Tom Stuart-Smith returns to RHS Chelsea

The renowned landscape architect and garden designer will design the ‘National Garden Scheme Garden’ for the 2024 RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Sketch by Tom Stuart-Smith of The National Garden Scheme Garden for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024 - designed by Tom Stuart-Smith - sponsored and fully funded by Project Giving Back
credit:Tom Stuart-Smith

Sponsored by Project Giving Back, the eight times RHS gold medal winner has designed a garden that exemplifies the joy of garden visiting – which has has been at the heart of the National Garden Scheme (NGS) since 1927. Following the show, the garden is to be relocated to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge for a new Maggie’s Centre supporting people undergoing cancer treatment.

Tom Stuart-Smith, who last designed a garden for the show in 2010 has opened his own garden for the scheme for nearly 30 years. “It’s a very special honour for me to be helping bring the NGS to an even wider audience through this new garden, that has been made possible with Project Giving Back support”, he said.

The garden has a woodland edge theme, with gentle drifts of principally drought tolerant woodland plants laid out through an open hazel coppice, and is designed to provide a sense of calm and a connection to nature. Charmingly, a selection of plants have been donated by NGS garden owners and incorporated into the design, exemplifying the spirit of generosity that is woven through the relationship the charity has with its supporters.

A cleft oak structure, made of UK grown oak is central to the garden design and to the idea of bringing visitors and volunteers together, and has been designed by Ben Stuart-Smith and created by Fenton Fielder.

As with much of Stuart-Smith’s work the garden will showcase a juxtaposition and contrast; simplicity and complexity; the modern and the romantic, forging a connection between people and place. He is particularly interested in planting schemes inspired by plant communities as they occur in natural and semi-natural landscapes and is known for his plant combinations that combine naturalism and modernity. This will be a garden of naturalistic planting incorporating wider biodiversity and which consciously provides a sense of tranquility and calm.

George Plumptre, Chief Executive of the National Garden Scheme says: “We very much hope that our presence at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and our show garden will inspire more people to buy a copy of our Garden Visitor’s Handbook and to visit our gardens throughout 2024, contributing further to our incredible fundraising record. The National Garden Scheme has raised over £67 million for nursing and health charities since its inception in 1927. In November 2022 the charity donated a record £3.11 million from garden opening with 2023 looking like it will build on this growing success. Money raised supports some the UK’s best-loved nursing and health charities including Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie, Maggie’s, Hospice UK, Parkinson’s UK, Carers Trust and Horatio’s Garden”.

Plumptre added: “Exhibiting a show garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is a unique privilege for the NGS. It gives our charity the opportunity to celebrate our passion for gardens and our charitable activities with a worldwide audience of garden lovers. It is particularly special that our garden is being designed by Tom Stuart-Smith, not only a pre-eminent garden designer, but also a long-term supporter of the NGS. And, that it will be relocated to one of our major beneficiary charities to become the garden of a new Maggie’s Centre at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge.”

The National Garden Scheme Garden will be built by RHS Chelsea veteran landscapers, Crocus. Crocus have a distinguished history at the show, winning no less than 33 gold medals to date.