Award-Winning Floral Designers Set to Highlight Upcoming RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Staff
9 Min Read

First held in 1913, the 2024 RHS Chelsea Flower Show runs from May 21 to 25 and promises some amazing garden designs, gorgeous floral displays, and, of course, exclusive shopping opportunities. In a year that promises to be the most sustainable yet, this year’s event, according to the organizers, has in store more than enough horticultural inspiration. 

Just like it has previously been, this year’s RHS shows represent the peak of horticultural excellence, and there’s something for everyone no matter what kind of gardener one is. As Gemma Lake, the event’s manager puts it, this year’s is a bumper show, full of everyone’s favorite growers, designers, florists, and experts.

And with that in mind, here are two floral designers whose designs are, definitely, set to be a hit at the event: Rachel Kennedy and Wang Xue.

Rachel Kennedy and Wang Xue: Two Years of Award-Winning Floral Designs  

Floral designers Rachel Kennedy and Wang Xue first met in Kunming, Yunnan Province, which is the flower capital of China. Rachel had, then, been teaching Creative Arts for five years in the country. 

 

Floral designers Rachel Kennedy and Wang Xue in their immersive floral installation.

 

Wang had begun exploring floral design with visiting European masters, and Rachel joined her at one of the exhibitions they held and was taken aback by how florals were used as an artistic medium. 

As a region with a flourishing floral industry, Kunming has a huge, fascinating flower market and vast choices of florals available. That’s where the duo’s journey in floral design started; basically by designing and learning!

Fast-forward to 2020, both back in the UK, they launched Acacia Creative Studio, an artisan floral design studio that thrives on merging creative skills with the fundamentals of flower arranging. Their style, according to Rachel, inspires them to stand out from traditional floral designs.

 

Rachel Kennedy and Wang Xue’s Immersive Floral Design for RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024
Rachel and Wang’s floral design for a previous RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

 

Rachel Kennedy:

“We quickly found ourselves working on weddings, events, and creating installations. We have, accordingly, worked internationally, in the UK, Europe, and China.”

Soon, the duo won the Silver medal at their first RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2022, with a tablescape design named Wild Melody. With a message of horticulture, the raw wood table saw florals grow from the floor up through natural gaps in the cracked wood. It was a truly immersive dining experience in this floral wonderland!  

In 2023, the pair won Silver Gilt in the judged category with a design in which they used willow to weave a huge 1.3m tall vase, which stood over an oil drum. From this, they designed an overstated and indulgent floral design, standing at over 3m when completed.

 

Rachel Kennedy and Wang Xue’s Immersive Floral Design for RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024
A design featuring an old oil-drum vase with flowers sprouting from it.

 

The Duo’s Participation in This Year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show 

This year, just like previously, Rachel and Wang are part of the floral design section of the show, an area that is growing fast each year and now sees, not just the ‘judged entries’, but also a whole new area for ‘artistic floral creations’. 

Their previous designs were highly successful with the media, featuring on the BBC many times, on the front of the RHS calendars, and in print. And with their design this year, they hope to replicate (or beat) their earlier floral designs.

 

Rachel Kennedy and Wang Xue’s Immersive Floral Design for RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024

 

About their floral installations, Rachel explains:

“Our designs focus on sustainability and use natural materials in a sculptural way, which is unique and stands out from other designs. We, also, value the use of recycled and discarded materials in our designs – previously using old wooden chairs as a design structure, off-cut wood, and, this year, off-cut and recycled steel.”

This year, their installation project, she says, uses only British-grown florals and plants. In that regard, they visited flower farmers across England to source the florals needed, documenting their process and noting that the costs of these florals are being reinvested into these small businesses and hardworking growers. Their design also makes use of homegrown trades, with a steel fabricator based locally donating off-cuts for their creation’s framework.

 

Rachel Kennedy and Wang Xue’s Immersive Floral Design for RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024

 

In addition, as has been the case with their other designs, their artistic work this year is also immersive and features a 4.5m long (over 2m tall) tunnel, representing a fallen tree, woven with rush and straw plaits, with florals bursting out from within. 

The Floral Designers’ Style and Approach

Rachel says their style (and approach) is more natural, often incorporating florals just the way one would find them in nature. They use natural materials such as willow, grasses, and reeds, among others to bring a sculptural element to their designs. These designs are, as a result, always over-stated, in abundance, immersive, and still remain appealing.

 

Rachel Kennedy and Wang Xue’s Immersive Floral Design for RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024

 

Rachel:

“When it comes to designing at RHS Chelsea, we really see the opportunity to give ourselves a challenge, rather than creating similar works each time, often honing new skills in the months ahead of the show!”

Essentially, the pair’s ability to create an immersive air with their installations, a connection between the design and the viewer, and combining florals with sculptural compositions which takes a lot of careful planning and design work, are some of the elements that set them apart from other creators. 

 

Rachel Kennedy and Wang Xue’s Immersive Floral Design for RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024
Flowers overgrow a table in one of the two floral designers’ installations.

 

The fact that the duo works with raw, natural materials yet fits them into place with precision, aiming to create sculptural pieces that bring out a beauty in themselves, also does the trick for the two floral designers. And once paired with selected florals, the piece as a whole becomes immersive, conjuring emotion in the observer.

What They Hope the Visitors Will Gain From Their Showcase

In essence, one would say, with their designs, Rachel and Wang champion the cause of reuse. For instance, in their previous installation, household furniture, a stack of old discarded chairs and stools are brought back to life as nature finds a use for them; a disregarded heap transformed into an impressive statement, designed to highlight the £22 billion worth of furniture sent to landfill each year in the UK.

 

Rachel Kennedy and Wang Xue’s Immersive Floral Design for RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024
A heap of furniture overgrown with native flowers and plants in an installation by the two designers.

 

In their immersive design this year, they hope to ‘pull’ the visitors into a channel with a profusion of florals. With an exterior that boasts a clean, textured finish with thousands of meters of bulrush plaits intertwining the surface; and an interior that brings life to the very senses, their design, the duo believes, will more than intrigue the audiences.

Rachel:

“Ultimately, our design reflects a fallen tree, now repurposed with new life. Florals erupt in what is left of a fading trunk, reminiscent of the growth of human life… Isn’t it often that one chapter has to close, for a new opportunity to spring to life?” 

 

Rachel Kennedy and Wang Xue’s Immersive Floral Design for RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024

 

You can, therefore, plan to attend this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show where you’ll have a feel of the immersive floral experience courtesy of these two designers’ ingenious installations.

 

Photos by @sparrowinlondon.

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