Rugged Exmoor landscape inspires Cleve West's Chelsea garden

M&G Investments, the title sponsor of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show since 2010, has commissioned award-winning Cleve West as its garden designer for a second time.

Cleve West's planned Chelsea garden for M&G. Image: Supplied
Cleve West's planned Chelsea garden for M&G. Image: Supplied

West returns to RHS Chelsea after a one-year hiatus and will once again work with landscape contractor Steve Swatton and Hampshire-based nursery Hortus Loci.

The inspiration for the 2016 M&G Garden is the moment that West "fell in love" with the timeless rugged landscape of South West England.

West has tapped into his teenage memories of the rocks and woods of Exmoor. The design will pay a contemporary homage to the landscape that made such an early impression.

The centrepiece of the garden is a sunken terrace and pool in grey sandstone, sourced from the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire.

The garden layout will be geometric, with sharp edges. It will feature a stone and gravel path through woodland edge planting, leading past stunted oaks and rocks to a smoother path of sawn stone in a sunken space. The path is a metaphor for West's own journey into garden design.

The oak-woodland inspired garden will feature up to seven trees and other planting including shrubs, perennials, grasses, ferns, bulbs and annuals.

Key planned flora include downy oak (Quercus pubescens), honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum), blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), whortleberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), golden columbine (Aquilegia chrysantha), brook thistle (Cirsium atropurpureum), mountain cranesbill (Geranium pyrenaicum 'Bill Wallis'), Siberian flag iris (Iris sibirica) and wild strawberry (Fragaria vesca).

West said: "For the 2016 garden, I am seeking to capture that moment in my youth when I was first inspired by the natural landscape and then take that memory and use contemporary design to create a garden that blends both ancient and modern, past and present."

The garden designer said he is "extremely happy" to be working with M&G for a second time.

"Designing for M&G has been a hugely enjoyable experience in the past and I will be working with a fantastic team this year to bring our vision to life. Sponsoring RHS Chelsea for this many years has enabled M&G to make a real difference in horticulture, particularly in helping to inspire more young people to get in to gardening which is a wonderful thing."

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