RHS – Gardens to Inspire

It’s May, which means just one thing on the British gardening calendar – the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show (May 24th to 28th). But the RHS has four and soon to be five other inspirational and permanent flagship gardens, all of which are well worth a visit to find ideas that will work in your own garden.

This month sees the transformation of the grounds of the Royal Hospital in London’s Chelsea into the UK’s biggest and best-loved gardening shows – the annual Chelsea Flower Show. The theme this year is Health, Happiness and Horticulture. But this is Chelsea Flower Show so expect the unexpected because alongside the official theme, there will be a number of more flamboyant exhibits including designer Diarmuid Gavin’s The British Eccentrics Garden in which we’ve been promised the spectacle of bizarre ‘gadgetry’ coming to life every 15 minutes.

Chelsea Flower Show is a much anticipated annual event staged by the prestigious Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and tickets are like gold dust but if you’ve missed out this year, don’t be disheartened because the RHS has other more permanent gardens which you can visit throughout the year to get inspiration for your own outdoor space. Visiting the gardens is free for RHS members and so if you’re a keen gardener and looking for inspiration, then the annual fee of just £42.75 for individual membership (if you pay by direct debit) and £62.25 for a family pass is well worth considering. The Society has just announced the restoration of what will be its fifth show garden in Salford, Greater Manchester. The Bridgewater Garden, which will open in 2019, will bring back to life the grounds of historic Worsley New Hall. There are also an additional 195 ‘partner’ gardens across the UK that are free to visit to RHS members which means you can always find one close to home to visit and look for inspiring ideas for your own garden.

Here though are the three original flagship RHS gardens – one in the North, one in the South East and one in the South West – that are always worth a visit, whatever the season. As well has hosting national collections of plants suited to the micro climate of their location, each RHS flagship garden offers a range of activities and courses throughout the gardening year to help educate and inspire gardeners who take the time to come and visit.

Harlow Carr, Harrogate, North Yorkshire

The most northerly of the RHS flagship gardens, Harlow Carr is also home to an offshoot of the famous Betty’s Tearoom so when you’re done inspecting this spectacular 68-acre Yorkshire garden with its beautiful woodlands, waterways and wildflower meadows you can take a break and sample one of Betty’s much loved cakes. Don’t miss the magnificent magnolia and rhododendron show this month.

Harlow Carr May Highlights

The Rhododendron, Camellia & Magnolia Show (May 14 & 15)

Famous for its collections of all three of these stunning plants, this event is one of the highlights of early summer and not to be missed.

Talking Turf (May 23)

Meet the garden’s Turf & Estate specialists who will share their hard-won tips on how to keep your lawn in great shape. You’ll leave with a yearly maintenance plan and learn more about mowing, weeding, feeding and aerating your lawn during a one-day course design to demystify all aspects of maintaining a healthy garden lawn.

Wisley, Surrey

If you can only visit one RHS garden this summer make it Wisley. One of the greatest show gardens in the world, it is home to some of the largest plant collections anywhere and you cannot help but leave after a visit full of ideas for your own garden, however large or small. The whole raison d’etre of Wisley is to inspire and educate gardeners of all ages and at all stages of their journey through the joys of gardening. From the model gardens to the Alpine display houses, the mingling of herbaceous perennials and shrubs in the famous and massive (128m/420ft) Mixed Borders to the inspiring and lower maintenance Piet Oudolf borders and prairie-style planting in the Glasshouse borders, you won’t know where to look next.

Wisley May Highlights

Rhododendron, Camellia & Magnolia Group – 100 years on (May 7 -8)

A celebration of the centenary of this group will feature stunning displays, competition classes and advice on using these plants in your own garden. You’ll also tour Wisley’s magnolias and the spectacular rhododendron collections at Battleston Hill.

Behind Scenes Laboratory Tour (May 11 & 25)

Every second and last Wednesday of the month, until July, you can book a behind scenes tour and learn more about the day-to-day research work that is taking place in the Herbarium and Science Library at Wisley. The tour costs £15 per person and will introduce you to the very latest botanical and entomological investigations currently underway at this world-class garden.

Rosemoor, Devon

As if we need an excuse to visit glorious Devon, RHS Rosemoor is tucked away amongst the rolling hills of North Devon just outside the Cavalier town of Great Torrington (also worth a visit) and well worth the trek to get to, not least because it has an award-winning cafe that serves a great Devon Cream Tea (the cream goes on first like butter in Devon).

Rosemoor May Highlights:

What Now? Summer (May 4)

This one day course will guide beginner gardeners through to the summer season with instruction on what seasonal tasks need to be undertaken to make the most of the garden over the next few months.

Ferns & Woodland Perennials (May 10)

Fabulous foliage, pretty petals and oodles of inspiration during this one-day event, which introduces the glory of those woodland and shade-loving plants now springing back into life


The Royal Horticultural Society is a registered charity.

Chelsea Flower Show 2016 includes a photographic exhibition and floral arch in honour of The Queen’s 90th birthday.

The five-day show runs from May 24th to 28th inclusive.


Julia Anca Ciucur – marketing manager GL