Sheffield professor designs world-famous Chelsea Flower Show flagship garden

  • RHS Flagship garden highlights sustainable garden design for urban areas
  • Sheffield artists create first street art wall
  • Students from the University have assisted in the building of the garden. 

A professor from the University of Sheffield has designed the Royal Horticultural Society's (RHS) flagship garden at the world’s most prestigious garden design event, the Chelsea Flower Show in London. 

Prof Dunnett's gardenProfessor Nigel Dunnett from the Department of Landscape has created the Greening Grey Britain garden which aims to highlight a wide range of creative and artful approaches to sustainable garden design.

Students from the Department of Landscape have assisted building elements of the garden and have travelled to London to help put together the garden at the show which will take place in London next week (23 – 27 May 2017).

The Greening Grey Britain Garden is a ‘climate-change adapted’ garden, which uses the principles of water-sensitive design, sustainable drainage, and rain gardens to deal with flash flooding and water runoff. Professor Dunnett has included hollows and wetland areas within the garden and used drought-tolerant planting that needs no additional irrigation for its survival.

Professor Dunnett is world-renowned for his landscape work. In 2012, he co-designed the UK’s largest ever man-made wildflower meadows at the London 2012 Olympic Park with Professor James Hitchmough, also from the University of Sheffield.

Professor Dunnett said: “This is such an exciting project to be involved with. It’s a huge opportunity to promote and publicise research and design approaches that are embedded within the Department of Landscape. All of my previous three Chelsea gardens have been the result of ‘co-production’ and collaboration with artists and students, and this will be no exception.”

The garden is set in an urban context of high-rise and apartment development and focuses on inspirational ideas for places where space is at a premium, including balconies and other spaces on and around buildings.

The garden will contain Chelsea’s first ever street art wall, created by internationally-acclaimed Sheffield street artists Faunagraphic and Rocket01.

The garden also conveys serious messages about the urgent need to put landscape, horticulture and nature at the very centre of new urban development.

“The benefits of plants, gardens and greenspaces aren’t appreciated enough,” Professor Dunnett added, “and I hope that by showcasing realistic, simple and sustainable ideas that are directly relevant to home gardeners, community groups and crucially, to urban residential and commercial developers we can make a difference.”

The Chelsea Flower Show is the world’s most prestigious garden design event, and the RHS show garden receives the highest amount of publicity of all the gardens at the show. Last year’s RHS garden achieved a reach of five billion hits world-wide.

Professor Dunnett added: “Gardens and plants are no longer an optional and decorative ‘nice-to-have’, they’re essential. With pollution levels dangerously high in cities like London, Glasgow and Southampton, and flash-flooding devastating areas of the country last year, we need to all embrace the fact that plants help mitigate against some of the biggest environmental threats facing us today.”

The planting is typical of the Department of Landscape’s ‘low-input, high-impact’ planting style, which delivers a very long season of colourful display with minimal need for high-intensity maintenance.

Professor Dunnett said: “This garden is a culmination of much of the work that I have been involved with in the Department of Landscape, in research and teaching. Getting these ideas out to the 150,000 visitors to the show, and to the huge national and international media audience is a vital part of a strategy to maximize impact, and a crucial element in promoting change in practice in the real world.”

The garden will support the RHS ‘Greening Grey Britain’ campaign, of which Professor Dunnett is the national ambassador.

Additional information

More information about studying landscape at the University of Sheffield, please visit

Greening Grey Britain garden at the Chelsea Flower Show and RHS news release

How the garden relates to the rest of Chelsea 2017

The University of Sheffield

With almost 27,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.

A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2017 and was voted number one university in the UK for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education in 2014. In the last decade it has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.

Sheffield has six Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

Media contact:

Kirsty Bowen
0114 222 1034