Trailfinders garden returns to Main Avenue

Designer Jonathan Snow will be returning to RHS Chelsea’s Main Avenue for the September 2021 Chelsea Flower Show, with his third garden for sponsors Trailfinders.

The ‘Trailfinders’ 50th Anniversary Garden‘ aims to capture the essence of Nepal and the wider Himalayan region – celebrating the anniversary by referencing the company’s first commercial destination, Kathmandu, often considered to be the gateway to the Himalayas.

The Himalayas are a mountainous region spread across five countries and Jonathan’s design will depict the Himalayan foothills, through a representation of its plants, culture and landscape.

Jonathan  (pictured left) explains that the most exciting thing about designing a Show Garden such as Trailfinders, has to be the plants: “When Trailfinders asked me to design a Himalayan garden, it didn’t take long to work out that we had a really interesting selection of plants to choose from,” he says. Jonathan managed to visit Nepal in 2019 and confessed to getting a buzz from finding plants he knew in their natural habitat.

Due to the extreme range of altitude, the climatic zones of the Himalayan region vary from alpine at higher elevations, through to tropical at lower. For his Chelsea garden, however, he is using plants that occur in the temperate zone. Birch, hydrangea, rhododendron and Pinus wallichiana will feature alongside some late summer flowering perennials such as actaeas, persicarias and ferns.

With regard to landscaping, Jonathan is aiming to distill some of the more recognisable features found in the Himalayas and using them in a way that complements the planting and captures the spirit of the region. Water will be ever present – there will be a stream running through the garden – with man-made rills will channel the excess water along and across stone paths. Jonathan explains that rills are everywhere in the region and although we use them in UK gardens for a touch of formal elegance, for people living in the Himalayas they are a necessity. Jonathan will use water both in its natural forms and also to show how water has been managed by human intervention.

Throughout the Himalayan foothills there is an intricate network of stone paths connecting villages, often cut into the sides of mountains: “What struck me while I was out there was just how beautifully constructed and (unintentionally) sculptural they are,” says Jonathan. “There are no roads so these paths have been built to last and are often centuries old. Seeing them wind through the dense forest, contrasting so well with the surrounding lush vegetation has left a lasting impression on me and I want to try to evoke the essence of these paths in the garden,” he adds.

Towards the back of the garden there will be a timber shelter symbolising the architecture of the temples. There will also be a water driven prayer wheel and a discrete array of flags, all sourced by Jonathan in Nepal on his last plant hunting trip.

Jonathan set up his own practice in 2008 after working for garden design luminaries Tom Stuart Smith and Arne Maynard. In 2018 he designed the first Trailfinders garden celebrating a South African Wine Estate Garden (pictured above) (Silver-Gilt). In 2019, ‘Undiscovered Latin America’ was awarded a Silver.

As with Jonathan’s previous two Main Avenue gardens we have the promise of being transported to foreign shores with all the interest and excitement of both landscape and planting.

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show (21st September to 26th September 2021) will be held for the first time ever in September. Details and tickets from

Image credits: banner garden graphic ©Jonathan Snow; left top image of Jonathan ©Reckless Gardener, South African Wine Estate Garden ©Reckless Gardener, credit EmmaCampbell Photography.