London Blooms

Women garden designers take the stage at the world’s most extraordinary flower show in London this spring

By Abby Deering

God’s Own County – A Garden for Yorkshire. Designed by Matthew Wilson. Sponsored by: Welcome to Yorkshire. RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016.

Display on the Laurence Hobbs Orchids Ltd stand at the RHS Orchid and Botanical Art Show 2013.




A record number of female green thumbs have won commissions from the Royal Horticulture Society to design at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, the most prestigious flower exposition in the world. Winning an RHS gold medal is the highest accolade sought by garden designers, and 12 of the 26 set-piece gardens selected to compete in 2018 will be designed by women.

The five-day event in May will feature 10 avant-garde show gardens, 16 smaller gardens, and as ever, the Great Pavilion teaming with over 100 exhibits from the world’s best nurseries, growers, and florists in a space large enough to park 500 London buses.

Chelsea pensioners attend a photo-call in the 5000 Poppies display at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016 in London, UK Monday May 23, 2016. RHS / Luke MacGregor

Each year, garden enthusiasts flock to Chelsea, one of London’s most charming and decidedly posh boroughs, to discover rare flowers and plants, revisit older varietals, and spot emerging trends.

This year’s designs will take inspiration from the grandiose (tradition and romance) to the topical (environmental challenges, eco-cities, and forced migration) to the delightfully niche (the humble pea and Indian cricket).

Easigrass artificial grass structures. RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017.

Space to Grow is a new addition to the smaller garden category and will offer visitors original ideas and take-home concepts. Artisan gardens, aimed at revitalizing traditional materials and methods with new design approaches, will return to the category this year, as will urban gardens.

Several of the “ones-to-watch” in 2018 include previous female award winners, including multi-award winning designer Sarah Price. Price is back after a five-year hiatus with one of the most hotly anticipated garden designs incorporating pomegranate trees to create a Mediterranean oasis.

Also returning is landscape architect Hay Hwang, who will once again show one of her trademark “smart gardens.” This year, Hwang’s design promises solar powered lights and an aquaponics growing system.

The Brewin Dolphin Garden ñ Forever Freefolk.
Designed by Rosy Hardy. Sponsored by: Brewin Dolphin.
RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016.

Four-time gold medalist Kate Gould will also demonstrate the symbiotic interplay between technology and horticulture in the modern age with her take on the gardens and architecture of London’s West End, showcasing environmentally positive technology in a communal garden space.

Kate Savill and Tamara Bridge are joining forces once again, and this year their sponsor is Warner Edwards, a gin company. Savill and Bridge will be creating a design that reimagines the landscape and planting of the distillery’s home in Northamptonshire, creating an authentic and sociable space.

Sarah Eberle, backed by new sponsor, the British Indian Council, is making a garden inspired by one of India’s greatest cricketers, Sachin Tendulkar. Dr. Catherine McDonald’s contribution will celebrate the glory of the minuscule pea.

The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden. Designed by Nick Bailey. Sponsored by: Winton. RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016.

Other highlights include a garden sponsored by The Lemon Tree Trust, a charity that supports the development of agriculture for refugees and displaced people. This design will highlight the space-and-water-saving approach that is born out of necessity by people trying to make a home for themselves. And finally, a conceptual garden design will celebrate the beauty of the world’s largest garden found beneath the oceans, highlighting the devastating impact plastic waste has on our underwater ecosystems.


Pictured in header: British Queen Elizabeth visits the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower in London. Photo credit: RHS / Luke MacGregor ©


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