Create a Chelsea Flower Show Garden – on a Budget

It is often said that the Chelsea Flower Show is the world’s best garden show (for those outside the UK think of it as a horticultural Wimbledon). I view the Chelsea flower show as a catwalk for garden design. All the latest fashions and trends in one place.

Like with fashion, a lot of what you see at Chelsea is designer flights of fancy. But having said that, if you look beneath the hypey ‘just for show’ stuff, beyond that is real design inspiration that can be used in any garden.

One complaint often raised is that the gardens are impractical and are beyond the reach of most people. The show gardens at Chelsea cost around £180,000 to build.

So How do You Translate Chelsea Catwalk Fashion Into Your Garden At An Affordable Price?

British Heart Foundation Garden

Rather than focusing on the unaffordable elements of the show gardens, focus on how you can translate something that inspires you into something that works in your own garden.

Ideas themselves are often not expensive, its construction and materials used at Chelsea that cost the money. For example Ann-Marie Powell’s garden for the British Heart Foundation has lush green planting round a central pool. The elements that make it standout are the bright red metal tubing that has been used to form archways. If you wanted to copy that, the tubing doesn’t have to be metal, nor does it have to be red. You could create the look using plastic pipe on top of metal rods inserted into the ground.

Coloured plastic pipe

You probably need a bit more space between each set of pipe because they’d clatter in the wind, but you get the point you can create something like this for a fraction of the cost with a bit of imagination. And one advantage with using plastic piping instead of expensive metal tubing would be if you get fed up with it you can quickly and easily remove it and if you’re really nifty you could recycle the piping and make a poly tunnel frame!

Construction Counts

Monaco floating deck planter

Another example is the fabulous central feature of a floating deck lavender planter in the Monaco garden. Now whilst it looks wonderful without upright supports to make it look like it’s floating, the expense of RSJ and the construction efforts that would go into creating it aren’t really worth it for most gardens. You could create something very similar for a fraction of the cost if used a pergola frame clad in hardwood decking.

The runway of deck in that Monaco garden doesn’t have to be a water chute for a pool, it could just be a deck path.

How To Use Inspiration In Your Garden

When you see something you like train yourself to ask what is it specifically that you like about it. Is it the colour, shape, texture or planting? Once you’ve narrowed it down you can then work out cost-effective way of doing the something similar in your own garden.

If you’d like to learn more about successfully planning your own garden take a look at my online garden design course the homeowners. Here I’ll guide you step-by-step through everything you need to know to create fantastic garden.

To see more of the show gardens visit the RHS website. What inspiration have you taken from this year’s Chelsea Flower show?



About Rachel Mathews

Professional international garden designer for over 20 years. My mission is to de-mystify garden design and make it easy for people to successfully design their own garden - without needing to spend a fortune!


  1. Wow! wonderful design. Great combination of color matching. Thank you so much.

  2. Great ideas. Its staggering to think that Chelsea gardens cost £180k, especially when you look at some of them.

    • Rachel Mathews says:

      Indeed. Thankfully though you don’t have to spend anywhere near that amount to get a great looking garden!

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