Sneak Peek: Charmed by the 2016 Chelsea Flower Show (Opens Today)

The show gardens this year are more about rocks and trees than smooth limestone and immaculate turf. Despite tightened security at the 2016 Chelsea Flower Show, the gardens themselves feel more relaxed and creative.

Here’s an inside look at the new garden trends that will be on display when the show opens to the public this morning at 8 am. (The show runs through Saturday; for more information and tickets see RHS Royal Chelsea Flower Show.)

Photography by Kendra Wilson.

Designer: Cleve West


Above: Last year’s Best-in-Show winner Dan Pearson (at left) admires Cleve West’s garden for show sponsors M&G Investments. Cleve’s individual style finds favor with the judges; he goes his own way and it seems to work.


Above: Cleve West’s garden for M&G is rough and smooth, with quite a few bird baths. In fact they are rocks with natural indentations. Since some were retaining water, Cleve and his team exaggerated this vessel-quality to create small pools. He says that bird bathing has been going on during every day of the build.

Designer: Andy Sturgeon


Above: Garden designer Andy Sturgeon uses very hard landscaping with assurance as always. His “stegosaurus fins” of bronze and Juarassic limestone contrast with subtle planting.

Designer: Rosy Hardy


Above: Garden designer Rosy Hardy’s edging promises to be a visitor favorite. The woven willow will be tested this week, in keeping back the throngs.

Designer: James Basson


Above: James Basson is a British emigré in France (who happens to have a Huguenot name). His Provence garden for L’Occitane last year was appreciated for the authenticity of its parched planting. This year, desiccated snail shells reveal an obsessive attention to detail.

Designer: Kazuyuki Ishihara


Above: The garden that made my heart stop (and admittedly he always wins best in show in the Artisan Garden category), was Kazuyuki Ishihara‘s Garage Garden. Paving over front gardens for driveways is a dismal trend in the UK but this solution is not just a call to arms. With its ocean-liner staircase and verdigris copper edging, it is the most euphoric car port that I’ve ever seen.


Above: It’s important to remember with Kazuyuki Ishihara that he doesn’t just design the front of the garden. Every year he competes with himself to create the best sides and especially, the best back-of-exhibit garden. He has no competition at all.

Designer: Hugo Bugg


Above: Hugo Bugg talks through his show garden with actress Rosamund Pike. He was one of the youngest designers to win a gold medal in 2014, with another garden concerned with water conservation.

Plant Palettes


Above: Hugo Bugg’s pine trees seem to grow out of stone, in a landscape based on Mediterranean Jordan. Along with glorious planting (scarlet Adonis annua has attracted particular attention) he shows what is possible in areas with minimal rainfall.


Above: Flower trends? Pale yellow Trollius x cultorum ‘Cheddar’ was on top form for Cleve West and also Chris Beardshaw, whose garden will be re-instated at Great Ormond Street Hospital in Bloomsbury.

How does this year’s flower show compare to previous years at the Chelsea Flower Show? See Ideas from the Chelsea Flower Show to Use at Home and The Latest Trends in English Gardening, Brought to You by the 2013 Chelsea Flower Show.

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