The 10 best ideas for your garden from BBC Gardeners World Live 2023

June 16th, 2023
Posted In: Garden trends & design

Here’s the pick of the best ideas for your garden from BBC Gardeners World Live 2023.

Of course, we can never reproduce show garden perfection in our own gardens, but the ideas and trends they showcase can really add wow factor to your garden.

And the BBC Gardeners World Live shows have lots of small garden interest, with show gardens and smaller ‘Showcase’ gardens. Then there is an even smaller ‘Beautiful Borders’ section and even planted up wheelbarrows.

BBC Gardeners World Live shows

The BBC Gardeners World Live show at the NEC in Birmingham in June is its main show but there are also other regional shows at other times of the year.

Foliage is key

One of the reasons that show gardens look so good is the level of attention to detail. So foliage colours are very deliberately chosen, either to harmonise or contrast with the flower colour themes.

In the Pink garden designed by Sue Kent at BBC Gardeners World Live 2023

Sue Kent’s In the Pink in the Beautiful Borders section of BBC Gardeners World Live 2023 marries dark red bergenia foliage with hot pink flowers.

Just a little extra planning lifts a colour scheme from ‘quite pretty’ to ‘gorgeous’. And this is definitely something we could work on in our own gardens.

Hardys Cottage Garden plants at BBC Gardeners World Live 2023

Think about blue-tinted foliage with blue flowers: At Hardy’s Cottage Garden plants, the sculptural blue-ish foliage of Hylotelephium (formerly Sedum) ‘Karfunkelstein’ set off blue veronicas and salvias.

Geoff Hamilton rose at Barnsdale Gardens

On the Barnsdale Gardens stand, the dark red leaves of Physocarpus Lady in Red set off the pink ‘Geoff Hamilton’ rose beautifully.

Foliage contrast adds wow to a garden or border

Foliage contrast also adds wow to a garden or border. The hot pink of Geranium ‘Ivan’ contrasts beautifully with the citrus leaves of Leycesteria on the Barnsdale Gardens display in the Floral Marquee at BBC Gardeners World Live 2023.

Foliage garden designed by Kiran Vaidya of Hefty's garden.

This border by Kiran Vaidya of Hefty’s Garden is based on Kiran’s own small shady town garden. Using solely foliage, he’s created a lush, tropical feel. Kiran says that foliage really shows up in shady spots, so leaf contrast works better than trying to fill the area with flowers – and it’s less work.

Corten steel is contemporary and warm

Corten steel has been increasingly used in garden design over the past five years. It has a wonderfully rustic texture, yet it’s a contemporary material, so it fits in either town or country gardens. The rusty tones of the steel add a warmth that’s unusual for hard landscaping materials.

Corten steel for arches, pots and raised beds

The top photo shows corten steel planters from The Restoration Garden, designed by Carleen Osborne and the horticulture students from Derby College. The lower picture shows corten steel arches (or half arches) came from the show garden designed by Lilidh Matthews and John Tallis. There were corten steel raised beds in the Sub Aqua garden too.

Create a rock garden with rubble and bricks

People moving into new build homes often find that builders have left a lot of rubble. They cover it with topsoil and lawn. It looks fine at first but the lawn often fails and plants fail to thrive, too.

The only answer is to spend time picking out bricks, stones and other rubble before planting up. And instead of having to take it away, pile it up in a corner and use it to create a mini rock garden.

It’s astonishing how quickly nature will colonise a pile of rocks or rubble, but see this post for rock garden plants and tips.

Path of Renewal Garden by David Negus

David Negus (the 3D Gardener) designed this garden to inspire people to see the potential for reusing materials in the garden. A pile of bricks will almost turn itself into a rock garden, but you can also add plants and soil to it.

Use vertical space – and don’t forget ‘under’!

We’re always being reminded that vertical space – fences, walls and trees – offer planting opportunities. But there were several gardens which also used the vertical space under benches and things.

For those who don’t think that they’ve got space for a pond in their garden, look at the Sub Aqua garden, designed by Fenton Gardens. Joshua Fenton put a pond under the seating area directly outside the house, covering it with a grid. Chairs and tables will sit happily on the grid.

The Sub Aqua garden by Joshua Fenton

If you don’t have space in your garden for a large pond, then you can construct one below you! This ‘Sub Aqua’ garden by Joshua Fenton features a pond below the seating area, covered by a grid. You can place chairs and tables on the grid. Make sure the grid can easily be removed for maintenance. There’s also a mini pond tank in the top left corner, and the ‘dripping water’ helps keep the water circulating.

He added a corten steel tank container pond to one side, with a pump to provide a ‘drip’ down to the main pond. This keeps water circulating, which reduces the chance of mosquitoes breeding.

A bug hotel under a bench

And in the Beauty of A Small Space Garden, designers TJ Kennedy and Kerrianne Fitzpatrick of BG Landscapes put bug hotels in steel baskets beneath a bench.

Think ‘colour’ for walls and fences

Painted walls and fences were big at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023. It makes perfect sense – we spend a great deal of time choosing the right colours and patterns for our walls inside, but so often we just accept a standard fence outside.

But your boundaries make a huge impact on the success of your garden as a whole. Professional garden designers – if they have the budget – always smarten up fences, walls and hedges.

A coat of paint is a relatively cheap and easy way to transform your garden.

Paint walls and fences to create impact in your garden

The pale pink walls in the Beauty of a Small Space Garden designed by TJ Kennedy and Kerrianne Fitzpatrick of BG Landscapes were a wonderful backdrop for flower colour.

‘Edimentals’ – the new way to grow veg!

Lucy Hutchings used BBC Gardeners World Live 2023 to showcase an exciting new direction in fruit and veg growing. It’s being referred to as ‘edimentals’ or edible plants used decoratively.

In today’s small space gardening, there often isn’t room for a separate food growing area. So many gardeners, like Jo Rutherford in her garden makeover, combine the edible plants in their main borders.

Lucy took this one stage further by creating The Secret Homestead, a show garden created entirely of edible plants. Many are plants that we no longer eat – but we could! This includes cannas, hostas and marigolds, which are all edible.

Lucy Hutchings Secret Homestead 'edimentals' garden

Lucy Hutchings created an entirely edible garden at BBC Gardeners World Live 2023, including mushrooms on the wall and trays of microgreens suspended from a window.

Grow mushrooms for food and decoration

Another exciting edimentals idea from Lucy Hutchings – mushrooms grown as decoration which you can then harvest!

Keep small perennials in pots until they’re large enough to be planted out

I don’t suppose that when Beanplace Nurseries planted up their stand with the grass ‘Hakenochloa macra’ in pots, they expected me to come to this conclusion.

But I have tried to get Hakenochloa Macra established in my garden several times. The plants struggle to complete in my border.

Grasses in pots from Beanplace Nurseries

A display from Beanplace Nurseries has inspired me to take my struggling Hakenochloa macra out of the border and put it in pots.

As Tom Brown, head gardener at West Dean Gardens, explained in How to Create a Successful Border, a border is a very competitive place. Mine is full of vigorous self-seeders and spreaders, so newcomers need to be a decent size to survive.

And you can grow almost anything in pots. I’m taking my Hakenochloa Macra out of the border and putting it in pots. I may even leave them there.

Use pots to lift a plant up in a border

As this display from Greenjam Nurseries shows, you can also use pots to lift smaller plants up in a border. Here a heuchera in a pot is able to compete with penstemons in a border.

Think about shape and contrast when planning pond plants

When we plan a border, we’re always advised to think about contrasting the overall plant shapes and foliage.

The same applies when you’re planning a pond. The Lincolnshire Pond Plants display showed this off beautifully.

Lincolnshire Pond Plants display

When you’re planning a pond, think about contrasting shapes of plants in the pond. Here Lincolnshire Pond Plants shows a rounded Houtynnia contrasts with reed shapes and flatter water lilies.

Keep hostas in pots

I’ve always been put off growing hostas because they’re slug and snail magnets. But seeing a group of contrasting hostas on the New Forest Hostas and Hemerocallis display really tempted me.

It’s easier to keep slugs and snails off if they’re in pots. (See our post on defeating slugs and snails – just a simple tip like keeping pots on a shelf or table can help minimise the nibbles). And they look so good together.

Keep hostas in pots

Not a new idea, but this display from New Forest Hostas & Hemerocallis is a welcome reminder that keeping hostas in pots looks so effective.

Succulents need space

We’re often advised to crowd plants together. It looks wonderful and keeping soil covered helps prevent weeds. But some plants, such as succulents, need some space around them.

Give succulents space when planting out

This border in the Beautiful Borders section at Gardeners World Live 2023 is designed by James Fenneberg as a drought tolerant area with succulents and agaves. The use of space really shows off the plants

Echeveria Sea Dragon from Fosters Exotic and Unusual Plants

Whether you’re planting succulents outside or displaying them inside as house plants, they look best when they are each given their own space and pot. Here this gorgeous Echeveria ‘Sea Dragon’ comes from Fosters Exotic and Unusual Plants.

Pin to remember ideas from BBC Gardeners World Live 2023

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10 best ideas from your garden from BBC Gardeners World Live 2023


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