RHS Chelsea Flower Show is all about picking up information and ideas and asking us to think about how we might take our gardens forward. So along with the message of sustainable materials and climate conscious planting, gardeners are being encouraged to widen their palette to consider not just beauty but a more inclusive appeal to all of our garden visitors.

Here are some ideas to get you thinking about how you might approach your own planting.

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Cultivated weeds

While weeds have been rebranded as heroes here at Chelsea - and there were examples aplenty in many of the gardens - there were also lots of ‘weed-like’ plants worth noting. These are cultivated plants that still hark back to their humble origins, such as dead nettle lamiums or this Geranium pyrenaicum ‘Bill Wallis’.

Geranium pyrenaicum 'Bill Wallis'

Perfectly placed growing in a nook next to the hearth on Cleve West’s Centrepoint garden, it echoes herb Robert (Geranium robertianum), also featured on the garden, with its small typical cranesbill flowers and more gentle sprawling habit. It has perhaps a slightly more impactful, more refined appearance.

Two’s company in pots

Chelsea gardens are packed with amazing plants – and plant lists picked up from the gardens are often long. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Rosemary Coldstream’s Feels Like Home garden in the Container Garden category paired plants perfectly in a series of pots – each with just two plants in, allowing focussed associations and appreciation. Plants were carefully chosen by Rosemary to reflect her New Zealand heritage. Here’s just two of her arrangements

Feels Like Home garden - Pittosporum and Erigeron

Pittosporum tenuifolium Banoway Bay (= 'Breebay') and Erigeron karvinskianus ‘Profusion’

Feels Like Home - Acca and Pachystegia

Pachystegia insignis - Marlborough rock daisy, paired with a simple small-leaved shrub.

Filling the gaps

There aren’t usually that many gaps on a Chelsea garden but where there are, they offer brilliant opportunities.

Chris Beardshaw A Life Worth Living Myeloma UK

In his garden for Myeloma UK, Chris Beardshaw added a green tracery to his paving with the creeping Soleirolia soleirolii that then swirls around his water feature bringing hard landscaping, ornament and planting together.

Here's more water feature inspiration from Chelsea

Simple stars

Thinking about planting doesn’t have to be complex – thoughtful, yes; overwhelming no.

Tom Hoblyn - Anemone ruvularis

The single starry Anemone rivularis nestled amid Melica uniflora f. albida, on Tom Hoblyn’s garden for Boodles, was perfection. Tom’s use of the Melica with its raindrop-effect inflorescences picked up on his ingenious raindrop water feature.

Choice colour palette

Sarah Price’s painterly garden had some serene colouring with a masterfully considered colour palette that linked many of the plants and materials in the garden.

Iris Benton Olive with Linaria maroccana ‘Licilia Azure’ - Sarah Price's garden Chelsea 2023

Here the purple flushed falls of starring Iris ‘Benton Olive’ were picked up in the purple Linaria maroccana ‘Licilia Azure’. And gently repeated to draw the eye through the garden.

Listen to Sarah Price talk about her Chelsea garden on our podcast

Silver appeal

Designer Filippo Dester’s Mediterranean-style for Hamptons and Garden Club London felt light and warm, much of which came from the use of silver foliage, such as Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ and a fig tree at the back of the garden, helping to bounce the light and create highlights.

Filippo Dester Chelsea 2023 - silver leaved planting

In this image the architectural, silver foliage of the Cynara cardunculus is picked up in the white of the umbellifer Melanoselinum decipiens ‘Black Parsley’, which itself has a tinge of pink that echoes the Acanthus spinosa, and in turn links back to the warm pink of the background wall.

Chance planting

Brownfield, gravelly, substrate planting was definitely on show, which while we aren’t all being asked to fill our gardens with rubble, does show the potential of chance plantings in places we might previously have ignored – or equally the need to embrace diverse ideas of gardens as our climate becomes more extreme and we search for more shared green spaces in our cities and towns.

The Balance Garden Chelsea 2023 - chance planting

Here’s a simple example of the sort of opportunistic, resilient planting that can bring benefits to health, wellbeing and pollinators. In John Davies and Steve Wiliams’s Centre for Mental Health Balance Garden, Papaver rhoeas, purple toadflax Linaria purpurea, corn chamomile Anthemis arvensis, wild rocket Diplotaxis tenuifolia – gone to seed but the pods can be harvested for a punchy salad crunch – and the pretty yellow flowers of wild mustard Sinapis arvensis prove that tough-grown, weedy choices very much have a place in our future planting choices.

Head to our dedicated Chelsea Flower Show hub page


Sorrel Everton is deputy editor of Gardens Illustrated.