19 things at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024

The vibe this year during Chelsea press day was very much relaxed, enjoyable and a sense that Chelsea had a small bit of its mojo back after a couple of post-pandemic years. It was of course helped by a glorious sunny day. Perhaps Chelsea this year felt better because some of the pressure to be perfect is off and expectations parred back. Below I’ve included a few things that caught my eye this year – it’s not exhaustive because I didn’t get a chance to see everything.

1) National Garden Scheme show garden by Tom Stuart-Smith

Tom Stuart-Smith is the most awarded designer in the show’s history and I’ve little doubt he will cement that further for a charity I love. His garden this year is my kind of garden, simple yet exciting, unified but varied, relaxed into itself and a place you’d want to spend time. I loved the colour palette of white, green, lime green, some yellow and soft blues. The multistem hazel trees truly magnificent. Cow parsley, foxgloves and various other wild woodland plants. Everyone I spoke to wants the white flowered Rhododendron ‘Daviesii’ (we’re lucky to have an established one flowering at home right now!) I love the water trough, the sinks, the table, the winding curved paths and the building. Simplicity, perfection.

2) Special Plants nursery by Derry Watkins

I’m a huge fan of Derry Watkins, about half our garden in Yorkshire I’ve grown from seeds bought from her Special Plants nursery. This year I was excited to learn that Derry had brought some of her best plants to Chelsea in a small display, casually put together into one of the best displays at the show. A condensed jewel box of plants by one of the UK’s best plants people.

3) Muscular Dystrophy UK garden by Ula Maria

A beautiful woodland garden with lots of trees to create a space for forest bathing. It’s cool and clean with clever hard landscaping details and airy planting as is a signature style of designer Ula Maria. The huge low dish is wonderful and the planting is subtle and detailed.

4) Tom Stuart-Smith’s table

Long-time readers will notice a trend that I have a thing for the show garden table I most want to sit at and I realise now, the ones I like all look very similar. This year, the prize for the best table falls on Tom Stuart-Smith’s shoulders.

5) Bowel Research UK Microbiome Garden

If you’re a health podcast listener, this garden is one of the most zeitgeist at the show, our digestion microbiomes receiving hours of airtime at the moment. The garden, designed by Sid Hill and Chris Hull, features edible plants good for our microbiome that can be foraged to eat, including wild Bistorta officinalis, famously used for Dock Pudding in our home town of Hebden Bridge. I love the concept of the garden as well as the execution using wildflowers, it caught my eye because of the wild plants, even before I knew the edible link.

6) Kevock Gardens plant stand

The Kevock stand is always colourful but this year feels like a special one for this nursery. Full of alpines and other small plants that positively glow. I particularly like the tiny dark purple Aquilegia , which went straight on my list to try growing at home.

7) Herb garden and ragged robin

Ragged Robin, Lychnis flos-coculi, is one of my favourite wildflowers and it could be seen around the Chelsea Flower Show this year. I thought it looked beautiful among the soft silver and purple of the herbs on this stand.

8) Geum ‘Tales of Hex’

This small, soft lemon yellow Geum stood out for me.

9) Ranunculus acris ‘Citronus’

As did this lovely little Ranunculus.

10) People on stands

One thing no one loved this year were all of the people on the show gardens! It made them near impossible to photograph – in fact, it made them really hard to see, which is probably why there are so few on this list this year. Except for this cheery chap dressed in a wet suit and flippers for reasons I never found out, he can stay.

11) World Child Cancer Nurturing Garden

I really like the colours in this garden by Giulio Giorgi. Terracotta coloured gravel and materials have become synonymous with Sarah Price at Chelsea, however this garden did something new by introducing wooden uprights, statues and different cream colours. It stood out to me and I’m a fan.

12) Salvia microphyhlla ‘Delice Aquamarine’

Salvias are a stalwart of gardens I design and this glowing blue cultivar caught my eye on the Middleton Nurseries stand, a nursery famous for growing salvias.

13) Pelargonium ‘Attar of Roses’

An oldie but a goodie, sometimes it’s nice to be reminded that popular plants are popular for a reason and this edible, rose scented pelargonium is beautiful as it is well known.

14) Terrance Higgins Trust Bridge to 2030 by Matthew Childs

Those who are old enough may remember the horrific HIV awareness adverts in the 1980s that caused unnecessary fear and stigma for people affected by the disease back then. One featured a slate tomb stone, which this garden uses for inspiration to rewrite the narrative for a more positive future.

15) Aquilegia

This pairing of yellow Aquilegia chrysanthemum ‘Yellow Queen’ and (probably) Aquilegia ‘Blue Barlow’ reminded me of the Ukrainian flag and I love the combo.

16) Sue Ryder’s All About Plants

More of the yellow Aquilegia chrysanthemum ‘Yellow Queen’ alongside Valeriana officinalis, which is used a lot every year.

17) Ecotherapy by Tom Bannister

I really enjoyed the stone plunge pool, rills and waterfalls of this little container garden, surrounded by lush green.

18) Flood resilience by Naomi Slade & Ed Barsley

As a patron for the charity Slow the Flow, I am always on the look out for ideas to reduce water run off and prevent flooding. Look no further than the lovely little bog garden by Naomi Slade and Ed Barsley. I really enjoyed the various rain tanks and the ditch for catching excess run off, surrounded by damp and dry loving plants. I especially liked the planting around the compost bins (I was paid to say that bit by Andrew O’Brien who planted that area).

19) Plant of the Year is…

Prunus ‘Starlight’, a spring flowering small tree that occasionally flowers in autumn too. As an RHS Plant Trial judge I had the opportunity to join hundreds of other judges to vote and this is the plant I voted for. Two plants stood out for me, this one and a pink flowering chocolate cosmos, which came second. I chose Prunus ‘Starlight’ because it is a beautiful spring flowering tree that only grows to 4 x 3m fitting one of the most limited categories of plant: trees for small gardens. I disregarded many other entries because some weren’t hardy and many I would never choose for gardens for different reasons.

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One thought on “19 things at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024

  1. Derry Watkins garden is fabulous ~ great cakes served be her too. Small but fab plant sales too. It’s always a joy to see her at the Somerset plant fairs < you can always buy such interesting plants.

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