It has been a case of water, water, everywhere at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2022 – in many of the show gardens but also in terms of the weather. Visitors have been caught in some torrential downpours, and the BBC has been forced to film its evening round up under cover for the first time in its show history.
The water features in the gardens range from a towering waterfall to formal and meandering rills, and from naturalistic streams to still pools. There is even a water wheel – and a swim spa.
We round up some of the water features that caught our eye.
Sarah Eberle's Medite Smartply garden is truly spectacular – a waterfall cascades over a huge central structure, inspired by natural rock strata, into a pool below. Lily Gomm's Swiss Sanctuary has a more modest water feature that falls gently into a central pond, evoking Switzerland's clear water lakes. Andy Sturgeon's The Mind Garden features water gently pouring from ceramic spouts into tranquil pools.
The Perennial with Love garden features a classic and traditional rill, flanked by tabletop hawthorns, while the Morris & Co. garden is home to a series of beautiful water channels, their metalwork echoing one of William Morris's most iconic designs, Willow Boughs. Meanwhile Thomas Hoblyn's Boodles Travel Garden has a shallow, ridged rill, its pattern cast from sand on the beach, which meanders gently through the garden adding both texture and movement.
Naturalistic streams and pools
Naturalistic planting is big this year, and this is reflected in the use of water. The Best in Show garden, A Rewilding Britain Landscape, features a gently flowing brook that flows beneath a glade of hawthorn, hazel and field maple and through a stone wall and into a pool dammed by beavers. Rivulets of water then trickle through the dam into a riparian meadow.
In Tony Wood's imagined suburban back garden, the journey through the garden is slowed by stepping over giant stones and a trickling stream. The minimalist cabin has huge windows that look out on to a naturalistic pool.
In A Mediterranean Reflection, a simple carved granite pool encourages curiosity and conversation, and brings some cool to the heat of the Mediterranean garden.
The St Mungo's Putting Down Roots garden has a series of colourful pools in brightly coloured planters, planted with aquatic plants and safely covered with metalwork to prevent any mishaps.
A water feature window
Connected, by EXANTE, has a larger than life oak tree stump building at its centre. It features an innovative water feature window at the back in the shape of a silhouetted tree, which water gently trickles down. It is framed by the green foliage beyond.
If these large-scale water features are proving a tad unrelatable, there were also some lovely container water features that caught our eye. The Cirrus Garden, modelled on an 18th-floor balcony from designer Jason Williams – aka The Cloud Gardener – features a fish pond, containing fish hatched from eggs by Jason himself, especially for the show. The Wild Kitchen Garden featured vintage containers filled with edible aquatic plants. Meanwhile in The Enchanted Rain Garden, a rain collection barrel allows the storage and reuse of valuable rain water – crucial in our increasingly warm summers characterised by intermittent heavy downpours.
In the Circle of Life garden, water, an essential element, is harnessed by a Japanese wooden water wheel, the oldest method of harnessing energy. Its turning represents the passing of time.
Kate Gould's Out of the Shadows garden was a contemporary spa garden, complete with climbing bars, a yoga and meditation space – and a swim spa. It was road tested by the team who built the garden on one of the hottest days of the year, as well as by paralympian Jessica-Jane Applegate.
Veronica Peerless is commissioning content editor at Gardens Illustrated and is a trained horticulturalist and garden designer.
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