On the road The Veg Plot

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016: get the look!

RHS Chelsea orange and purple

Last week we were both lucky enough to visit Chelsea Flower Show, the first time either of us have trodden its hallowed pathways. But while Rich’s press pass enabled him to swan around with the celebrities, swigging corporate champagne and admiring the show gardens in a stately manner, I mixed it with the hoi polloi on the closing Saturday with some serious work to do.

My ticket came from garden and DIY superstore Homebase. In exchange for this ticket they set me a challenge: to find five garden trends that could easily be repeated using Homebase items. This sounded like a fair deal to me. So I packed my lunch (including a sneaky can of beer) and fought the crowds for glimpses of back garden inspiration. And here they are…

Chelsea Gardens Rocks

1. Rubble, rocks and boulders

From the sculptural piles of rubble in Darren Hawkes gold medal winning garden for Brewin Dolphin (left) to the huge glacial boulder in Propagating Dan’s ‘Garden of Potential’, rocks and stones were a key feature among the Chelsea show gardens. The hot, arid landscape – which inspired many of the designers this year – reached its extreme in the dry and dusty garden created by James Basson for L’Occitane.

Get the look: Rip up the lawn, smash your garden path and load up on aggregate. Homebase has an extensive supply of gravel, stones and chippings to get your garden rocking.

Chelsea 2016 Garden Lawn

2. Lawn sculpture

Don’t rip up the lawn just yet! Slice it into swooping, neat strips instead. The World Vision garden by John Warden was a mower’s Mecca, with vibrant green grass arcing above slate chippings and bricks (more rubble) dotted with simple splashes of floral colour.

Get the look: As you would expect, Homebase has swathes of shelf space dedicated to lawn maintenance but if there’s one thing we recommend above all others, it’s an edging blade – it’ll neaten up even the scruffiest patches of grass.

Chelsea Garden Design Lupins

3. Lupins

Like everything else in modern life, flowers come in and out of fashion. And if this year’s show was anything to go by the current must-grow garden bloom is the lupin. They were everywhere. Two of our favourite examples were these confident purple flowers standing tall among the green and orange hues in the gold medal winning Modern Slavery garden by Juliet Sargeant (left) and the outrageously showy pink lupins bludgeoning their way into Ann-Marie Powell’s feature garden for the RHS.

Get the look: Lupins are a fairly easy plant to grow from seed enabling you to fill your garden for a fraction of the cost of Chelsea’s specimens. We like the look of this pack of mixed colour blooms from Mr Fothergill’s – and if you’re quick, there’s still time to get sowing before summer reaches its peak.

Herb Gardens at Chelsea Show 2016

4. Herbs

We like growing herbs (good looking and tasty) so it was great to see plenty of gardens using them within their planting schemes. Particularly suited to the arid themes of the rockier gardens we also like this fennel (left), looking like a self-seeded accident swaying in the Telegraph Garden by Andy Sturgeon (another gold winner) and the vast displays of lavender, thyme and more in St John’s Hospice Garden. This apothecary garden was created by Jekka McVicar and filled with plants chosen on their healing properties, scent, colour and texture.

Get the look: Herbs in pots are one of the easiest ways of putting edible plants (and booze ingredients) in your garden. But why not go one stage further and mix them up with the shrubs and border plants. Homebase has a great selection of herbs in store and look them up online and you’ll even find some helpful herb growing advice.

Orange flowers

5. Orange

With a lot of dry, arid planting on display, and muted tones across the show, it was splashes of orange that stood out most for me. Often paired with deep purples the colour was most effective in the Watahan East & West Garden by Chihori Shibayama and Yano Tea (left and main image) and Ann-Marie Powell’s feature garden. ‘RHS Greening Grey Britain for Health, Happiness and Horticulture’ (the garden’s full title) aimed to raise the spirits through bright colours and by creating plenty of spaces for people to relax. Orange flowers and pots were much in evidence and the garden was built around a large metal container painted in a vivid, attention grabbing orange.

Get the look: We reckon it’s time to scatter some orange magic into your own gardens: from flowers to furniture there’s plenty of ways to add a splash of colour. Homebase has plenty of orange items in store, but you could just as easily transform your own tired outdoor objects with a spray of glossy bright orange paint – making orange the new black, grey, green, blue, yellow…..


  • Great article and sounds like you had a blast at your first RHS Chelsea. Thanks so much for choosing some of my garden features as your inspiration highlights – am thrilled and flattered. Love Ann-Marie Powell. Xxx

    • And thank your for taking the time to comment on our blog. Loved the garden and have lots of photographs of it, on hand for me to dip into whenever I need inspiration. Hope you had time to enjoy the show too.

  • Would love to go to the Chelsea Flower Show once! We have a garden at Keukenhof Gardens but I really like the typical English style of the Chelsea Flower Show.

    All the best,
    Farmer Gracy

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