Our favourite Chelsea Flower Show trends to try in your garden

The biggest gardening event on the calendar was as inspirational as ever

You can always rely on the Chelsea Flower Show to showcase the next big things in horticulture, whether it’s the hottest flowers, most striking structures or the staple shrubs that we’ll be incorporating into our gardens for years to come.

2023 marked a changing of the guard, being the first show since Queen Elizabeth II passed away. The new King Charles III was here to soak up the atmosphere, and we’re sure he would have been thrilled to see a big focus on sustainability, recycling, and his favourite planting colour schemes.

Credit: Amy Cutmore/Saga Exceptional

The Exceptional team was there, too, picking out our favourite Chelsea Flower Show trends for you to enjoy. How many will you try to incorporate into your garden this summer?


1. Irises were everywhere

In bold purples, dusky pinks and even water varieties

Bearded iris at ChelseaCredit: Amy Cutmore/Saga Exceptional

If dahlias were the big flower trend of 2022, first indications from Chelsea are that irises are going to be hot in 2023. They were everywhere, in pleasing variety, from big and blowsy bearded irises (including the ‘Nora Eileen’ above) to delicate water irises such as Iris pseudacorus ‘Yellow Flag’.

It’s why irises were included in our roundup of the best Chelsea Flower Show flowers we think you should plant at home.

2. Every garden told a story

Going on a journey with planting

Flora & Fauna garden at ChelseaCredit: Amy Cutmore/Saga Exceptional

You could say all gardens speak to us in some way, but at this year’s Chelsea, several gardens were very deliberately thought-provoking, using planting and landscaping to take us on an emotional journey through the space.

The Centrepoint Garden, raising awareness of youth homelessness, served as a metaphor for the challenges faced by young people when they are uprooted from their family homes, but also as a symbol of their personal growth as they are supported and nurtured.

A large silver birch lays uprooted at the centre of the garden, while nearby a fireplace serves as the only recognisable part remaining of the original home. Rubble piles of bricks form part of the broken home, but also provide a positive message as a habitat for small mammals and insects. All around, wildflowers (referred to as ‘weeds’) sprout up defiantly, as nature takes over and heals any scars.

Another example of a garden journey included the Samaritans Garden, where spiny plants, a cracked pathway and dark structures open out into a welcoming sanctuary, with a pool and a bench protected by the canopy of an elm tree (Ulmus minor ‘Jacqueline Hillier’), where two people can sit and talk.

And at the Flora & Fauna Garden (shown), the sound of a waterfall drew you up away from an African tourist kiosk, through a medicinal garden and up to a bamboo forest, showcasing different elements of an African landscape.

A #DifficultConversation starter

Perhaps the most moving experience to be had was the Memoria & GreenAcres Transcendence Garden. We were fortunate enough to walk through the space, which takes you on a journey and celebration of life – with its various twisting pathways – and through to death and reflection via its showstopping cantilever pavilion.

Fitting, it’s here that Memoria and GreenAcres have launched its Difficult Conversations campaign, to encourage people to broach subjects around death and our personal wishes, so that we and our loved ones can all be as preprared as possible when the time comes.

3. Making wildlife feel at home

Bug hotels were open for business

Royal Entomological Garden at ChelseaCredit: Amy Cutmore/Saga Exceptional

Bug hotels aren’t new, of course, but we spotted them being integrated into garden designs, rather than being added as a separate accessory.

The Royal Entomological Garden had a fully functioning outdoor laboratory with a roof designed on the structure of a compound insect eye – complete with hexagonal glazing. But bugs weren’t just inspiring this architecture, they were invited to live in it too.

Its panelled walls were inset with drilled wood full of holes for insects to burrow into and call home. A dead wood sculpture nearby had been created from a cut up bough of a fallen tree, suspended to provide another habitat.

If you looked closely at the glasshouses from Alitex, you could see specially designed bricks with readymade bug holes of different sizes a cosy series of tiny apartments welcoming new residents. A wooden bench top was also placed on top of two large wire cages, sturdily filled with more cut and drilled wood. Plenty of opportunities for passing insects to explore.

What happens after the show?

For the first time in RHS Chelsea’s history, every garden will be rehomed in an outdoor environment – either in its entirety of dismantled and reused in sections. This means any insects who have called these spaces home can settle in and explore their permanent surroundings once the show is over.

4. Weeds were welcome

Gardens were allowed to grow wild

The Centrepoint Garden at ChelseaCredit: Rosanna Spence/Saga Exceptional

If you’re a fan of smart, polished gardens and squirm at the sight of a messy border, look away now. Naturalistic planting was everywhere, with many weeds taking their rightful place among their ornamental peers.

And it was so convincing that many gardens appeared to have been in their Chelsea setting for months or years, rather than days or weeks. Weeds, or ‘hero plants’, as the RHS would rather we refer to them, have an important part to play in any sustainable garden. In the Centrepoint Garden, we spotted dandelions, forget-me-nots and daisies left to flourish and feed pollinators.


5. Scrap metal structures

Ugly was beautiful

Samaritans Listening Garden at ChelseaCredit: Amy Cutmore/Saga Exceptional

There was a distinctly industrial feel to many of the gardens at Chelsea this year. Pergolas were constructed from rust-red girders; corrugated metal sculptures rose from the ground, splattered with paint, and giant metal troughs designed to collect water created calming and reflective water features.

The key materials in the Samaritans’ Listening Garden were concrete and steel, in a space “designed to promote environmental responsibility and sustainability through demolition materials and materials salvaged from reclamation yards,” say the Samaritans.

Saatchi Garden at Chelsea Flower ShowCredit: Amy Cutmore/Saga Exceptional

The Saatchi Gallery garden showcased the work of British sculptor Catriona Robertson. Here giant worm-like sculptures – ‘Gigantic Pile’ – were created from recycled newspaper and reclaimed metal scraps collected from across London, with resilient wildflowers growing all around. It “explores the relationship between nature, man-made materials and the resilience of the wilderness”.

6. Purple planting schemes

Regal colours rule

Credit: Rosanna Spence/Saga Exceptional

It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that nearly every single garden this year was based around a purple planting scheme. Purple is regal by nature but purple and blue also happen to be the flower colours of choice for King Charles III.

Whether by accident or design, Chelsea was awash with tributes to our new king in the form of his favourite floral hues. This was more evident than ever in the Royal Garden of Reflection & Celebration, designed by Dave Green. It featured a selection of the Mountbatten-Windsors’ favourite plants – roses, foxgloves and camissias.

Some of the purple plants we spotted time and again in other garden displays included agapanthus, lupins (one of the best plants for a raised bed), foxgloves, borage, cornflowers, alliums, salvia and – of course – irises.

Amy Cutmore

Written by Amy Cutmore she/her


Amy Cutmore has been writing about interiors for more than 20 years, harking back to the days when glossy red kitchens, toile de Jouy and rag rugs were all the rage, and everyone wanted a Changing Rooms makeover. You’ll have seen Amy’s work at Britain’s biggest homes titles, including Ideal Home, where she served as Consumer, Technology and Group Digital Editor. She has also edited or written for Homes & Gardens, Livingetc, 25 Beautiful Homes, Real Homes, Gardeningetc, Inside Readers’ Homes, Inspirations for Your Home, Country House & Home, Top Ten Reviews, Trusted Reviews and Country Life.

  • instagram
  • linkedin