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Pinnacle of garden design places water at its heart

This year’s RHS Chelsea garden show saw the world’s finest garden designers invite an international audience to explore the heights of drama, inspiration, sanctuary, repose and elegance that outdoor spaces can deliver. 

The Royal Horticultural Society’s show at Chelsea is renowned for exhibiting horticultural excellence and world-class design and has enormous influence when it comes to setting future trends.

Founded in London in 1804 as the Horticultural Society of London and granted its Royal Charter in 1861, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has a long and illustrious history, such that an RHS gold medal can transform a garden designer’s career.

Approximately 168,000 visitors attend the show in London, which provides a forum for almost 500 international exhibitors.  But the show’s influence doesn’t stop there.  It commands vast amounts of media coverage, both in print and television, and has come to influence the zeitgeist when it comes to how we choose to use our outdoor space.

In recent years, gardens have become both an extension of the home and an expression of our lifestyle and aspirations.  Many gardens now feature lounge areas, contemporary ‘summer’ kitchens and work pods, inviting us to interact with our outdoor space in a way that is creative, functional and adapted to current leisure and work-life trends.

Water feature in the Wuhan Water garden

Chris Beardshaw’s Morgan Stanley Garden

Cornish artist, Barbara Hepworth’s garden in St Ives

As outdoor space and leisure time becomes increasingly-precious, it should come as no surprise that water features increasingly on the RHS Chelsea Show gardens.  Be they pools, ponds, streams, rills or fountains, water has the capacity to sooth, create atmosphere, and to bring a space alive.

Be it the ability of water to provide a filter for noise pollution in Hay-Joung Hwang’s uber modern LG Eco-City Garden; the drama of the water feature in the Wuhan Water garden that drew on the tradition of China’s ‘city of 100 lakes’; the naturalistic stream of the exemplary ‘Welcome to Yorkshire Garden’ designed by Mark Gregory; the water features that draw inspiration from, Cornish artist, Barbara Hepworth’s garden in St Ives;  the channels of water radiating from a central pool based on an Islamic design in Tom Massey’s Lemon Tree Trust Garden; or the calm reflection offered by Chris Beardshaw’s Morgan Stanley Garden, which was awarded ‘Best in Show’; the draw of this vital element to enhance human experience was over and again made tangible by these exquisitely designed gardens.

On visiting RHS Chelsea, it was made clear that water can be transformative. Coupled with great design, a pool can provide space for leisure and exercise, and create a contemporary space for entertainment and relaxation. It can provide a fantastic transitional space, bringing the outside in, and marrying contemporary design with the best in landscape architecture.  In short, water has the capacity to be both sophisticated and elemental and celebrated as a
fundamental life-force.





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