Chelsea Sneak Preview: An Interview with Cleve West

Cleve West returns to RHS Chelsea this year and luckily I've had the opportunity to interview him before the build starts later this week. Cleve is well-known for his bold and successful designs and this year he's chosen to present a contemporary paradise garden for M&G, the show's sponsor. So no pressure then ;)

In the introductory blurb I was given, Cleve says:

"I was inspired by the idea that the ancient gardens of PersiaGreece and Italy still influence the way we create gardens today and I wanted to celebrate that in the M&G Garden. I also enjoy weaving a contemporary dynamic within what might be seen as a traditional context, it can bring a great energy to a garden. Paradise to me is any place where you can lose yourself and where, for a moment at least, time stands still, hopefully this garden will allow people the opportunity to do that.”

Cleve at Horatio's Garden in 2012
Now, let's see what Cleve has to say in response to my questions...

How long will it take from M&G commission to Chelsea Press Day? [19th May - Ed]

Around nine months.

What brief did M&G give you for your design? 

They were reasonably flexible about the brief but we both agreed that it should be a garden that should reflect the values of M&G in standing the test of time. 

A lot of your last show garden for Brewin Dolphin was donated to Horatio's Garden and the one for BUPA was transferred to a care home. Any similar plans for life after Chelsea for this garden? 

The yew hedging is being donated by M&G to a new Maggie's Centre I'm working on that is being planned for the Whitchurch Hospital in Cardiff. 

When does the build commence? 

April 30th. 

And how many are in the build team? 

6 construction and 6-8 planting. 

You've previously introduced Chelsea to the delights of Dianthus cruentus and allotment parsnips in flower. What is your star plant for this year? 

I think my trees are going to be the stars -
Zelkova serrata. Oenothera odorata 'Sulphurea' maybe, hopefully some interesting bulbs like Fritillaria persica 'Dark Purple' and Tulipa acuminata, but much depends on the weather.

I see you're also acting as advisor to the Chelsea Fringe. What does this involve?

I haven't had time to really get involved this year on account of doing Chelsea. 

[NB I hope I can help out a little there as I'm aiming to get Cleve and his team to pose for a Shows of Hands for my Chelsea Fringe project.]

Thanks Cleve and good luck with the build! I look forward to seeing you and the result at Chelsea next month :)

NB Mark and Gaz also interviewed Cleve here. They've delved more deeply into the Paradise Garden aspects of the design - I'm so glad I saw this before I asked some very similar questions.


  1. I do like the gardens Cleve creates and hope this one won't be too cotemporary

  2. I love Cleve's designs too Sue and it's also been a real pleasure to see how Horatio's Garden here in Wiltshire has gone from strength to strength :)

  3. A great interview, lucky you, and I'll look forward to seeing his finished garden.


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