RHS Chelsea Flower Show participant, Ed Spurr, founder of ILEX STUDIO, reflects on the 2024 edition of the world-renowned fair. He shares his 'Best in Show' highlights, including a rainwater-harvesting pavilion and a city garden inspired by nature's reclamation of old bomb sites.



© RHS / Anthony Masi 


Attending the RHS Chelsea Flower Show as an exhibitor afforded me the unique privilege of experiencing the event in its entirety. After the crowds in their delightful floral frocks had dispersed, I wandered through the serene, post-show gardens, soaking in the intricate design and poignant themes.

This year, more than ever, I was deeply moved by the powerful messages embedded within many of the show gardens, from sustainability and resilience to the celebration of community and nature's healing essence. As the ultimate showcase of garden trends and inspiration, Chelsea never fails to impress, but this year’s highlights resonated particularly profoundly, offering not just visual beauty but meaningful reflections amidst the blooms. Here are my personal highlights.


The WaterAid Garden designed by Tom Massey and Je Ahn

© RHS / Neil Hepworth


Triumphant with a gold medal at RHS Chelsea, the WaterAid Garden elegantly tackles the pressing challenges of a changing climate. Sponsored by Project Giving Back and WaterAid, this garden is a masterclass in sustainable water management, showcasing a vibrant tapestry of plant species adept at thriving under varying rainfall conditions. Central to the design is a rainwater-harvesting pavilion, reflecting WaterAid’s global mission to develop sustainable water solutions.

This innovative structure captures, filters, and stores rainwater, ensuring every drop is utilised efficiently for drinking and irrigation while also offering shade and regulating water flow. The garden's textured and colourful flora transitions seamlessly from dense, wet lowland vegetation to sparser, dry upland species, mirroring the garden’s varied topography. "With climate change exacerbating water scarcity and insecurity globally, we must all take proactive steps to mitigate its impacts," says designer Tom Massey.


RHS Britain in Bloom 60th Anniversary: The Friendship Garden by Jon and James Wheatley

© RHS / Anthony Masi


Celebrating six decades of RHS Britain in Bloom, The Friendship Garden captures the essence of community gardening, honoring relationships forged through collective gardening efforts, transforming villages, towns and cities into verdant communal spaces that support local wildlife. The garden invites visitors to savour its sensory delights, while fostering new connections at the ‘friendship bench.’ Wildflower plantings and beehives enhance biodiversity, while recycled materials reflect a celebration of place, heritage, and culture. The benches and plants will be donated to local communities, continuing the legacy of RHS Britain in Bloom.


The Ecotherapy Garden designed by Tom Bannister

© RHS / Tim Sandall


The gold medal-winning Ecotherapy Garden, designed by Tom Bannister and built by Wright Landscapes, reimagines a small London courtyard with a focus on cold-plunge therapy. Enclosed by a Thames-yellow brick wall, the garden features a verdant hanging green installation that aligns with our innate attraction to nature. At its heart lies a cold plunge pool, surrounded by lush planting, where the clear water reflects the enveloping greenery, creating a serene focal point.


St James’s Piccadilly: Imagine the World to be Different by Robert Myers

© RHS / Neil Hepworth


Robert Myers' gold medal-winning garden, 'Imagine the World to be Different', stands as a tribute to the transformative power of urban green spaces. This tranquil sanctuary offers a sensory escape with its dappled shade, verdant layers, and soothing water features. The design celebrates resilience and regeneration, featuring climate-resilient trees and a sculptural timber counselling cabin nestled among the foliage. Inspired by nature's reclamation of old bomb sites, the garden includes pioneer plants that symbolise new growth and hope, reminiscent of the resilient flora that emerged in St James’s after wartime bombings.


The National Garden Scheme designed by Tom Stuart-Smith

© RHS / Neil Hepworth

Another gold medal winner, The National Garden Scheme Garden brings an ‘edge of woodland’ theme to life, featuring an open hazel coppice with drought-tolerant woodland plants suited to the south-east UK climate. Symbolising the tradition of sharing inherent in the charity, many plants were generously donated by National Garden Scheme garden owners.
At its heart lies a carbon sink timber hut, crafted from UK-grown cleft oak, where visitors and volunteers gather for tea and cake, reminiscent of a typical National Garden Scheme open day.

This garden celebrates nearly a century of the charity’s efforts in opening private gardens to the public and raising funds for nursing and health charities.


RHS No Adults Allowed Garden by Harry Holding and Sullivan Primary School

© RHS / Sarah Cuttle 

In a delightful departure from the norm, the RHS No Adults Allowed Garden offers an enchanting escape for children. This feature garden is a vibrant journey through lush woodlands, bountiful meadows, and a color-rich wetland adorned with oversized bog plants. Conceived entirely by children, it culminates in a natural den set within a pool.

This garden is a sensory-rich environment where young visitors can scramble over boulders, splash in natural streams and revel in jubilant plantings. Artistic elements, sculptures, and textural clay celebrate innate childlike creativity, while sensory planting and natural materials foster a nurturing space.

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