, softer colours with fresher green foliage.

Another contrast will be seen in areas of recently burnt fynbos where the landscape is recovering, with bright bulbs, seedlings and fresh grasses among the blackened older vegetation.

The Lemon Tree Trust Garden

Sponsor The Lemon Tree Trust, designer Tom Massey, contractor Landscape Associates

The garden is inspired by the resiliency and determination of people in situations of forced migration and displacement.

Its design will simulate a garden that would be used by families in Domiz camp in northern Iraq, providing a way to bring order to a chaotic situation, as well as a space to come together as a community and to learn about horticulture and water retention.


An ‘innovation wall’ is filled with everyday objects, like tin cans and plastic bottles, in which to grow plants. Water flows throughout the space, collected in channels and pools, recycled and pumped back through the Islamic inspired fountain, representing the importance of grey water reuse in the camps.

The gravel garden planting is drought tolerant and designed to survive the harsh environment of the region.

Planting/colour scheme

The planting includes edibles and herbs used in Middle Eastern cooking. Exotic fruit trees include a pomegranate, fig and five mature lemon trees that provide shade and fruit.

Bold bright colours add cheer, including cultivars of the Damask rose, thought to originate from Syria. Scented plants feature heavily with many herbs and edibles.

The Lemon Tree Trust Garden. Picture; RHS
The Lemon Tree Trust Garden. Picture; RHS

The Morgan Stanley Garden for the NSPCC

Sponsor Morgan Stanley, designer Chris Beardshaw, contractor Structure Group

Aiming to raise awareness of the work of the NSPCC, the Morgan Stanley’s charity partner. The garden acts as a metaphor for the emotional transformation that takes place in a child as they experience the positive impact of the NSPCC’s work.


At the start of the garden, the direction of the path is unclear, as it moves through woodland. It turns a corner to reveal a more open and tranquil space, filled with soft, textured perennials.

The path then steps up onto a cedar wood pavilion, enclosed at the rear by a calm and reflective pool.

Planting/colour scheme

Planting will include large specimen trees, woodland and acid-loving woodland specimens with subtle foliage textures, greens, and splashes of velvety blues, pinks, and purples.

The Welcome to Yorkshire Garden

Sponsor Welcome to Yorkshire, designer Mark Gregory, contractor Landform

Inspired by the iconic Yorkshire Dales, the garden celebrates Yorkshire’s natural materials, traditional crafts, and artisan food production.


The stone will come from the Bolton Estate, which is in the middle of a restoration project. Dismantled and fallen walls will be used, then returned and re-built at the estate.

Set on the edge of woodland, a fast-flowing beck runs into buttercup meadowland, past a stone bothy and cottage garden. Dry limestone walls divide the pastures. The bothy has been converted into a craftsman’s creamery.

Planting/colour scheme

The design showcases a buttercup meadow, woodland edge with native trees and cultivated cottage garden, with hints of purple, pink and white.

VTB Capital Garden – Spirit of Cornwall

Designer Stuart Charles Towner, contractor RDC Landscapes Ltd

Creative collaboration of a garden designer, architects, musicians, a composer and a sculptor. It’s a multi-sensory experience inspired by sculptor Barbara Hepworth with music by Leo Geyer, commissioned by the Hepworth Estate and Tate St Ives to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Hepworth’s Cornish garden.


The metalwork reflects the sound wave pattern of the music, with its peak expressed by the garden pavilion. The steps down to the garden, the bridge across the pond and the steps up to the final platform under the pavilion combine with the metal spines running the length of the garden front and back.

Water features represent the sea views from Hepworth’s own garden, while the continuous circulation of water reinforces the musical motif.

Two metal and acrylic sculptures, created by Sheila Vollmer, have evolved in response to the various threads of garden design, music, and architecture.

Planting/colour scheme

A contemporary palette of subtropical and temperate plants, illustrating the microclimates in Cornwall, including Cordyline australis, Dicksonia antarctica Tetrapenax papyrifer ‘Rex’ and Aeonium ‘Poldark’.

LG Eco-City Garden

Sponsor LG Electronics, designer Hay Hwang, contractor Randle Siddeley Limited

This hi-tech garden is a blend of increasing awareness of environmental issues and modern urban lifestyles. With increased pressure to work harder and longer hours, a respite from the ‘daily grind’ is needed more than ever before.


It features an outside kitchen and an integration of architecture and landscaping. The garden aims to tackle airborne pollution by using tolerant plants.

The garden also features sustainable elements such as an indoor vertical vegetable and herb farm, which use solar-powered lights, and an aquaponics farming system. It will filter noise pollution with running water.

Planting/colour scheme

Naturalistic planting incorporates wildflowers, perennials, and meadows. The colour palette consists of whites and greens, with pale tones of yellow and orange. The top of the building has wildflower and sedum planting, with 15 species of wildflowers and meadow grasses.

The LG City Garden. Picture; RHS
The LG City Garden. Picture; RHS

The David Harber and Savills Garden

Sponsor Savills & David Harber Ltd, designer Nic Howard, contractor Langdale Landscapes

This garden aims to provoke reflection on humankind’s interaction with their environment over time. It is designed in layers stretching through time with planting and sculptures reflecting each evolving period.

The pivotal ‘wormhole’ (a theoretical space-time passage) view through the garden ends with a sculpture representing a nucleus of energy ” The First Moment to the Now”.


The sculptures are key in illustrating that art can also form the backbone of a garden that has been designed to encourage and attract insects, bees, and butterflies.

Materials include porcelain, clay brick pavers, granite chippings, bronze, and mirror polished stainless steel.

Planting/colour scheme

Multi-stem Betula nigra or river birch are the largest statement pieces. The grasses featured include Sesleria caerulea, Sesleria autumnalis, Stipa tenuissimma, Stipa gigantea, Pennisetum thunbergii ‘Red Buttons’ and Briza media. The lusher areas will include Paeonia, Lupinus, Geum, Hosta, and Geranium. There is no specific colour scheme.

The Wedgwood Garden

Sponsor Wedgwood, designer Jo Thompson, contractor Bespoke Outdoor Spaces

Towards the late 18th century, secret gardens and tea gardens were the perfect destinations in which to socialise. The Wedgwood Garden is a modern interpretation of these leisurely spaces.


A stream meanders through harmonious planting and naturalistic rocks and boulders. The space can be entered via openings in the planting at the edges, and an almost undetectable path leads the visitor towards a bronze pavilion.

On entering the pavilion, there is a sunken area which leads to smooth stepping stones across a pond towards a bench, from which the whole garden can be viewed and enjoyed.

The main sculptural piece in the garden was inspired by a book by Allan McRobie, ‘The Seduction of Curves’.

Planting/colour scheme

Salix exigua are dotted throughout the garden, referencing Wedgwood’s willow pattern pottery. A hedge with Acer campestre and birch trees screens out the surroundings. Flowers of pale yellow, periwinkle, inky purple, rust, and peach are dotted through grasses, inspired by 18th-century colour trials carried out by Josiah Wedgwood.

The Wedgwood Garden. Picture; RHS
The Wedgwood Garden. Picture; RHS

Wuhan Water Garden

Sponsor Creativersal, designer Laurie Chetwood & Patrick Collins

The garden tells the story about ancient water management in Wuhan, China’s City of 100 Lakes, with a contemporary environmental message. It is inspired by Wuhan’s 4,000 year old ‘Great Yu’ legend about not fighting nature by using inflexible dams.


The layout is based on the lotus flower. The petals at the ends represent mountains, and as the source of water that feeds the river moves towards the centre, the mountains change to the more vertical elements of the city, emulating the heart of the flower.

Planting/colour scheme

Natural and urban areas will contrast, with planting in the ‘mountains’ reflecting the sacred forest and indigenous plants.

The planting will become more cultivated and landscaped in the central urban environment, and the extremities of the garden to east and west will show a more rural landscape with a terraced rice paddy field metaphor.

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show runs from 22-26 May 2018, www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-chelsea-flower-show.

Previous articleTiramisu with fruit bread, pear and fig
Next articleGateshead Urban Garden design video
Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here