A Rewilding Britain landscape at RHS Chelsea Flower Show

We teamed up with garden designers Urquhart & Hunt to bring a Rewilding Britain garden to RHS Chelsea Flower Show, which revealed the key role that beavers play as ecosystem engineers in landscape restoration. It won Best Show Garden.

Chelsea rewilding britain garden beaver hide
The garden showcases how rewilding can benefit nature, climate and people

For the first time at RHS Chelsea Flower Show, visitors were able to experience the amazing rewilding impact that eco-engineers such as beavers can have on reversing the loss of nature in Britain and in boosting the beauty and biodiversity of our landscapes.

Beavers are natural rewilders. Their dams create nature-rich wetlands that support many other species and act as a carbon sink, while also reducing flooding risk by holding back storm water flows.

Yet, while these habitat-creating, flood-preventing animals are the beating heart of healthy river and wetland environments across Europe, in Britain we’ve been slow to welcome them back to our countryside after 400 years of extinction. 

Beavers at the heart of the story

Landscape designers Urquhart & Hunt chose to make beaver activity the core of their garden at Chelsea 2022, revealing how this keystone species is pivotal to ecosystem restoration, and showcasing how rewilding can benefit nature, climate and people. 

Designed for and in collaboration with Rewilding Britain, the garden showed a rewilding landscape in the south west of England, following the reintroduction of beavers.

Wonderfully wild features

Here are some of our favourite rewilding features of the garden:

  • A flowing brook, beneath a glade of hawthorn, hazel and field maple.
  • A pool dammed by beavers – with wood-sticks, woodchip and tree debris scattered around their lodge. These are constructed from debris removed from beaver sites as part of the beaver management process.
  • A riparian meadow with rejuvenating alder trees, fed by water trickling from the beaver dam.
  • A dry-stone wall built in a West Country traditional style using stone from a carefully managed iron-ore quarry in Exmoor.
  • An old timber walkway, made from reclaimed oak planks and chestnut poles, leading across the wetland meadow to a viewing hide at the side of the pool.
  • Native wildflowers, which mingle with grasses and marginal plants along the edges of the pool and stream.
  • A soundscape giving a taste of a future landscape alive with nature, including the famous tail slap of the beaver, and the creature’s mewing. Listen to the soundscape online.

Plant list

Download the plant list for this show garden.

Native species only

The Rewilding Britain garden features exclusively native plants. Here are just a few of the important species chosen for their contribution to nature:

  • Crack willow (Salix alba), vital in preventing riverside soil erosion and supporting over 200 species of invertebrate.
  • Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), whose bright red berries are a favourite food for many birds in winter. The tree provides a habitat for 149 insect species.
  • Alder (Alnus glutinosa), which supports at least 90 insect species. Its fruit is an important food source for goldfinches, siskin and redpoll.
  • Devil’s bit scabious (Succisa pratensis), providing an essential food source for the caterpillars of the marsh fritillary butterfly. 

Unusually for RHS Chelsea Flower Show, in order to present as authentic a picture of a rewilding landscape as possible, native grasses are shown as one would see them in the wild, with their previous year’s growth and their pre-season seed-head remnants left on, together with the brown, former season’s dead foliage. 

Download the full plant list.

After the show the plants were donated to Lindengate charity, which has a suitable habitat (including a few ponds) where they will continue to thrive. They also run therapeutic garden programmes to support mental health, particularly with NHS and youth groups. The beaver hide will go to one of our Rewilding Network projects.

Thank you to our sponsors

The Chelsea garden was made possible by generous support from the new Project Giving Back initiative at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2022.

Lulu urquhart adam hunt

Meet the designers

Urquhart & Hunt specialise in contemporary restorations of gardens within their wider landscapes, incorporating ecological rehabilitation and naturalised planting schemes. It is a studio dedicated to nature, alongside an impeccable design and fulfilment process.

It is more pressing than ever for us as humans to reconnect with our own habitat, the earth, and work within the systems that hold us and give us clean air, waters, nourishment and our home,” say Lulu Urquhart and Adam Hunt. This is our moment to bring this, in all its beauty, to visitors of the show.”

Hear the story behind the garden and why beavers were chosen to be at the heart of the design
All the hard work that went into our RHS Chelsea Flower Show Garden. Two weeks into under a minute! Footage by Interval Films.

Give nature a chance of survival

By making a donation to Rewilding Britain you could help to save Britain’s plants and animals from climate-driven habitat loss, species decline or even extinction.

Image credits: Main image and carousel © Jason Ingram; Artist’s impression © Airtight Group; U&H portrait © Dave Watts


Beaver uk river

What’s so special about beavers?

We explore why we need these ecosystem engineers back in the UK, how they shape our landscapes, and why beaver reintroductions make sense in the right places.

Credit: Bamff Estate & Dave Maric

Bamff Estate

An eco-estate on the edge of the Scottish Highlands, well known for its beaver project and abundant wildlife

Beaver SBP PP

Eurasian beaver

Nature’s busy aquatic architect is a formidable tree feller, river changer and wetland creator