RHS Chelsea Flower Show

23 – 27 May 2017

Designer Interview M&G

Chelsea favourite Cleve West is back at the show with another garden for M&G. His garden this year reflects a particular memory from his early life and we wanted to find out more…


Cleve WestThe garden you’ve designed for M&G is obviously very personal; can you explain what it means to you?

It’s a contemporary reinterpretation of memories I have of exploring a particular part of Exmoor National Park where we lived when I was a teenager. At the time I wasn’t interested in gardening at all, I didn’t even know there was a career to be had in garden design, but I was smitten by the woodland there and I think this early experience of the landscape must have had an influence in shaping my future.

So are you bringing Exmoor to Chelsea, as Dan Pearson did with Chatsworth last year?

Not at all, it will be a contrived representation of that place, conceived in a contemporary way.

Did you get a brief from M&G?

Only that the garden should stand the test of time and embody the things that they stand for: such as longevity, stability, strength, tradition and long-term investment.

So what is it about the garden that suggests that ethos?
There’s a lot of oak. Oak trees really dominate the space, which embodies all those associations. There’s also an oak boundary, which metaphorically frames the memory. We’ve also used big pieces of stone as well as sawn stone paving, which also references M&G’s philosophy.

It’s not a traditional back garden you’d find in, say, Teddington, so what will visitors enjoy about it and take away from seeing it?
I hope the atmosphere of the garden will draw people into it (not literally obviously!). The views through are slightly restricted so they can’t always see the garden in one hit, and I think that’s an idea that people could use at home perhaps – not being able to view their whole gardens in one go – it’s good to add a little mystery and intrigue and create a space that people want to explore.

There are quite a few hard hitters at the show this year and people will expect great things from you. How does that affect your experience?
I’m really looking forward to it. I suppose there’s some pressure, but I’ve done it enough times not to get too involved in all that speculative stuff. Mind you I’m really good at predicting who will get best show garden when I’m not exhibiting myself, but this year I just want to make a great garden for M&G and the rest of my team.  
Interview: Emma Reuss





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