Chelsea Flower Show displays focus on health and power of nature

Gardens focusing on health, well-being and the power of nature, including an exhibit designed by the Duchess of Cambridge, feature at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show.

The Royal Horticultural Society’s world famous flower show opens its doors again this week, with around 168,000 visitors expected to tour the 28 gardens, the great pavilion and shopping stands over the week.

Members of the royal family and celebrities will get the first sight of the show on Monday before it opens to members of the public on Tuesday.

Visitors will be able to see show gardens and horticultural displays at the world famous flower show (Aaron Chown/PA)
Visitors will be able to see show gardens and horticultural displays at the world famous flower show (Aaron Chown/PA)

Exhibits include the RHS back-to-nature garden which has been co-designed by the duchess and landscape architects Davies White to highlight how being active in nature can positively affect people’s physical and mental health.

Over the past few months the duchess and her co-designers have visited plant nurseries, suppliers and specialist craftspeople who have been growing and building elements of the garden, which has a natural woodland feel, Kensington Palace said.

The garden’s centrepiece is a high-platform tree house atop a chestnut trunk, clad in stag horn oak, hazel and larch cladding that draws inspiration from a bird or animal nest.

Duchess of Cambridge RHS Chelsea Flower Show garden
The duchess discussing plans for the garden in February (Kensington Palace/PA)

A swing seat, which Kate, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis were photographed having a go on, hangs below the tree house.

Kate remembered the late Diana, Princess of Wales by including forget-me-nots, her favourite flowers.

Among the blooms and foliage are blue periwinkle flowers, geraniums, astrantias, wild strawberry plants, ferns and rhubarb.

Other gardens focusing on nature and a more sustainable future include Sarah Eberle’s “resilience garden” which marks 100 years of the Forestry Commission and looks ahead to the threats facing woods of the future – including climate change and pests and diseases.

The Savills and David Harber Garden by Andrew Duff will showcase a host of sustainable features to celebrate the value of trees, plants and grass in urban spaces and show that city dwellers can do their bit for the environment.

The garden features diverse trees, a water-purifying wetland area and a huge green wall.

Ikea has teamed up with designer Tom Dixon for a “gardening will save the world” exhibit, championing sustainable food growth and consumption, while David Neale’s “silent pool gin garden” has a green roof using plant energy to create electricity as its focal point.

An exhibit by University of Reading PhD student Tomos Jones focuses on the damaging impacts that invasive ornamental plants can have when they escape gardens and the role gardeners can play in stopping it happening.

The structure of the exhibit is based on giant rhubarb, and features plants ranging from Chinese windmill palm to montbretia, based on a survey asking gardeners what species they thought were invading.

He said the high profile of species such as Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam had raised the issue of invasive ornamentals up the agenda, but there was scope for more advice at garden centres.

Gardeners could help tackle the issue with their choice of plants and how they dispose of garden waste, he said.

“It’s an issue complicated by climate change – with climate change new plants might become invasive that so far haven’t been,” he added.

Rose Gore Browne, RHS Chelsea Flower Show manager, said:  “We have a brilliant line up of gardens this year with many highlighting the positive impact plants can have and reminding us of the importance of nature.”

The Ikea garden will be the first ever judged garden inside the Great Pavilion, while visitors will also get a sneak peak of the master plan for the new RHS Bridgewater Garden in Salford ahead of its opening next year, she said.

“We’re also delighted to welcome back John Everiss who is creating a magnificent tribute to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings and we’re honoured to welcome Normandy veterans who will be joining us throughout the week,” she added.