Sparsholt College is delighted to launch this year’s RHS Chelsea Garden entry ‘Rustic Recipes Reimagined for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023 to be held at The Royal Hospital, Chelsea from 23-27 May. The garden is inspired by tasty recipes from medieval cookery books that can all be foraged from the local countryside or grown in our very own UK gardens.  

The 2023 garden has been designed by Sparsholt’s multiple-medal-winning-team including Chris Bird who is celebrating his 25th RHS Chelsea Flower Show Garden design this year. The exhibit takes inspiration from eating seasonally and sourcing locally to create fresh, nutritious and cost-effective recipes which have been used historically to make the most of our native surroundings.  

Discover the Horticulture courses with a national reputation for excellence and the incredible industry links that make opportunities like this one possible.


Eating seasonally and sourcing locally are themes that have gained a higher profile in recent years; this exhibit digs deeper, presenting refreshing new ideas and solutions. Revisiting sometimes centuries-old methods and tastes, it shows how we can connect with our heritage and seasonally to grow our own crops while making the world better for wildlife.


Garden Features


  • Can we return to a time before processed sugar and make life naturally sweet?

    Honey can be used as a natural sweetener and can even taste differently depending on the flowers and species the bees have visited.

    Also produced is beeswax – a multi-functional material that can be used in candles and food storage wraps that, unlike their plastic substitutes, are a biodegradable alternative which can break down in landfill.

    As our Fruit Grove demonstrates, the UK environment can support a wide variety of crops to be eaten seasonally throughout the year. Leftovers can be processed into jams, chutneys, fruit parchment, or frozen to enjoy at a later date.

  • Combines expected and unexpected, heritage e.g. Chives, Allium schoenoprasum, edible crops with flowers and herbs grown together to give a functional vegetable plot with a year-round sensory appeal.

    Scent– Basil, Ocimum basilicum

    Visual – Lettuce, Lactuca sativa ‘Lollo Rossa’

    Sound – Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare, Parsley, Petroselinum crispum

    Touch – Nettle, Urtica dioica, Lavender, Lavandula intermedia Exceptional (‘HILLAV’)

    Modern potager gardens are more free form than traditional due to the increasing pressures on growing spaces and are independent of size.

  • By reusing flint sourced locally to Sparsholt, our well highlights the importance of a sustainable approach to protecting an essential resource – water.

    Other materials from local sources include hops for string, Hazel sticks grown on campus for supports and a re-purposed shed.

  • Local plants are not just for eating. Designed to enclose and seclude our Hazel, Corylus avellana, sensory arbour provides shelter and seating to enable enjoyable and pragmatic food preparation. Taking time to appreciate both the harvest and exquisite tastes of locally grown and in-season food are crucial ingredients in the recipe for life.

    Felled, milled, and prepared by our College students, our table made of local Oak, Quercus robur, accompanies lunch with the distinct texture of grain beneath your fingers.

    Did you know that all five senses are utilised while eating? In fact, nearly 80% of everything we taste is due to our sense of smell! The access to a tactile, tangible, and immersive space to dine can massively enhance the act of eating and the taste of the foods prepared.

  • Protecting local biodiversity is essential for ecological balance and growing locally. We created a wildlife corridor with a mixed hedgerow, featuring a multitude of species such as Hazel, Corylus avellana, Hawthorn, Cratageus monogyna, and Brambles, Rubus fruiticosus agg. Within this diverse corridor we have stationed three trees, Sweet Chestnut, Castanea sativa, Silver Birch, Betula pendula, and a Small-leaved Lime, Tilia cordata.

    Hedgerows are the backbone of local biodiversity, and provide shelter, food, and protection to wildlife such as hedgehogs and dormice, beetles and birds, pollinators and people. They are an essential habitat for interacting sustainability and locally. Without this multi-use outdoor green space, deadwood and leaves, the significant decline in wildlife species already happening will only worsen.

    Increasing the complexity of the local habitat – with more and denser hedgerows, for example, that offer greater shelter – can reduce the impact of predators on vital species such as Hedgehogs which are also known as ‘The Gardener’s Friend’. Sparsholt College is proud to hold a Silver Hedgehog Friendly Campus award through raising awareness of the species and taking part in environmental challenges set by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.

New ‘Local’ plants – RHS Plant of the Year 2023


Thompson & Morgan



Agapanthus Black Jack (‘DWAghyb02’)

A totally unique agapanthus following 20 years of dedicated hybridised breeding work. De Wet Plant Breeders, South Africa, set out to produce disease resistant, vigorous, heat tolerant and multi-flowering cultivars for the domestic and landscape market. A black cultivar was always high on the wish list. 17 years into the program they finally got “the one”. Large flowerheads filled with black buds that open to deep black-purple striped blooms which fade to deep purple and take on a dazzling metallic sheen with age.



Innovative, new and low-input 2023 plant introductions bred by Hillier Nurseries, Hampshire. Providing enhanced sensory benefits, satisfying gardeners’ needs for curiosity, novelty and discovery – part of our recipe for life.


Erysimum Colour Vibe Red (‘CDCERY01’)

Raised as part of a controlled breeding programme this cultivar is free branching, hardy and easy to grow, with a strong red edible flower and lanceolate glaucous foliage

Lavandula intermedia Exceptional (‘HILLAV’)

This attractive hybrid has pure white x flowers borne on tall stems above exceptionally silver, aromatic foliage. It is proving to be a very strong cultivar overwinter and makes a superb pot or garden plant

Geum ‘Orange Pumpkin’

With the world’s first fully double flowers, strong foliage, stout stems and stunning orange colour, this Geum is easy to grow, reliable and flowers all summer long.

Cordyline Magic Star (‘TUSO20’)

A beautiful, stimulating new form with green and white striated variegation and a bright pinkish red base to the leaves creating a magical glowing centre to the plant

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