Bringing sustainability to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024

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These three gardens are using sustainable design to reduce carbon footprint at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024

 words Mairi Mulhern 

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024 is the place for cutting-edge garden design; where floriculture and art come together to create spaces that excite, delight and educate. This year, a major focus is on sustainability.

The RHS carried out a Green Garden Audit prior to the show, which identified pain points in show garden design that could be executed in a more sustainable way. Here are three of the most innovative gardens putting sustainability in motion.

Flood Re: The Flood Resilient Garden

Illustration from Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show 2024, featuring the Flood Re: The Flood Resilient Garden.
IMAGE | Royal Horticultural Society. Flood Re: The Flood Resilient Garden is sponsored by Flood Re. and built by Belderbos Landscapes, in association with Water Artisans.

“Resilience in a changing climate,” is what defines this garden, say designers Naomi Slade and Dr Ed Barsley.

Not only a treat for the eyes, this RHS Chelsea Flower Show garden is full of useful ideas to future-proof your gardens and address the disruption that flooding brings.

Designers Naomi and Ed explain some ways you can make your garden more flood-proof. “Find ways to utilise reclaimed materials,” Naomi and Ed begin. “As they can endure frequent and prolonged periods of inundation. This will reduce the need to throw away and replace features.”

The duo also recommend peat-free growing medium for staging as well as using reclaimed or sustainable wood for hard landscaping. “Salvaged fallen timber can be used for decks and fencing, too.”


The Water Saving Garden, sponsored by Affinity Water

Image by the Royal Horticultural Society for The Water Saving Garden, featuring contemporary design and sustainable foundations by gardener Sam Proctor.
IMAGE | Royal Horticultural Society. Designed by Sam Proctor and built by Castle Landscapes.

Designed by Sam Proctor, this contemporary courtyard has water saving measures at its heart, featuring interconnected sleek planters fed with rainwater. A new idea for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Continuing to explore the sustainability benefits of this garden, Sam explains why she chose bamboo decking as the foundations for the space. “Bamboo decking is natural, low-maintenance and lightweight; it sequesters carbon and is rapidly renewable.”

Sam continues, “To achieve sustainability in a space like this, I recommend rain or grey-water harvesting, with storage and re-use systems installed.”


The National Autistic Society Garden

Image by The Royal Horticultural Society for RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024, featuring The Autistic Society Garden, which focuses on using multiple layers to reflect what life is like living with autism.
IMAGE | Royal Horticultural Society. Designed by Sophie Parmenter and Dido Milne, and built by Landform Consultants.

The National Autistic Society garden aims to raise awareness of autism and masking, using the colourful, mismatched design to represent life with autism.

The garden is sponsored by Project Giving Back, a unique grant-making charity that provides funding for gardens for good causes at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Co-designer and botanist Sophie Parmenter says, “RHS Chelsea Flower Show offers an opportunity to break new ground as a designer, to challenge the industry’s traditions and push for innovation in sustainable design.”

Co-designer and Director of CSK Architects Dido Milne adds: “The inclusion of the cork screens or masks in the garden provides an opportunity to explore autistic masking and also allows us to design with a regenerative material life cycle.”


Looking for some more gardening inspiration? Click below to explore the art of gardening with artist Bella Hoare.

The art of gardening with artist Bella Hoare

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