The Chelsea Flower Show is the world's most prestigious horticultural event and the biggest show of the gardening calendar. Not only is it a must-see every year, but it showcases some of the most incredible gardens and plants, and gives us tons of inspiration to transform our own outdoor space.
If you're in need of some garden inspiration, then you've come to the right place because we've got the lowdown on all the biggest trends to emerge from the Chelsea Flower Show.
From plants to design to landscaping, we've compiled the best trending ideas with some help from industry experts, including Mark Gregory, founder and managing director of , who has 30 consecutive years at RHS Chelsea under his belt and is the designer of the incredible Welcome to Yorkshire Garden at this year's show. International floral designer , in association with – a digital marketplace providing access to products from the best growers and suppliers – provides all the floral trends, whilst the (SGD), who represent some of the leading names in the industry, share with us all the trends seen in this year's award-winning gardens.
Ready to be inspired by RHS Chelsea?
There's an abundance of yellow blooms at Chelsea this year bringing lots of colour and character to gardens.
'Pale, lemon, sunshine and citrus, yellow flowers of every shape and form graced the gardens of main avenue and beyond,' says Mark Gregory. 'Often shunned, this year yellow seems to have finally been allowed to bask in the limelight with almost every garden featuring at least one yellow plant.'
'Dramatic sculptural forms are a frequent motif at RHS Chelsea and this year is no exception, with Kate Gould MSGD, Tony Woods MSGD and Jo Thompson MSGD all incorporating striking sculptures into their gardens,' says The Society of Garden Designers.
'Chelsea may be a quintessentially British event but gardens this year have taken inspiration from all over the world,' says the SGD. 'The British Council UK Artisan Garden by Sarah Eberle FSGD is inspired by the Moghul gardens of North India and features traditional Pietra Dura marblework in a stunning surrounding wall.
'Jo Thompson uses the ancient Japanese art of Kintsugi to form a meandering path through her floral Wedgwood garden, and Tom Massey’s Lemon Tree Trust garden is filled with Middle Eastern references in both his planting and in a pavilion inspired by traditional Islamic designs. Elsewhere, planting in Patrick Collins' Wuhan Water Garden is a celebration of Chinese Flora.'
Lupin, the English garden favourite, takes centre stage on gardens at Chelsea this year with a vibrant display from yellow and red varieties to pinks and pale blues.
'Absent for a few years, the Lupin is making a comeback,' says Mark. 'Its bold peaks can be seen all over the show from the rich purple of Lupinus "Masterpiece" to the bright sunshine yellow of Lupinus "Desert Sun" and vibrant red of Lupinus "Beefeater".'
Jonathan Moseley adds: 'These perennials are perfectly easy to grow, they require little maintenance and act as a great cut flower. A top tip would be to plunge the hollow stems immediately into a bucket of water as you pick them. Lupins will be a hot seller in flower shops throughout the summer months and their regal flower spikes add drama and impact to any display.'
It's not just lupins that are stealing the show, as foxgloves are also cropping up all over Chelsea.
'Foxgloves are hot news at this year's Chelsea Flower Show. They featured in so many of the garden designs and also in the plantings on trade stands, in vases of flower arrangements and also on prints and fabrics,' says Jonathan. 'Look out for these mysterious tall flower spikes in your flower shops this summer. They are great in mixed bouquets or just a few stems arranged in old zinc jugs, stoneware jars or simple straight-sided cylinder vases. They have a good vase life and will last for at least 10 days in a flower arrangement.'
Metal work is a central feature this year with bold shapes amongst planting adding instant impact to the overall design.
'A sequence of metal spines create a connective thread running the length of Stuart Towner’s Spirit of Cornwall Garden, while Tony Woods incorporates a series of beautiful corten steel structures and grates highlighted by planting in purples and deep reds,' explains the SGD. 'The Wedgwood Garden designed by Jo Thompson also features a stunning bronze pavilion at its centre bringing an ephemeral quality to the garden.'
Mark Gregory’s Welcome to Yorkshire Garden is one of the most atmospheric places ever to have been built on main avenue. Not only is it absolutely beautiful to look at, but it's instantly calming and welcoming too.
Complete with the distant sound of sheep and plaintive cry of the curlew, you're soon transported to the Yorkshire Dales and it’s pretty difficult to drag yourself away.
Creating a sense of place is what every garden designer strives for and this year is exceptional – from the Lemon Tree Trust Garden by Tom Massey, Mark's Welcome to Yorkshire, or newcomer, Jonathan Snow’s Trailfinders South African Wine Estate Garden, you can transport yourself from Syria to the Dales to South Africa in an instant.
As a result of our changing lifestyles and lack of garden space, edible gardening has grown in popularity, so it isn't surprising to see this as a key element in the gardens – both large and small – at Chelsea.
The SGD explains: 'Tom Massey uses herbs, cleverly displayed on a planted-up building block wall, and exotic fruit trees – including lemons, a pomegranate and a fig – in his Middle Eastern inspired garden.
'Kate Savill and Tamara Bridge use plants that feature as flavourings in Warner Edwards Gin including rhubarb and juniper, and Tony Woods features a living wall of edible flowers, herbs, salad and soft fruit. Elsewhere, the Seedlip Garden by Catherine MacDonald celebrates the humble pea, featuring the common garden pea at the centre of her design alongside more unusual varieties.'
'British Flowers are oozing out of this year's RHS Chelsea,' says Jonathan.'Beautiful British stocks, peonies, tulips and delphiniums celebrate British flower farmers. A trend for seasonal flowers is apparent and a return to buying flowers from professional florists who can add that creative magic to a bouquet or arrangement will start to grow.'
'The environment is high on the list at RHS Chelsea this year, with ecology a central theme in many of the gardens,' reveals the SGD. 'Tom Stuart-Smith MSGD has created a feature garden using recycled plants and materials for the Garfield Weston Foundation, while Kate Gould incorporates cutting edge paving with integral energy-harvesting technology, with plants chosen for their ability to cope with high levels of pollution.'
A popular garden feature, this year has seen plenty of designs featuring large-scale water installations.
'Whether it’s a cool reflection pool, naturalistic stream or jetting fountains, water really is everywhere this year,' comments Mark. 'The Wuhan Water Gardens has timed spurts of water that shoot metres into the sky, bubbling brooks feature in several gardens including the Wedgwood Garden and calm pools break up the planting in the Seedlip Garden.'
'The floristry displayed within the Great Pavilion exhibits some innovative use of flowers, with many of the designs reminiscent of textiles, especially tapestries,' explains Jonathan. 'Flowers are arranged largely in phials of water, as opposed to floral foam, which unfortunately is not bio degradable.
'There are many alternative ways of arranging flowers from use of chicken wire, creating a structure of cut branches and twigs to hold stems into place, and also using mini bottles and small test tubes of water, which are all great sustainable examples of arranging flowers in an artistic yet naturalistic way.'
'Feminine, floral and romantic, traditional cottage garden plants are always popular at Chelsea and 2018 sees them return in abundance,' says the SGD.
'Jonathan Snow contrasts hard-leaved Mediterranean foliage with splashes of colour from roses, salvias, and astrantias; Nic Howard mixes wild plants with peonies, irises and geraniums to create a blowsy, colourful display, and Sarah Eberle creates a barrage of energetic colour with marigolds, roses, tulips and poppies.'
We already know about the vertical planting trend – it's perfect for small space gardening, which impacts those living in city and urban areas. But at Chelsea this year, we've seen this trend develop with more structure and texture.
'We are now familiar with suspended green or living floral walls, but many gardens displayed methods of achieving vertical planting by using tiered structures, often made from building materials or cleverly designed intersectional planting,' explains Jonathan. 'Green walls are flat and relatively two dimensional but the vertical planting on display at the show was full of depth and interest.
'This way of vertical planting is perfect for small space gardening and can be a trend which will prove useful as our space within our towns and cities become more scarce as new build housing often has small gardens, so here the answer is to go up rather than out with the plants. The Lemon Tree Trust Garden displayed some innovative ways of achieving vertical planting.'
'I was hugely interested to see how many roses were around at Chelsea with a distinct trend for the natural flat faced open blooms,' says Jonathan. 'Roses such as White Star and the amazing Jacqueline Du Pre typified the look for naturalistic simple beauty.
'These roses are stripped back to that naïve form of the indigenous Dog rose, which so perfectly encapsulates the mood of high summer. These simple, single varieties of roses are perfect for our pollinators as they offer a rich nectar source and, unlike their over developed cousins, these type of roses are low maintenance and perfect for adding in to jam jars with other meadow flowers and grasses.'
With Ultra Violet being Pantone's Colour of the Year for 2018, is it a coincidence that purple hues have been dominating this year's show?
'Purple, bronze and rust are on trend this year alongside yellows, oranges and deep reds,' reveals the SGD. 'Jo Thompson creates a feeling of elegance and sophistication with a palette inspired by the patterns on Wedgwood china. Kate Gould uses a combination of rich plum and blush with calmer greens to the rear in her New West End Garden and Catherine MacDonald combines beautiful reds, yellows and purples to reflect the pods of some of the more unusual pea plants that have inspired her garden for Seedlip.
'Elsewhere, Tony Woods uses a spectrum of purples and dark maroons to pick out the depth of colour in the corten steel used throughout his garden and Tom Massey includes deep purple irises against a grey concrete backdrop.'
'There is a current awareness about sustainability in floristry and trying to work with resources that are eco-friendly,' begins Jonathan. 'The amazing gold-winning stand designed by the British Cut Flower co operative, Flowers from the Farm, were awarded a well-deserved gold medal for their nostalgic display based around a life-sized straw horse pulling a cart burgeoning with beautiful seasonal flowers, reminiscent as if it was being transported to the market.
'The artisan growers are all about sustainability and seasonality. All the flowers are grown on local farms with a low carbon footprint and by using traditional growing methods they are also require very little watering and are cultivated using organic growing methods by the vast majority of the members.'
'This trend for seasonality and a return to the softer, romantic varieties of flowers remains visible throughout the show,' says Jonathan. 'Many of the show gardens feature gentle natural borders combining wispy grasses with the lacey forms of Ammi, Daucus and Orlaya. This wild wispy ethereal look will transpose itself into the styles of bouquets that florists will craft throughout the summer months.'
'Seating as an art form features in gardens by Nic Howard and Matt Keightley MSGD as well as in Kate Savill and Tamara Bridge’s garden for Warner Edwards Distillery, and on Naomi Ferret-Cohen's Space to Grow garden,' explains the SGD.
'Nic’s sculpture garden includes a sculptural bench referencing the DNA helix and set amongst colourful planting, while Matt incorporates bespoke timber benches and stools, designed by him and inspired by cells, into the margins of sweeping flower beds.'
The much-loved peonies are another key feature at Chelsea. 'These flamboyant blousy blooms are synonymous with summertime, and for me they ooze nostalgia and the decadence of high summer,' Jonathan reveals.
'We are all familiar with the swan down double varieties, but as with the roses there is an obvious swing towards the single varieties and a move away from some of the traditional colours with more rusts, corals and pure whites.'
'Always a place to the see the very best in hard landscaping, Chelsea this year seems to have moved away from the pristine edged, sawn paving to feature more natural shapes and states,' reveals Mark. 'From Jo Thompson’s mighty bench seat and table which were created from the same piece of rock, to the bubbling stream bed and stepping stones in the Welcome to Yorkshire garden, it seems that nature knows best.'
Ikea and Indoor Garden Design has highlighted just how you can harness houseplants for a happier and healthier working environment in Plants Work, an open-plan home-office installation located in the Great Pavilion.
'I think it is great that we are moving slightly away from the harsh and often angry forms of the cacti and succulents to the more subtle forms of textured green plants like the Begonia Rex, Maranta’s and Monstera,' explains Jonathan. 'Bringing living green plants indoors is perfect to create areas of interior landscapes that are interchangeable and a sustainable source of wellbeing and harmony within the house.'