Euphorbia ‘Black Pearl’ in Chris Beardshaw’s garden. Photograph: Sophia Evans/The Guardian

1 If you take home one slice of Chelsea, make it this: spurges, AKA euphorbias, are the unsung heroes of the sunny border – unfussy to the point of thriving on neglect, coping with droughts and providing long-lasting acid-green flowers that are the perfect foil for more ephemeral spring delights such as tulips and irises. I was particularly drawn to the compact evergreen cultivar Euphorbia ‘Black Pearl’ in Chris Beardshaw’s Morgan Stanley garden, although I also spotted architectural caper spurge (E. lathyris, often maligned as a weed), bright-yellow-flowered Wallich spurge (E. wallichii) and lime-yellow cushion spurge (E. epithymoides) all over the showground.

The architectural stalks of Equisetum hyemale contrast with a charcoal wall in Nic Howard’s garden. Photograph: Sophia Evans/The Guardian

2 Fancy giving room to the prehistoric-looking black-ribbed stalks of scouring rush (Equisetum hyemale), which popped up in a couple of Chelsea gardens this year? Don’t be put off because it’s a relative of the horribly invasive weed horsetail: this is a brilliant low-maintenance architectural plant that loves swampy spots and pond edges. It was shown off to good effect in Nic Howard’s garden, set against a simple charcoal-grey wall and softened with Mexican fleabane (Erigeron karvinskianus). Stuart Towner paired it with Hosta ‘Devon Green’, Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra), Gunnera magellanica and European wild ginger (Asarum europaeum). Scouring rush will spread relentlessly if given free rein, so contain it in a trough or water feature.

Sarah Price’s garden, with its clever use of gravel. Photograph: Sophia Evans/The Guardian

3 If you are looking for low-maintenance, low-cost alternatives to paving your front garden, gravel has much to recommend it, and at this year’s Chelsea several gardens took this theme in different directions. Sarah Price showed how to use a Mediterranean plant palette with the papery pink flowers of the Cretan rockrose (Cistus creticus) and the vivid red flower clusters of the blood pink (Dianthus cruentus). Gravel’s also a good mulch for shade planting: see Nic Howard’s row of the huge (and thankfully slug-resistant) leaves of Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’ planted in gravel along a narrow bed that would work perfectly in a gloomy side return.

A collaboration between Ikea and Indoor Garden Design offers different ways to display plants indoors, from space-saving hanging planters to planters on peg boards. Photograph: Sophia Evans/The Guardian

4 If I was in any doubt about the rise of the houseplant, the visitors swarming over the displays of cacti, succulents and orchids in the Great Pavilion were proof of their staying power. It’s not only because these plants are so Instagrammable – Popsy the Cactus from Craig House Cacti is now so popular she has her own Twitter account – but because for many of us without much outside space, an air plant or two is a far more realistic prospect. A collaboration between Ikea and Indoor Garden Design offers clever ways to display plants indoors, from space-saving hanging planters to planters on peg boards. You’ll see houseplants creeping into show gardens, too, from the blue chalksticks succulent (Senecio serpens) in Sarah Price’s garden to the cast-iron plants (Aspidistra elatior) dotted through Stuart Towner’s garden.

Jo Thompson’s garden, which uses York stone slabs as furniture. Photograph: Sophia Evans/The Guardian

5 Want garden furniture that will never require repainting and doesn’t need covering in winter? What about a slab of rock? Jo Thompson’s show garden for Wedgwood shows how it’s done, with flat-topped chunks of York stone serving as chair or table or both; simply add a comfy cushion or blanket. Just make sure you think carefully about where to position them, as you won’t be able to move them easily. If you’re more of a wood type, take the lead from Nic Howard, whose garden seats are simple cubes of oak, charred and shaped to make the perfect resting spot.

The Pearlfisher garden, by John Warland and the Pearlfisher team, uses succulents and other house plants. It also highlights the problem of plastics in the ocean. Photograph: Sophia Evans/The Guardian

6 If summer bedding leaves you cold, try planting up containers with succulents instead. The Pearlfisher garden cleverly employed echeverias, kalanchoes, sedums, crassulas and the like to mimic an underwater scene, while communicating its message about the perils of marine plastic pollution. The key to success is a very free-draining growing medium (use cactus and succulent compost, and choose a pot with plenty of holes in the bottom) and the sunniest spot you can muster. Remember to bring them inside to a frost-free place once summer starts to fade.

Foliage dominates in Tom Stuart-Smith’s Weston garden. Photograph: Sophia Evans/The Guardian

7 It may be the flower show, but some gardens demonstrated that big and bold foliage can offer as much impact. Stuart Towner’s Spirit of Cornwall garden is a masterclass in combining different shapes and textures to create a big-leaved border, using the palmate-leaved false castor oil plant (Fatsia japonica), the pleated leaves of rodgersias and the huge corrugated leaves of Chilean rhubarb (Gunnera manicata). If you want a really unusual bold-leaved foliage shrub for your garden, get your hands on a spikenard (Aralia cordata), as shown off by Tom Stuart-Smith in his Weston garden in the Great Pavilion.

Concrete cubes in Robert Barker’s Skin Deep garden. Photograph: Sophia Evans/The Guardian

8 Bare concrete in a garden is usually shorthand for something ugly and municipal, but this year’s Chelsea shows how to use this material in an inspired way, from the concrete cubes that break up frothy planting in Robert Barker’s Skin Deep conceptual garden to Stuart Towner’s simple oval concrete patio in his Spirit of Cornwall garden. Just make sure the lines are clean, the finish professional and the planting abundant.

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Chelsea Flower Show 2018: 10 top tips to take home

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show has launched a thousand gardening trends, big ideas that quickly trickle down into the smallest of green spaces. Here’s our take on the big stories from Chelsea 2018 that you can bring back to your garden, roof terrace or window box this weekend…

Bright and beautiful

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This year RHS Chelsea was not so much about any one colour as colour itself. Most of the gardens were full of joyous, often clashing hues: think vivid purples, dusky oranges and lemon yellows used against reds, pinks, peaches and blues in one glorious technicolour jumble. It’s great news for real-world gardeners looking to create maximum impact with minimal space.

Anything goes

This year planting schemes went wild – with loose and naturalistic-looking arrangements seen across many show gardens. In a move that will bring confidence to the entry level gardener, long-respected rules have been thrown out and box plants went daringly unclipped, while borders featured a crazy mix of textures and heights. We’ve also seen more offbeat plants including obscure-but-beautiful euphorbias and once-unfashionable shrubs like azaleas and rhododendrons.

Modern lines

Before you conclude that RHS Chelsea has fallen into sheer anarchy, be assured that structure still has a place in these gardens. Despite a small but growing minority of meandering layouts, clean lines still dominate for paths and water features, with elegant Modernist-inspired garden buildings in low-key woods and dark metals. Cool concrete and off-white stone especially in long rectangular slabs – large and small – were used in many gardens.

Rusting up

Rusty shades work beautifully with lush greenery, creating a subtly modern yet timeless look. It’s an easy element to introduce into any outdoor space. As well as rust-coloured plants like irises and ferns, we saw lots of Corten steel used for sculptures, containers and to define steps and raised beds.

Spirit of the woods

Forget prairie planting, this year there was a definite woodland influence on many show gardens. Multi-stemmed trees were a huge trend, peachy-barked birches being the biggest hit. The right multi-stem can make a brilliant addition to even small gardens, drawing the eye away from the boundaries and boosting the sense of space. Other woodland favourites like lush ferns and graceful foxgloves were also a major must-have.

Rocks and blocks

This year at RHS Chelsea, rocks were huge – in every sense – so many gardens and stands were punctuated by big, rough-hewn boulders. They make a dramatic feature and can double as a seat when space is short. Crazy paving, rough stone chippings and grit were popular for paths too. For a more polished look, cuboid blocks were also a hot trend, serving as sculpture, seating and planters and looking especially cool in Brutalist concrete.

Heat and dust

A stunning hot-and-sultry trend emerged in several show gardens this year – a style that works well for full-sun spaces and those lacking water. The look featured earth paths, stone seating and rammed earth walls in matte shades of sand, ochre and Petra-red. Sparse and airy planting included inspiring exotics from proteas to tree aloes. Carefully managed water systems, trickling through pools and shallow rills help to bring a cooling element to these sunny settings.

Cream is the new white

White has been in the spotlight for many years but this year sees cream, once unfashionable, making a gentle comeback. If this year’s bright hues aren’t your thing, consider about using cream flowers in a largely green garden where texture and form supply the extra interest. It’s a shade that works well with the wild and romantic mood of many show gardens this year.

Edible walls

Produce has never been the focal point of the Chelsea Flower Show but designers have acknowledged our increasing interest in growing our own food, even in the smallest of spaces. Living walls – inside and out – featuring salads, herbs and even strawberries, made an appearance on several show gardens.

Power flowers

The hottest flowers at RHS Chelsea this year included lupins, irises and foxgloves. Perhaps that’s because these plants are available in exquisitely offbeat hues – from rusty peach to lavender-blue to inky blacks – and can even combine two shades within one flower. When it comes to colour, these plants will bring their A game to your garden.

Designer: Jo Thompson
Contractor: Bespoke Outdoor Spaces
Sponsor: Wedgwood

The Chelsea Flower show 2018 Gold medal winners: The M&G Garden

The M&G Garden

The M&G Garden is an imaginary oasis which celebrates the language of colour, texture, light and shadow. With informal plantings and a tactile built landscape, this drought-tolerant garden proves that expressive gardens can be created in a variety of environments.

Designer: Sarah Price
Contractor: Crocus
Sponsor: M&G Investments

Chelsea Flower Show 2018 show gardens: The LG Eco-City garden. Images: Jayne Lloyd

LG Eco-City Garden

Imagine a ‘vertical forest’ of residential apartments, each with it’s own allocated green space. Scale it down to a single unit and you have the LG Eco-City Garden, which aims to integrate our increased dependency on electronics with an awareness of the need for sustainable lifestyles. With different elements of the garden addressing different elements of pollution, including light, noise and carbon emissions, the Eco-City Garden addresses the serious concern regarding the decline of habitats for pollinators in city environments.

Designer: Hay-Joung Hwang
Contractor: Randle Siddeley Ltd.
Sponsors: LG Electronics

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018: David Harber and Savills Garden. Images: Jane Lloyd

The David Harber and Savills Garden

The garden was designed to showcase the relationship between sculpture and planting, which can combine to tell a narrative and promote reflection. Layers of the garden show man’s evolving relationships with the environment, with grasses and perennials on gravel representing the natural landscape.

Designer: Nic Howard
Contractor: Langdale Landscapes
Sponsors: David Harber

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018: The Morgan Stanley garden for the NSPCC. Images: Jayne Lloyd

The Morgan Stanley Garden for The NSPCC

Raising awareness of the work of the NSPCC, Chris Beardshaw’s design portrays the emotional transition a child goes through as they are helped by the children’s charity. The garden begins with an area of uncertainty, which winds on a path towards and more tranquil and open space.

Designer: Chris Beardshaw
Contractor: Structure Group
Sponsor: Morgan Stanley

The Chelsea Flower Show 2018 show gardens: Image, Jayne Lloyd

The Trailfinders South African Wine Estate

In his first ever show garden, Jonathan Snow encapsulates the wine lands of South Africa’s Western Cape with plants of the Fynbos to create a vibrant and contrasting garden design. A charming Cape Dutch homestead with a terracotta-tiled terrace leads down steps into a formal, romantic garden, then through a gate to a vineyard.

Designer: Jonathan Snow
Contractor: Stewart Landscape Construction
Sponsor: Trailfinders Ltd.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018: The Wedgwood garden. Images: Jayne Lloyd

Welcome to Yorkshire

Inspired by the picturesque landscape of the Yorkshire Dales, this garden captures the spirit of an area of England famous for it’s artisanal Wensleydale cheeses, quintessential buttercup meadows and rich flora. The colour scheme has hints of purple, pink and white with a mixture of dense and varied planting.

Designer: Mark Gregory
Contractor: Landform
Sponsor: Welcome to Yorkshire

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018: VTB Capital Garden – Spirit of Cornwall

VTB Capital Garden – Spirit of Cornwall

This unique creative collaboration features a palette of subtropical and temperate plants, illustrating the unique microclimates found throughout Cornwall. Bringing a coastal feel to the garden, water features create the ambience of sea views with a continuous circulation of water reinforcing the illusion.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018: The Lemon Tree Garden. Images: Jayne Lloyd

The Lemon Tree Trust Garden

This garden wasn’t just inspired by the resilience of the refugees living in Domiz camp in Northern Iraq, it was also created with their ingenious input. With a vision to highlight the hidden beauty behind the camp, the garden uses materials typical available in such environments, including steel and concrete, to fulfil multiple garden uses relating to growing your own produce and container gardens.

Designer: Tom Massey
Contractor: Landscape Associates
Sponsor: The Lemon Tree Trust

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018: RHS Feel Good Garden. Image: Jayne Lloyd

RHS Feel Good Garden

Celebrating the positive effect which gardens and gardening can have on both our physical and mental health, the RHS Feel Good Garden creates a therapeutic space for conversation, relaxation and unwinding. The RHS has joined forces with the NHS to celebrate 70 Years of the NHS.

Designer: Matt Keightley
Contractor: Rosebank Landscaping

See the Chelsea Flower Show 2018 Gold medal winners.

Take a look at the plant trends from the Great Pavillion at the Chelsea Flower Show 2018.

The Queen visits the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018

Published 15 May 2018

The Queen is Patron of the Royal Horticultural Society which organises the event, which showcases horticultural excellence each year.

The Queen, as Patron of the Royal Horticultural Society, today attended the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London. The RHS Chelsea Flower Show has become one of the world’s greatest showcases for horticultural excellence, attracting visitors and exhibitors from across the globe.

The event was first established in 1913, on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London and has been visited by many members of The Royal Family, including The Queen’s grandparents King George V and Queen Mary.

When the RHS Chelsea Flower Show opened in 1913 there were just 244 exhibitors – nowadays over 500 stalls are set up showcasing garden designs, nurseries, floristry, educational displays and trade stands.

Her Majesty will toured the gardens and viewing displays, including, ‘The RHS Feel Good Garden’, celebrating 70 years of the National Health Service and highlighting the positive impact of horticulture on mental health.

The Queen also saw the ‘The Welcome to Yorkshire Garden’, inspired by the famous Yorkshire Dales, ‘The Wuhan Water Garden, China’, which showcases the natural landscape of Hubei Province and The Morgan Stanley garden for the NSPCC.

Also attending The RHS Chelsea Flower Show today was The Duke of York with HRH’s daughter Princess Beatrice of York, The Princess Royal, The Countess of Wessex, The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent and Princess Alexandra.

This week, we have been treated to an array of wonderful gardens at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018. On Monday, on the opening VIP day of the event, the judges marked each garden against a set of five criteria: ambition, overall impression, design, construction and planting. They then handed out the medals

You can see the full list of Gold and Silver Gilt medal winners for 2018 here.

But there’s another award the Chelsea designers are after – The People’s Choice Award. This is, as the title suggests, voted for by the public.

Winner of the Space to Grow Garden People’s Choice Award 2018:

Welcome to Yorkshire


Mark Gregory, who designed the Welcome to Yorkshire garden, also won a Gold Medal in the Show Gardens category at Chelsea this year. On top of that, Mark, who this year celebrated his 30th year at Chelsea, was also awarded Best Construction. What a year for the team.

Paula McWaters spoke to Mark on Monday about what he wanted to achieve through the Welcome to Yorkshire garden…

“I tried to optimise ‘Yorkshireness’,” he told us. “What I’ve tried to do is make a modern creamery – I imagine it set on a farmland in Wensleydale, which is famous for its cheese and buttercup meadows.

“Wensleydale epitomises Yorkshire to me. I felt that Chelsea hadn’t seen this kind of garden for a while and I wanted to do something postcard cottage, but not a pastiche and not something contrived. I wanted something beautifully detailed and believable.”


Country Living

  • Designed by Mark Gregory
  • Built by Landform
  • Sponsored by Welcome to Yorkshire

Winner of the Artisan Garden People’s Choice Award 2018:

The Claims Guys: A Very English Garden


This garden is inspired by the English Arts and Crafts Movement and celebrates craftsmanship, as well as beauty. Plants include foxgloves, phlox flowers and prunus, surrounded by box hedging.

  • Designed by Janine Crimmins
  • Built by Andrew Loudon
  • Sponsored by The Claims Guys


Winner of the Space to Grow Garden People’s Choice Award 2018:

The Silent Pool Gin Garden


This garden is inspired by the gin-making process at the Silent Pool Distillery in the Surrey Hills. It’s designed as a “city haven” and blends soft planting with more angular landscaping, including handmade dry stone walls and steel, infinity-edged water features. The wonderful blue colour, from the meconopsis, is meant to reflect the colour of a gin bottle. Teamed with white, green and copper, the colour palette aims to create a sense of calm.

  • Designed by David Neale
  • Built by Neale Richards Garden Design
  • Sponsored by Silent Pool Distillers


After all that, why not see in the Bank Holiday weekend with a G&T Chelsea-style…

The world’s finest growers and designers have pulled out all the stops for the world’s most spectacular garden show.

The 2018 RHS Chelsea Flower Show has swung open its doors to its 11-acre site this week, attracting crowds of green-fingered fans eager to see its 550 exhibitors, show gardens and floral displays.

It’s one of the world’s most prestigious horticultural shows, with exhibits and displays that inspire the 157,000 annual visitors as well as the millions that will be watching the show on TV.

It’s a chance to see the country’s best horticultural landscapers, gardeners and designers all in one space, to glean ideas, spot trends, shop (there are over 250 trade stands selling everything from lawnmowers to botanical prints) and talk to the people who make our gardens grow.

The annual Chelsea Flower Show is not only a celebration of all things horticultural, but, since it began in 1913, the event has also become synonymous with the start of the “London season”.

This year, there are two important and topical themes running throughout; the environment and mental health.

The designs highlight the biggest environmental problems of our time; plastic. The show gardens will also highlight how plants, flowers and green spaces can have a positive impact on our lives, in terms of health, wellbeing and happiness – gardens are known to be the perfect haven to escape from the stresses of everyday life.

Here are nine not-to-be-missed highlights from this year’s event.


Plastics in the ocean is a particularly hot topic, so the Pearlfisher Garden is perfectly timed, raising (even more) awareness around ocean plastics.

Designed by John Warland and the Pearlfisher team, aquatic tanks containing fish with cacti and succulents are used to imitate the structure and form of underwater coral.

As the sun shines through the glass ceiling over the garden dappled shadows appear on the Portland stone mirroring the ocean-like movement of the water. The Pearlfisher Garden, in partnership with Plastic Oceans, highlights the impact of plastic waste on our ecosystems and is a call to action to brands, businesses and designers to create sustainable lifecycles for products and packaging.


Explore Ranelagh Gardens after closing time on Friday 25 May at the Chelsea Flower Show’s first ever Chelsea Late Event. It promises live jazz bands, cocktails and Seedlip mocktails, artisan food, a London Vegetable Orchestra Workshop (yes, really – you’ll be turning your everyday courgettes and carrots into musical instruments), plus complimentary flower crowns or pressed flower badges to take home, all in the intimate setting of Ranelagh Gardens by twilight.


Chris Beardshaw has a habit of making Chelsea gardens that show visitors fall in love with; Chris has won the ‘People’s Choice’ award four times (an award voted for visitors, not judges). His 2018 Morgan Stanley garden for the NSPCC is a mix of rich woodland and open perennial planting, giving a genuine sense of maturity to the garden, while the rear of the garden has a different feel, with a calm and reflective water ‘canal’ bordering the side of the cedar wood pavilion.

Designed to raise awareness of the work of the NSPCC, this garden’s design is a metaphor for the emotional transition that takes place in a child as they experience the positive impact of the NSPCC’s work. At the start of the garden the direction of the path in the woodland is unclear. As it turns a corner it leads to a more open and tranquil space, filled with soft, textured perennials. The path steps up onto a bespoke cedar wood pavilion, enclosed, at the rear, by a calm, reflective canal.

Will it be a fifth win?


This year Trailfinders is back with a South African winelands garden designed by Jonathan Snow (no, not that Jon Snow), a first timer at Chelsea.

The garden is a snapshot of a charming and traditional South African wine estate. A Cape Dutch homestead with a terracotta-tiled terrace leads down steps into a formal, romantic garden, then through a gate to a vineyard.

Beyond the vineyard is a representation of the wild and beautiful fynbos landscape, incorporating plenty of South African plants such as Proteas.


Designed by Mark Gregory, the Welcome To Yorkshire Garden marks the 97th garden he has built for Chelsea Flower Show and the 5th he has designed. As the name would suggest, it’s inspired by the Yorkshire Dales, famous for its buttercup meadows and rich flora.

Sponsored by Welcome to Yorkshire, the garden celebrates Yorkshire’s stunning scenery, natural materials, traditional crafts and artisan food production, and is intended to inspire the public to visit the county and experience its nature firsthand.

Expect flowering wisteria and magnificent cabbages, plus, at the rear of the garden, a babbling brook emerging from under a boulder, backed by dense woodland planting of larch, elder and hazel being a natural area for wildlife to feel at home.

Particular attention to detail has been lavished on the limestone walls, with seams of larger ‘through stones’ holding more irregular shaped stones in place – a particular detail of the walling from the Wensleydale area.


Tipped to be one of the most popular Show Gardens of 2018 is The Lemon Tree Trust Garden (sponsored by The Lemon Tree Trust), designed by debut designer Tom Massey with the aim of showing how plants can improve people’s lives and well-being through garden design.

He was inspired by the inventiveness, resilience and determination of people in tough situations of forced migration, in particular the gardens created by Syrian refugees living in Domiz Camp, Northern Iraq. The theme is brought to life through the use of Middle Eastern herbs, pomegranate trees, plus traditional Islamic influence can be seen in the star shaped water feature, radiating water rills and elaborate metal and wood fretwork screens.

The materials used would be available to refugees in the camp. Some of the most inspiring take home features from this garden are ones that were created from ideas seen at the refugee camp; the food plants in tin cans and re-cycled plastic bottles attached to a wall as well as the brilliant planted up building block wall.


Don’t miss The M&G Garden, a Mediterranean haven by designer Sarah Price, who is returning to the show after a 6 year hiatus. M&G’s ninth year of sponsoring the show, Sarah’s Mediterranean-inspired garden aims to connect us to nature, and features textured, rammed earth walls, almost 4,000 plants and over 170 varieties of flora.

The garden is inspired by holidays in the Mediterranean. Sarah Price wanted to create a sunny Mediterranean feel, like a place “that has been there for some time”.


Multi-award-winning designer Tom Stuart-Smith returns to Chelsea after eight years with the magnificent Weston Garden in the Great Pavilion. The Weston Garden’s theme is recyclability; it’s a waste-free garden and uses only recycled pieces, including plants from previous shows. Disenchanted with the amount of waste at previous shows, Stuart-Smith avoided using concrete for this garden, and promises to recycle all elements.


The Great Pavilion will also be home to this year’s floristry competitions, where 32 florists will be competing to win the title of RHS Chelsea Young Florist and RHS Chelsea Florist of the Year. The theme for 2018, following on from the Royal Wedding on 19th May, is ‘Spring Wedding’. Competitors will each be creating a floral wedding throne, with the finished designs displayed in The Great Pavilion. The competitions are judged on Tuesday 22nd and Thursday 24th May respectively, so if you’re visiting on either day you could watch the new RHS Chelsea Young Florist or Florist of the Year being crowned.

Designer Sarah Price makes gardens that garden editors adore. She is an artist who sculpts with aggregate and tough plants and she never looks ruffled. Her gardens hum with energy and authenticity yet, like her, they are—serene.

Show garden judges like her gardens too; having won a gold medal at her last Chelsea Flower Show appearance in 2012, Sarah Price decided to “use color in a different way” with this year’s entry at Chelsea, winning another gold medal.

Plants aside, there is no getting away from earth red: It’s on the walls, the ground, the seats, and under the water. Let’s take a closer look.

Photography by Jim Powell, for Gardenista.

Above: Sarah Price in her gold-medal-winning Mediterranean garden for M&G, Chelsea 2018.

For this designer, saturated color has a useful effect on other strong colors: “They sing and clash, creating harmonies or discord,” she says. Being an artist, Sarah’s palette has an overall unity. Look at the colors in Monet’s paintings of his Giverny garden and there is this lively color effect. In fact, a rare showing of Monet’s Agapanthus Triptych at the Royal Academy a couple of years ago gave Sarah the germ of an idea for a show garden.

Above: British Impressionism, featuring succulents and poppies.

The garden art made by Sarah resonates with sensitive souls as well as cynical journalists. Christopher Woodward, director of the Garden Museum, describes the effect that particularly memorable Chelsea gardens can have over the years: “These unique intensities blur and seep into your consciousness of what gardens can be.” Sarah is able to do this.

Above: Rammed earth walls, screens, and pillars were put together on-site during the show build.

Even the tree trunk (Lagerstroemia indica) is red-brown. Like an Impressionist painting, the soft blur is woken up with shots of glowing color.

Above: A Corten steel rill leads to the edge of one of several pools that reflect trees along with the sky.

Sarah is (probably) pestered to do more show gardens than she is keen to do; her offering, to use corporate language, is attractive to risk-averse sponsors. Winning gold again this year, she is a safe bet without being safe in her choices. In a textural mix of herbs and at least seven different euphorbias, there is green in all its variations and acid yellow with amethyst and pink.

Above: Trend alert—glaucous Euphorbia rigida with its coral flowers, is a standout shrub in this garden. Above: Dark poppy (Papaver rhoeas) with pink and green Euphorbia rigida and young giant fennel.

A red clay base note could seem rather heavy in the British climate, especially if the weather happened to be the usual festival wind and rain. A couple of minutes spent watching the sponsor’s video from earlier in the year is unconsciously revealing about this hue. As Sarah puts together her “material palette” of aggregates and plant samples, she adds paint in the red-brown spectrum to mounds of pebbles. She is standing in a lean-to conservatory facing on to a wintery walled garden and the walls happen to be plaster pink, with glaucous green succulents hanging from shelves. Harmony is all around.


This year we’re excited to be working with Sarah Price to build a show garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Having worked with her on a Chelsea garden back in 2012 we’re thrilled to be teaming up again this year to create the M&G Garden! The garden we built with her previously was awarded the Gold Medal so we’re working as hard as we can to achieve that again this year!

With an artistic background – she has a First class degree in Fine Art – Sarah brings an artistic, “painterly” approach to design. Similar to the effect an arresting painting can have on you, her gardens have an incredibly immersive feel. Using a naturalistic style of planting, she aims to create gardens that are beautiful places that can elevate your senses and inspire a deeper connection with the natural world.

Starting her horticultural career working as a gardener at Hampton Court Palace, Sarah established her own landscaping practice to work on a large breath of different projects from big public planting schemes to community projects to private gardens. Apart from Chelsea, one of her most notable projects was as co-designer for the 2012 gardens at London’s Olympic Park. She also went on to work as a planting consultant for LDA Design on the post-Games legacy design.

Follow our progress

The Casual Gardener: Chelsea gold medallist Sarah Price heeds the call of nature

GARDEN designer Sarah Price is looking forward to getting back to Ireland. She’s due to visit this coming Friday for the Carlow Garden Festival, where the 37-year-old will deliver a talk entitled ‘Plants First’.

From childhood trips across the Irish Sea from her home in London she recalls the hawthorn billowing from the hedgerows, packed with native trees and shrubs.

You get the impression that many years before she won the first of four Chelsea gold medals, Price had a greater awareness of her natural surroundings than most, an ability to absorb the elements and transform them into creative energy.

Her acclaimed designs are essentially faux wildernesses, inspired by places where man and woman’s impact is minimal.

“Walking and looking in wild landscapes is always important to me, it’s where I get my ideas from,” she says.

She developed her love of plants in her paternal grandmother’s garden in Abergavenny, south Wales, and helping her father tend his city allotment. After studying for a degree in fine art, she still felt compelled to garden so chose to combine her horticultural and creative talents.

Landing a job as an amenity gardener at Hampton Court Palace on the edge of south-west London, the young Price also studied garden design. She’s been designing professionally since 2006 and subsequently picking up accolades at a rate of at least one a year.

“My style has evolved over the years but along a consistent line,” she says. “The planting is always informal and the plant associations mimic those of the wild.”

The materials employed for the hard landscaping – if there is any – are always natural. Price also chooses her plants on their ability to decay gracefully, extending their appeal many months beyond flowering time.

If you don’t know her name you might at least know her most celebrated collaborative work – London’s Olympic Park for the 2012 games. The naturalised prairie and meadow planting employed on a huge scale at the Stratford site is Price’s signature style.

“I like to make a garden with a strong atmosphere, but one that’s also soft and romantic,” she says. “That means lots of colour and textures – in many ways, my designs are informed by fine art.”

During her talk at the Arboretum Home and Garden Heaven in Leighlinbridge, she will explain her philosophy of “plant-driven design” and its advantages over gardens where the planting is dictated by the hard landscaping rather than being complementary.

Price will also provide an insight in to the design process that in June, following a six-year absence, secured her a fourth Chelsea gold medal.

Her Mediterranean-style M&G garden was lauded as the most romantic at this year’s show, with its lime-green euphorbias, butter-yellow horned poppies and lemon-yellow mimosa, set against towering rammed earth walling made from clay and aggregate and stacked reclaimed terracotta tiles.

Speaking alongside Sarah Price at next Friday’s event will be Alan Gray, who will be outlining the history of his East Ruston Old Vicarage garden in Norfolk, which he and his partner, Graham, have transformed from a blank canvas into a stunning vista of creativity, featuring mixed hedgerows, banks, wild flower areas and ponds.

Other guests appearing at the annual horticultural extravaganza, which runs until August 6, include Helen Dillon, Carol Klein, Dermot O’Neill and Chris Beardshaw.

:: For more information on the Carlow Garden Festival’s extensive programme go to

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