Eco-design at Chelsea Flower Show 2013

| 16th May 2013
Resurgence Peace Garden

Many eco-gardens incorporate water features and aim to emphasise the importance of saving this precious resource. Above: The Resurgence Peace Garden by award winning Garden Designer James Towillis. Image courtesy of James Towillis.

Many eco-gardens incorporate water features, aiming to emphasise the importance of saving this precious resource.

Above: The Resurgence Peace Garden by award winning Garden Designer James Towillis. Image courtesy of James Towillis.

This is the centenary year for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and eco-sound landscaping is taking centre stage.
9 out of the 15 main show gardens will focus on the environment in some way

Although eco-sound landscaping is a thriving part of US garden design, it has been dragging its heels here. So it’s great news that at next week’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London (21-25 May), sustainable garden design will take centre stage. 

Several of the gardens on display, at what will be the centenary year for the legendary flower show, will feature environmentally sound materials and systems. 

Collecting rainwater

In the Trailfinders Australian Garden, landscaper Phillip Johnson will showcase an impressive system for capturing rainwater, complete with waterfalls! Water is channelled into a tank and a natural pool and filters through permeable landscaping (such as sand and pebbles) so that the garden doesn’t require watering. The space also features sustainably sourced timber, reclaimed pylons, solar-powered electrics and wildlife habitats. 

The centrepiece of the RBC Blue Water Roof Garden is another good-looking system of collecting and storing water. This has been created by Professor Nigel Dunnett (who wowed us all with his meadow flowers at the Olympic Village) and features a wetland that captures rainwater runoff. Nigel aims to demonstrate how we can bring greenery and wildlife onto rooftops and save water. 

Regenerating urban spaces

Designer Kate Gould is presenting a show garden called The Wasteland, which demonstrates how derelict, unloved spaces in towns and cities can be transformed into havens for wildlife and the community. Industrial waste (such as corrugated steel panels, old timber and stone) has been recycled and used as the garden’s hard landscaping materials.

In the East Village Garden, designers Michael Balston and Marie-Louise Agius follow suit, illustrating how an urban area can be regenerated in a stylish way. 

Native plants

Studies show that native plants are more appealing to wildlife (such as honeybees). Award-winning designer Robert Myers has planted the Brewin Dolphin Garden with native UK plants, showing how they can be used ornamentally. 

Elsewhere, in both The Daily Telegraph Garden and The Fera Garden, designers will try to hit home the dangers that our native trees and shrubs currently face. 

All in all, 9 out of the 15 main show gardens at Chelsea will focus on the environment in some way. Such a strong emphasis on green gardening at the world’s foremost gardening show is great news. Long may it continue! 

FIND OUT MORE: Tickets for next week’s show have sold out, but since it is always such a crowded event, it is easier to see the gardens on the television anyway! You can watch endless BBC coverage of the gardens and their creation at

Hazel Sillver is a freelance journalist and a contributor to the Ecologist Green Living section; email:

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