The future's bright:the RHS Chelsea Flower Show garden that's showing Londoners how to turn grey to green

Brixton is the next stop for the RHS Greening Grey Britain Garden for Health, Happiness and Horticulture, which will be recreated in Little Angel’s Park on the Angell Town estate for residents to enjoy.

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The brightest garden on the block at Chelsea Flower Show was surely this colourful celebration of flowers and foliage, the RHS Greening Grey Britain Garden for Health, Happiness and Horticulture.

A collaboration between the RHS, the Evening Standard and Angell Town, Brixton, much of the garden will be recreated in Little Angel’s Park on the Angell Town estate for residents, some of whom helped in the build at Chelsea, to enjoy.

This is a garden we can all take home — packed with fun and ideas to encourage all of us to convert patches of grey in our city to green and help the environment in the process.

Most of the garden is paved, explains the designer, Ann-Marie Powell, to show you can still have a great garden, balcony or courtyard just by planting a few containers.

It’s a rough template of how front gardens used to be, says Powell, with a central path bordered by flower beds and a garage alongside, which is represented by a potting shed.

Rusted steel troughs holding Hidcote lavender and flanked by lollipop yew trees frame the paths of durable porcelain, and an overhanging pergola has the swish look of Cor-ten steel but is in fact a series of rusty scaffolding poles.

“We wanted to use reclaimed materials in a new way,” says Powell. “Everything is inexpensive and easy to do. We used a shipping crate for our potting shed, painting it bright orange, and used apple crates, bought cheaply online, as cubbyholes in the interior to hold ferns and greenery.”

The metal hoops and bamboo canes that support the container plants are painted orange and purple, and horticulture apprentices at Wisley made about 30 bug hotels from waste materials on the outside walls.

Health, happiness and horticulture: a shipping crate was painted bright orange and used for the potting shed


Planting, too, is deliberately simple with readily available plants so that the same effects can be achieved. In fact the pergola holds just one climber, the striking and richly perfumed orange rose, Westerland.

The front of the garden has a waterlily pool on one side and a perennial mini meadow on the other — here are orange geums, pink ragged robin, purple alliums and aquilegias dotted among grasses — for attracting pollinating insects, but it also serves as a rain garden, absorbing water rather than letting it run off.

Two oak benches on either side of the path, one with orange painted legs, the other with purple, are underplanted with long-flowering Geranium Rozanne and behind are borders with the same plant groups repeated over and over, notably crimson lupin Beefeater, blue Salvia Violette de Loire, Rosa Big Purple and green Euphorbia polychroma.

Every surface is used, although containers are clustered in corners to keep the walkway clear. The potting shed roof is packed with colourful containers of cactii and California poppies, trailing tomatoes and even runner beans on a wigwam.

A curtain of violet orchids veils the doorway at the back of the shed. Ian Drummond of Indoor Garden Design, who installed them, assures that vanda orchids hang from trees in the wild, so are happy dangling from a string if they are misted daily and the roots submerged in water weekly.

The long paved path leads to a central meeting place beneath four hawthorn trees, underplanted with shade-loving Geranium phaeum Samobor and ferns. Each tree is encircled with smooth white fibreglass seating.

Nicest touch of all, however, is the detail in the path’s paving. Inscribed here and there, in the top 10 languages spoken in the UK, from English to Urdu, are the words health, happiness and horticulture, to greet visitors and remind them how these three elements are so wonderfully intertwined.


The RHS Greening Grey Britain Garden for Health, Happiness and Horticulture

Plant list:

  • Agapanthus species
  • Alchemilla erythropoda
  • Allium Purple Sensation
  • Anchusa azurea Loddon Royalist
  • Anemanthale lessoniana
  • Angelica archangelica
  • Anthriscus sylvestris Ravenswing
  • Aquilegia Blue Barlow
  • Aquilegia vulgaris Nivea
  • Asarum europaeum
  • Asplenium scolopendrium
  • Azorella trifurcata
  • Blechum penna-marina
  • Bunium bulbocastanium 
  • Cacti varieties
  • Camassia leichtlinii subsp Caerula Group
  • Camassia leichtlinii subspn suksdorfii Alba
  • Cirsium atropurpureum Trevor’s Blue Wonder
  • Delphinium Mighty Atom 
  • Deschampsia cespitosa
  • Dianthus carthusianorum
  • Dicentra King of Hearts
  • Digitalis purpurea
  • Epimedium x warleyense Orangekonigin
  • Epiphyte varieties
  • Eremurus Cleopatra
  • Eschscholzia californica
  • Euphorbia polychroma
  • Geranium Rozanne
  • Geranium palmatum
  • Geranium palmatum
  • Geranium phaeum Samobor
  • Geum Prinses Juliana
  • Knautia macedonica
  • Leptinella squalida Platt’s Black
  • Lilium martagon Small Red Orange
  • Lupinus Beefeater
  • Lupinus Purple Swirl
  • Lychnis flos-cuculi
  • Lysimachia Beaujolais
  • Meconopsis Lingholm
  • Osmunda regalis
  • Paeonia lacitflora Karl Rosenfield
  • Phacelia tanacetifolia
  • Polystichum setiferum
  • Rodgersia Dark Pokers
  • Rosa Big Purple
  • Rosa Heidetraum
  • Rosa Moonlight climber
  • Rosa Westerland
  • Salvia Violette de Loire
  • Trollius Dancing Flame Verbascum Firedance
  • Verbascum phoeniculum Violetta


  • The Outdoor Room
  • London Stone
  • Barbed
  • Blithfield Willowcraft
  • Collingwood Lighting
  • Craig House Cacti
  • First Containers
  • Gaze Burvill
  • Harrods Horticulture
  • Hortus Loci
  • Hot Metal Engineering
  • Indoor Garden Design
  • Landscape Plus
  • Lateral Design Studio
  • Livingreen
  • Moore Designs
  • Oase
  • Smeg
  • Sureset

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