Jen Stuart-Smith highlights the celebrated South East nurseries who’ll be appearing at this month’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024, from 21-25 May

There can be few garden shows that cause as much excitement as the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Founded in 1913 and known as the Great Spring Show, since then the event has given rise to a gardening technique – the ‘Chelsea chop’ – a week-long floral extravaganza known as ‘Chelsea in Bloom’ and has become the place for celebrities to mingle with gardening greats, the Royal family – and those of us who are lucky enough to attend. If you haven’t been, it’s definitely worth going, even only the once. That said, if you can’t face the crowds or the cost of a ticket, it really does make brilliant TV viewing. At least from your sofa you don’t have to stand on tiptoe or elbow your way through the crowds to see the incredible show gardens.
Of course, the show gardens are the biggest draw but the Chelsea Flower Show also offers fantastic shopping opportunities, access to specialist growers and plant breeders, as well as fancy food stalls and Champagne bars. When it comes to people-watching, it doesn’t get much better… If you’re lucky, you may catch one of your favourite TV presenters, talking to camera – just don’t be tempted to photo-bomb! As well as celebrities and gardening royalty, you may also spot some familiar local faces, as our fair counties of Kent, Sussex and Surrey contribute a huge amount of talent to the show each year. So, who is going to be there this year?


If you’re on the lookout for plants, there are several Kent nurseries at Chelsea this year. Former gold-medal winners Brookfield Plants will be displaying their impressive collection of hostas and hemerocallis while Swallowfields Nursery offer a gorgeous selection of ‘cottage-garden’ plants including a wide range of salvia and species pelargoniums.
The No Name Nursery, brainchild of Steve Edney and Louise Dowle, is unlikely to disappoint… with its sustainable approach, impressive reputation and connection to the famous Salutation Gardens in Sandwich.
Following on in the environmentally friendly vein, those of you looking to re-wild your grassy areas should pop in and see Kent Wildflower Seeds in the Great Pavilion. As the name would suggest, the company – set up by the Denne family – specialises in wildflower and native seed mixes.

East Sussex

Big kids – or those who simply want a bit of peace and quiet indoors – might want to check out Blue Forest treehouses. The company, based in Wadhurst, design and build bespoke, luxury treehouses with sustainability at the heart of their designs. From castles to garden accommodation – anything is possible, a chance to let your imagination run wild.
Also from Wadhurst are the wonderfully exotic Plantbase, owned by Graham Blunt. A bit elusive online, this nursery is worth tracking down for its alpines, Australasian, South African and South American plants, amongst many exciting others.
After traipsing round the show, you may well need to take the weight off with a stop at the Daybed Company. Just don’t get too comfy!
This small family company, based in Pett, between Hastings and Rye, is a relatively new kid on the block – but if the beds are as comfortable as they are stylish, they could be on to a winner. Designed to work inside or out, the turned Iroko wood will turn silvery over time, if you opt for the latter.


Garden designers from Surrey, involved in this year’s show, include Helen Olney, from Godalming, who has designed the Burma Skincare Initiative Spirit of Partnership Garden. The ‘Sanctuary Garden’ design tells the story of a global dermatological partnership which supports Burmese healthcare workers treating adults and children with skin conditions. All of the plants in this garden are found in Myanmar but will grow happily here in the UK.
Matthew Childs, from Reigate, is returning to Chelsea 10 years after his debut and has designed this year’s Terrence Higgins Trust Bridge to 2030 Garden – to mark the progress of the Trust, from the fear and misinformation of the 1980s through to today, and its mission to end new HIV cases by 2030.
Those on the hunt for specialist growers are in for a treat at the Ottershaw Cacti stand – just don’t stand too close – or head on over to the luscious leaves of Sienna Hostas who can be found in the Great Pavillion.

West Sussex

Based on a farm in Steyning, the Caley Brothers – who are in fact sisters, Jodie and Lorraine – have created a fascinating business focusing on edible and medicinal mushrooms. As well as farming and selling their crop they also sell kits so that you can grow your own mushrooms at home, from Lion’s Mane to oyster mushrooms of every colour. They also run workshops, so if you want to learn more about this wonderful, edible crop, these are the people.
Also at the show is The Little Botanical, specialising in house plants and accessories with a strong sustainable ethos; British-grown, quality plants in peat-free soil. Their mission, apparently, is to inspire people to make plants a part of their everyday lives, and what better place to be!
Miles Japanese Maples, from Pulborough, will be in the Grand Pavilion, tempting those of us who love autumn colours, to plan ahead – or simply channel our love of Japanese-style gardens.

Chelsea in Bloom

As if the show doesn’t offer enough of a mind-blowing experience, it’s worth exploring the streets of Chelsea before or after the show, to enjoy Chelsea in Bloom – a local floral festival and competition, planned to coincide with the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
Just a short walk away is the Fulham Road showroom of Catchpole & Rye, the Pluckley-based luxury bathroom company who, for the first time, will be filling their windows with seasonal Kentish flowers.

So, if this hasn’t whet your appetite, it’s hard to know what will! Whether you decide to visit, or to enjoy the event from the comfort of your living room, RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024 is unlikely to disappoint. In fact, I’d bet my bottom dollar that in the days after the show, we’ll see a dramatic increase in wheelbarrow repairs, sharpening of tools and trips to the garden centre! It’s the Chelsea effect.

Find out more…

Brookfield Plants
Swallowfields Nursery
The No Name Nursery
Kent Wildflower Seeds
Blue Forest
The Daybed Company
Helen Olney
Burma Skincare Initiative
Matthew Childs Design
Terrence Higgins Trust
Ottershaw Cacti
Sienna Hostas
Caley Brothers
The Little Botanical
Miles Japanese Maples

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