A garden water feature is practically obligatory in any show garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, and this year's show featured everything from gushing waterfalls and water cascading down sleek walls, to tranquil rills and still pools.

Of course, water is a key element in gardens these days, not least for wildlife. But it is also a scarce resource that needs to be saved and used wisely.

Here are some of the water features that caught our eye in gardens large and small, from the main show gardens to the Sanctuary, Balcony and Container gardens.

Garden water feature ideas from Chelsea Flower Show

Boodles British Craft Garden – the 'raindancing' pond

The water feature in the Boodles British Craft Garden. Designed by Thomas Hoblyn. RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023.
Tim Sandall

The water feature in Thomas Hoblyn's Sanctuary garden got everyone talking in the run up to the show opening – just how had a pool that mimics rainfall, with a cycle of raindrops hitting the water’s surface and building to a crescendo as if a storm is passing, been created?

The feature is the work of water sculptor, Bamber Wallis, and took almost a year to perfect. Tom told us that it's a pressurised, black perspex feature that is just 15mm deep and is a complicated feat of engineering that involves hundreds of pinprick holes through which water spurts for one tenth of a second, 100 pipes, solenoid valves and a computer.

When still, it acts as a mirror.

Horatio's Garden - water table

Water feature in Horatio's Garden. RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023.
© RHS / Neil Hepworth

Water is a key element in all Horatio's Gardens, a favourite feature of both patients and staff, so it was always going to a key part in the Horatio's Garden designed by Charlotte Harris and Hugo Bugg. This Best Show Garden winner has a gently brimming water table that is within easy reach of a wheelchair or bed. The garden is going to be relocated to the NHS Spinal Injuries Centre in Sheffield, and the feature was inspired by a visit to the Kelham Island Museum there, which explores the cutlery, tool and steel industries that are synonymous with the city. Charlotte and Hugo were especially inspired by the cutlery dies that they saw there, and the way that the light played on the reliefs. Having been lent some originals by cutlers, Chimo, they cast copies and incorporated them into the feature. It animates the garden, adds a further sensory dimension and attracts wildlife.

Listen to Charlotte talking about the garden in our Talking Gardens podcast.

More from Chelsea

The Nurture Landscapes Garden – still bowls

Water bowl on the Nurture Landscapes Garden

Sarah Price's Nurture Landscapes Garden is a masterpiece in understatement. Here, there is no complex engineering, just still bowls. A low carbon footprint was a key aim of this Gold-medal winning garden, and use has been made of many recycled materials. The bespoke planters and vessels in the garden have been created out of waste aggregate, using the cast-in-ground or soil as shuttering techniques by Local Works Studio.

Listen to Sarah talking about the garden in our Talking Gardens podcast.

Myeloma UK: A Life Worth Living Garden - verdigris rolled edge feature

Water feature on the Myeloma UK A Life Worth Living Garden, designed by Chris Beardshaw. RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023.
© RHS / Neil Hepworth

This calm and immersive garden by Chris Beardshaw offers moments of quiet reflection, and of course, water plays a key part in that. This water feature is the The Courtyard Copper Water Container Rolled Edge container from Architectural Heritage and has water gently cascading over the edge. A silicon strip around the edge means that the water dribbles down the edges, and doesn't just flow down tight against the sides – the silicon breaks the water's meniscus. It is hand crafted from heavy gauge brass with rolled edge top, and is verdigris patinated. It would fit in beautifully into any size of garden and a similar version could be yours for the princely sum of £5,800 +VAT and the pump.

Listen to Chris talking about the garden in our Talking Gardens podcast.

Hamptons Mediterranean Garden – wall and rill

Hamptons Mediterranean Garden. Designed by Filippo Dester. Sponsored by Hamptons. Sanctuary Garden. RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023.

Saving water is a central theme in the Hamptons Mediterranean Garden, designed by Filippo Dester. Rainwater collected from the garden spills down a wall before travelling along a channel at the front of the garden and coming to rest in a water feature, where it can be used by wildlife and for irrigation. Filippo has designed the water feature to ensure it looks just as good when the water runs dry: more likely as climate change brings us more extremes of heat.

The RSPCA Garden – rain chain and barrel

Water feature in the RSPCA Garden, RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023

The RSPCA Garden designed by Chelsea newcomer Martyn Wilson featured not one but two water features – a rill made out of recycled post-consumer waste plastic, and a rain chain that fills an attractive tall water bowl. The rill reflects the fact that many animals rescued by the RSPCA have been caught up in plastic items, and flows into a pool, providing sound, movement and a drink for wildlife. The rain chain and bowl is a great alternative to a water butt, perfect for placing next to a garden building such as a shed or greenhouse. If you want to emulate the look in your own garden, Martyn used the Crucible Planter and Water Bowl from Urbis Design.

Feels Like Home container garden – simple water feature

Water feature on the Feels Like Home. Designed by Rosemary Coldstream. Container Garden. RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023.
© RHS / Sarah Cuttle

This container garden evokes designer Rosemary Coldstream's childhood in New Zealand. The stunning water features a bespoke stainless steel silver fern leaf, the national symbol of New Zealand, made by Outdoor Design. The feature is shown off perfectly against the charred timber cladding behind.

Restorative Balcony Garden – water table

Water feature in the The Restorative Balcony Garden, RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023

The Restorative Balcony Garden, sponsored by Viking and designed by Christina Cobb, packs lots of lovely features into a small space, including a water table inside a planter of recycled plastic bottles. Not only is it a source of meditative and relaxing sound – it also doubles up as a bird bath.

Head to our dedicated Chelsea Flower Show hub page


Veronica Peerless is a trained horticulturalist and garden designer.