Many of the gardens at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show are highlighting our changing climate, including our Roman Garden. We take a tour of the show for some inspirational takeaways for gardening at home

The rainwater feature at our Roman Garden

As we gear up for a busy RHS Chelsea weekend, we’re excited for more visitors to step back in time at our Roman Garden and meet the architects, archaeologists and horticulturists bringing history to life. As well as immersing yourself in the colours, fragrances and history of ancient Pompeii in the 1st Century CE, there’s much to learn about planting for the future. Our peristyle garden showcases hardy Mediterranean species that can future-proof your garden against the rising temperatures of climate change.

The shape and fabric of the courtyard garden, with colonnades for shade; water for evaporation cooling; and natural ventilation, creates a comfortable environment in extreme temperatures. A ‘rainwater feature’ brings a sense of fun as it comes on sporadically throughout the day and also highlights that the Romans collected rainwater to irrigate their gardens.

With increasingly unpredictable weather in recent years becoming more frequent and severe, one thing that has remained constant since Roman times is the need for waterwise gardening. With a new ‘Environmental Innovation Award’ in the mix at this year’s show, RHS Chelsea designers have been deploying every tool in their box to deliver purposeful and beautiful climate-adaptive designs. Here are a few which caught our eye.

Terrence Higgins Trust Bridge to 2030 Garden
Silver Gilt medal winner / Best construction award

Plants grown in gaps between rocks in the Terrence Higgins Trust Bridge to 2030 Garden

Matthew Childs’ futuristic garden set in North Wales centres around a stepping stone bridge to a hopeful 2030 vision to end new HIV cases in the UK. Nature reclaims a flooded slate quarry as resilient Welsh poppies and irises thrive in cracks between granite slabs, bringing back colour and life. All surfaces in the garden are permeable, encouraging water to percolate into the ground where it falls.

WaterAid Garden
Gold medal winner

The WaterAid Garden celebrates the power of our most precious resource: water

Tom Massey and Je Ahn’s collaborative design explores the challenges presented by an ever-changing climate to create a hopeful and innovative garden water management system for the future. An 11-foot rainwater harvesting pavilion hovers over colourful planting, capturing every last drop of rainfall. Funnel-like structures store the water for drinking and irrigating, while a green roof slows the flow of rainfall.

Muscular Dystrophy UK – Forest Bathing Garden
Gold medal winner / Best Show Garden

The planting is inspired by a birch grove in Muscular Distrophy UK’s Forest Bathing Garden

Designed by Ula Maria, as a haven of solace, this garden is inspired by the ancient Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, or ‘forest bathing’ and features over 40 birch trees. As well as shining a spotlight on the Muscular Dystrophy UK community, the tranquil space also showcases water sustainability. There’s a planted soft-edge water rill running through the middle of the garden, which captures and slows down the flow of run-off water.

The National Garden Scheme Garden
Gold medal winner

The National Garden Scheme’s ‘edge of woodland’ themed space

Tom Stuart Smith’s garden is a celebration of trees with its ‘edge of woodland’ look and feel. It’s also an ode to the National Garden Scheme’s (almost) 100 years of opening private gardens to the public and raising funds for nursing and health charities. The therapeutic space is planted with a verdant array of drought-tolerant species, with rainwater collected from a timber hut and hard surfaces draining into the plant beds.

Flood Re: The Flood Resilient Garden
Silver medal winner

Large tanks double as ornamental ponds in Flood Re’s Flood Resilient Garden

Naomi Slade and Dr Ed Bursley address the problem of too much water, by using dense planting to slow the flow and capturing water in large tanks to store for later use. There’s a stream channeling rainwater into a feature pond in this resilient and relatable space with lush foliage and colourful planting.

A Roman Garden Plant List

Whether in possession of a city courtyard garden or sprawling rural retreat, we can all think about water in our gardens and how we can put it to good use. If you’d like to be more Roman and try some hardy climate-adaptive planting in your own garden, here’s what we used at RHS Chelsea, inspired by our Roman Villa at The Newt.

Be more Roman with climate adaptive planting in your garden at home


Daucus carota (Wild carrot)
Thymus vulgaris (Common thyme)
Chamaemelum nobile (Common chamomile)
Papaver somniferum (Opium poppy)
Nepeta cataria (Catnip)
Leucanthemum vulgare (Oxeye daisy)
Angelica sylvestris (Wild angelica)
Lupinus x regalis (Royal lupin)


Iris pallida (Sweet iris)


Rosa gallica (Gallic rose)
Rosa centifolia (Cabbage rose)


Taxus baccata (Yew)
Laurus nobilis (Bay)

Trees & Hedging

Lavandula pendunculata (French lavender)
Myrtus communis (Myrtle)
Morus nigra (Black mulberry)
Prunus avium (Wild cherry)
Punica granatum (Pomegranate)

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