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Chelsea 18: Tony Woods’ Urban Flow garden

Chelsea 18: Tony Woods’ Urban Flow garden

Urban Flow Garden. Designed by: Tony Woods. Sponsored by: Thames Water. RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018. Photo: The RHS


The Chelsea first-timer is focused on flood prevention in his small show garden


Tony Woods MSGD is no stranger to creating award-winning show gardens – he won the 2013 RHS Young Designer of the Year competition at Tatton Park – but ‘Urban Flow’ will be his first for Chelsea and is packed with ideas showing how sustainability and flood prevention can be included in the average town garden.     

Woods wants the garden to offer visitors practical solutions. “It retains the strong, bold landscaping seen in many show gardens, but we have designed it so that visitors can translate most of the ideas into their own gardens. We have included permeable paving and lots of planting, an outdoor kitchen and solutions for privacy other than pleached trees and higher fences,” he says.


The design also showcases ways to alleviate conditions related to climate change, such as excess water, pollution and drought. A permeable system of clay brick pavers set out in a geometric pattern will allow storm water to drain, while rain garden pockets will catch excess water under laser-cut grids, which then filter into the planting beds and tree pits. He has chosen a range of rhizomatous and bulbous plants, including Iris versicolor, Iris chrysographes, Podophyllum peltatum, and Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’, that cope with moist soil but also lay dormant or sustain minimum growth during long periods of drought.

Privacy is achieved with a bold entrance arch that divides the garden and shields the kitchen area, while three cantilevered, oversized pergola structures made from laser-cut steel, help to mask the dining area and provide some shade.


Tony Woods MSGD


“‘Urban Flow’ is a garden about balance – recognising the need to be sustainable and working to alleviate climate change and its effects, yet also fulfilling the desire for strong design. I want to demonstrate that maintaining planting interest is important not just through the four seasons but also changing and often erratic weather conditions. If you have a flush of flowers ruined by rain then combining these with species that thrive in wet conditions is a great insurance policy. Likewise, drought-tolerant plants will sustain interest in dry periods.”

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