Get that Chelsea Look

What did you make of an autumn Chelsea?  It definitely had a different vibe, and great to see plants like echinacea and rudbeckia – usually just background plants – having their moment in the autumn sun. Almost every garden seemed to benefit from their late summer colours.

In terms of the hard-landscaping, water was everywhere!  Most gardens – even the new smaller category ones – seem to have a trickle, a pond or a water feature in there.  In the case of the Guangzhou China Garden, it seemed to be almost entirely water!

If you are wanting to get the look, here is our pick of some of our favourite gardens and how we could help you reproduce their look.

Chelsea garden 2021 images credit to the RHS website:

Trailfinders 50th Anniversary Garden by Jonathan Snow – Gold medal

purbeck rock

Purbeck Rockery

Winning his first Chelsea Gold, Jonathan managed to recreate the foothills of the Himalayas in west London. That lush green planting was created using a mix of hardier plants, such as persicaria and rhododendron, mixed with more tender ones, like colocasias and hedychiums.  And the whole site was under-pinned with rocky, flowing water.

If you want to create a similarly bolder-filled effect, why not try our Purbeck Rockery stone. 

A creamy buff limestone, Purbeck is very durable and suitable for all types of garden rockeries or water features. Because of its size, Purbeck rock makes a bold statement when placed individually or in two’s and three’s. Sizes range from: 300mm – 500mm

The Florence Nightingale Garden by Robert Myers – Silver medal

limestone sett

Black Limestone Sett

We know that the Chelsea judges are hard (and the criteria for Gold was toughened this year) but we can’t help feeling that Robert may have been a little disappointed with his Silver medal.  We think it’s a beautiful garden (oh, that sculptural pergola!) but perhaps we’re a little biased; Florence Nightingale’s family home was in Hampshire, after all.

The dark grey setts Robert has used to offset the flowing green planting (and copper tones of the pergola) are very similar to our Black Limestone Setts. At 200mm x 100mm, they are versatile, hard-wearing and straight-forward to lay.

The M&G Garden by Hugo Bugg and Charlotte Harris – Gold Medal

grey sandstone

Kandla Grey Sandstone

Kandla Grey Setts

Getting a Gold Medal for your first garden together is surely a notable achievement!  Originally planned for the (cancelled) May 2020 Chelsea, the garden was intended to demonstrate the importance of urban green spaces; 18 months on, who could have predicted the additional importance those spaces have had?

Imagining an industrial landscape, being reclaimed by nature, sadly we can’t offer you the flowing gold pipes that Charlotte and Hugo have used to weave water throughout their garden. However, their paving is a masterclass in the combination of both setts and pavers.  We’d recommend our Grey Sandstone (square) cobbles combined with our Kandla Paving to achieve a very similar look.

Container Garden – A Tranquil space in the city

cotswold chippings

Cotswold Chippings

Container gardens were a new category this year and a direct response to how so many of us garden today: either in smaller spaces or needing to be ‘portable’ with our plants.  Mika Misawa brought a real sense of Japanese serenity to this simple but tranquil space.  We love the single flowering plant that brings a pop of colour and focus to the centre.  We think it looks like an orange nerine variety but the advantage of that hole in the large rock it’s sitting in would be that you could slip a new plant pot in there every few weeks to keep the same feel, no matter the season.

And you wouldn’t want busy paving distracting from the simple colours and shapes of the pots and plants, so Mike went for simple, single-coloured gravel.  We’d recommend either our Cotswold Stone Chippings or Butterscotch, if you want a slightly warmer tone.

We don’t know about you but we thought an autumnal Chelsea made a pleasant change this year.  It was good to see plants that don’t usually sit in the spotlight get to take centre stage for a change.  And to see plants that we usually treasure for their flowers earning their keep with interesting foliage instead.  The hellebores in the Yeo Valley garden are a great example; we usually think of them as late winter/spring plants but they worked well in an autumn planting scheme.

If you’ve appreciated that mature, late summer look, with pops of vibrant colour, here are our Chelsea pick of the plants to create that look at home.

Yeo Valley Organic Garden by Tom Massey, supported by Sarah Mead - Gold medal

chelsea garden


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Other than the wonderful egg-shaped hanging hide, it’s the pops of yellow that drew the eye in Tom Massey’s garden. They were created with sunshine-coloured rudbeckias and helenium’s.  As you start to look more closely, you can also make out points of colour provided by kniphofia (red-hot pokers) and crocosmia (what Grandma called montbretia).  All of these plants are perennials so will come back late every summer to provide you with that subtle but charming palette.

The M&G Garden by Hugo Bugg and Charlotte Harris – Gold Medal

chelsea garden
cone flower


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Hugo and Charlotte’s first Chelsea garden together just oozes a ‘lazy days of late summer’ vibe.  Originally planned for the May 2020 show to highlight the importance of urban green spaces, who could have guessed how much more important this theme has become since then?

We can’t give you the ‘dripping gold’ pipes water feature they have used but we can help with the planting scheme.  Pink echinacea and purple-hued penstemon have been planted alongside a wide variety of grasses, to provide colour and washes of movement. And notice how the rosehips sit like rubies in the foreground here; for some gardeners, not deadheading goes against the grain but your garden and the wildlife in it will thank you for it!

Guangzhou China: Guangzhou Garden by Peter Chmiel with Chin-Jung Chen – Gold Medal

chelsea garden


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This garden is a tranquil space where the colour green predominates. As you look around, you can see how many shades of green and how many different leaf shapes and forms feature; it is by no means a flat green. You could get the look by mixing ferns, hostas and conifers for all-round greenery and interest.

But flowers do feature here too and the white Japanese anemone that catches the eye, standing tall and elegant above the foliage around it.

What can I plant for pollinators over winter?

If you were watching the BBC coverage, you may have caught new gardener and wildlife enthusiast, Dr Amir Khan, being interviewed about his first visit to the Chelsea Flower Show.  He asked what he could plant in his garden to provide winter food for pollinators.  We think that’s a great question!  There are more winter-flowing plants than perhaps some people realise so our recommendations would be heathers (there are different varieties to provide flower virtually all year), hamamelis (witch hazel) and forsythias, and we have a super winter-flowering honeysuckle that any late-flying bees will just love!