Small garden design inspiration from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show
There is so much excellent small garden design inspiration at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
- Double decker gardens – make your garden twice as big by having two levels. You could build on the garage or shed roof. The neighbours will be furious.
- Recycle and re-use. The more industrial the better.
- Love your weeds. The naturalistic planting of the past few years has stepped up a notch.
- Moss. Ditto. Moss is no longer a nuisance. It is a thing of beauty.
- You need trees. The older, the better. Old trees are expensive to buy so if you have one in your garden, don’t cut it down.
- Big rocks and stones. Even if your garden is genuinely tiny, a couple of big rocks or stones will give it a sense of timelessness.
- Colour. Think about how the colours of your planting, furniture and all your hard structures work together.
- Curves. A few years ago almost all the show gardens at Chelsea were geometric. The curvy garden is back.
- Water features. The smartest waterfalls come from overhead.
And if you’re wondering why the Middlesized Garden is talking about small gardens -in the upper echelons of the gardening world, epitomised by the Chelsea Flower Show, a ‘small’ garden could be four acres.
Personally I call any garden under an acre ‘middle-sized’, but I shall ‘talk proper gardening’ in this post. If you have a typical-sized town garden, then we shall call you a ‘small garden.’ Just for now, while we enjoy all the glorious small garden design ideas from this year’s Chelsea.
Double decker gardens
This takes the idea of a green roof one step further. Why not extend your garden up? You can do shady planting on the lower level, or have specialist grow lighting. The IKEA Tom Dixon garden grows salads, mushrooms and more under a platform. Called Gardening Will Save the World, it has a table and chairs on the roof level, surrounded by vegetable planting and trees.
The Greenfingers Garden, designed by Kate Gould, was also double decker, with planting and a play area on the ground level. Then there was a viewing platform above, reached by a lift, with comfy seating.
If you don’t want to antagonise your neighbours by taking chairs and tables onto your green roof, then you can still have window boxes and more. The Montessori Garden by Jody Lidgard had two levels of gabions planted up. Gabions are wire cages of rocks and stones. They used to be used for sea defences but are now popular in gardens.
It also made use of the basement level that so many of us have in our houses by adding a greenhouse.
Recycle and reuse in small garden design
Reuse old corrugated iron, factory steps, oil drums, bits of industrial equipment….really, don’t throw anything away. It’ll look wonderful in the garden.
Love your weeds
The naturalistic planting of the last few years has also taken a step on. There were buttercups, annual poppies and even red campion in several gardens.
One new trend I particularly like is the idea of letting grass or weeds grow between paving stones or through decking to give that neglected look.
Someone once told me that the best gardens look as if their owner had died around three weeks earlier. That’s the look to aim for.
Moss is beautiful!
Moss has come out of the shadows to take pride of place as a plant which has alot to offer. The king of moss in terms of small garden design is Kazuyuki Ishihara, whose exquisite moss balls have long enchanted Chelsea-goers. He hasn’t disappointed us in the Green Switch Garden.
But I also spotted moss in the Welcome to Yorkshire Garden, the RHS Back to Nature Garden and elsewhere.
Top small garden design tip – trees
Most of this year’s RHS Chelsea show gardens packed as many trees in as they could. Trees are our most effective weapon against today’s challenges of climate change and species extinction. Trees clean our air and support hundreds of species. And the older a tree is, the more species it supports. Even once a tree has fallen, it still offers habitat for wildlife.
Many of our city gardens are shady. People have cut down millions of trees, desperately seeking to get more sun into their gardens.
These show garden designs accept that small gardens are shady. Instead of trying to make them something they’re not, the designers at this year’s Chelsea have used trees to make gardens feel secluded, private and vibrant.
Big rocks and stones
They were everywhere. Nice and solid.
You might enquire as to where the stone comes from. And whether you are depleting a natural resource or what the labour conditions are. I have no idea, so I’m not hinting at anything. But I think it’s a reasonable issue.
Colour in the garden is not just about the plants…
Of course, these are the top garden designers in the world. So it’s not surprising that their planting, their furniture and their hard structures are so harmonious.
But it does show you that it’s worth thinking about whether there’s a colour theme in your garden. Or whether you should have one.
Curvy small garden design ideas
Do you remember how geometric small gardens were a few years ago? Now there are some interesting curvy designs. Even the gazebos often had curved sides, like this one below.
The key seems to be to have varying heights in the garden. Otherwise curves can create a ‘pinch point’ where it’s difficult to fit a plant.
Water features in small garden design
Most of the show gardens had a water feature. Several had water flowing from an overhead source. The Hillier Stihl garden
See more of these gardens in this video
You can show much more of a garden in video, so here are more small garden design ideas from this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
Pin to remember small garden design ideas from RHS Chelsea 2019