Cleve West ventures into the unknown with RHS Chelsea garden

Seven-time gold medal-winning garden designer Cleve West is taking a leap in the dark at this year's Chelsea Flower Show.

A vision of paradise: Cleve West's Chelsea garden with tree of life panel
A vision of paradise: Cleve West's Chelsea garden with tree of life panel

His Paradise Garden for sponsor M&G Investments features a centrepiece fountain made of Bath stone and a tree of life 2m high and 4m wide engraved in limestone, included to symbolise how all modern gardens come from the same roots.

He worked with landscaper and stonemason Steve Swatton but carved the tree of life panel in stone himself, which took him "three or four weeks off and on".

"It’s been interesting, it’s slightly nerve racking how it’s going to be received. It’s really new territory for us. On the one hand you think that you’re being brave and then the next you think you’re stupid.

"It looks alright on paper but the enormity of what you’ve taken on hits you. You’ve got no idea if anyone will like it or not but you’ve got to stop worrying about it and just get on with it."

All of the stonework was made by West and Swatton at Lichen Garden Antiques at Sandhurst, Gloucestershire. During the floods earlier this year they had to take a boat to get there.

"I’ve got a slight arty background so I had a rough idea of what’s involved," West said.

"We thought about ageing it which would have made the design more prominent but we never wanted it to be the main attraction, this tree of life thing.

"But this way the design is revealed in the right light conditions is great and we liked that kind of fleeting effect."

His garden references ancient Persian paradise gardens and the Bible’s Garden of Eden, using water and shade to evoke serenity and contemplation and sensory planting to provide a sense of refuge. The tree of life is a motif often seen in artwork depicting paradise gardens.

It has been built by Swatton Landscapes with plants supplied by Hortus Loci.

"I just quite liked the idea that gardens haven’t really changed," West said. "We did it as an escape in those days from the harsh realities of the desert. The roots of most of the gardens around the world come from these gardens. I thought it was interesting.

"I generally garden on an allotment, it’s about growing vegetables. For a client it’s about interesting gardens, creating a space that’s got something interesting about it that you can lose yourself in. It’s a different point of view. Release and distraction."

He said he thought it was fantastic that there were several designers new to Chelsea this year but he did not think it would mean more experienced designers would get phased out.

"I don’t think that’s going to be a problem because most sponsors want to get a certain guarantee of the shininess of their medal. There will only be a handful that will risk going for someone who is less experienced."

 

Seven-time gold medal-winning garden designer Cleve West is taking a leap in the dark at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show.

His Paradise Garden for sponsor M&G Investments features a centrepiece fountain made of Bath stone and a tree of life 2m high and 4m wide engraved in limestone, included to symbolise how all modern gardens come from the same roots.

He worked with landscaper and stonemason Steve Swatton but carved the tree of life panel in stone himself, with took him "three or four weeks off and on".

"It’s been interesting, it’s slightly nerve racking how it’s going to be received. It’s really new territory for us. On the one hand you think that you’re being brave and then the next you think you’re stupid.

"It looks alright on paper but the enormity of what you’ve taken on hits you. You’ve got no idea if anyone will like it or not but you’ve got to stop worrying about it and just get on with it."

All of the stonework was made by West and Swatton at Lichen Garden Antiques at Sandhurst, Gloucestershire. During the floods earlier this year they had to take a boat to get there.

 "I’ve got a slight arty background so I had a rough idea of what’s involved," West said.

"We thought about ageing it which would have made the design more prominent but we never wanted it to be the main attraction, this tree of life thing.

"But this way the design is revealed in the right light conditions is great and we liked that kind of fleeting effect."

His garden references ancient Persian paradise gardens and the Bible’s Garden of Eden, using water and shade to evoke serenity and contemplation and sensory planting to provide a sense of refuge. The tree of life is a motif often seen in artwork depicting paradise gardens. It has been built by Swatton Landscapes with plants supplied by Hortus Loci.

"I just quite liked the idea that gardens haven’t really changed," West said. "We did it as an escape in those days from the harsh realities of the desert. The roots of most of the gardens around the world come from these gardens. I thought it was interesting.

"I generally garden on an allotment, it’s about growing vegetables. For a client it’s about interesting gardens, creating a space that’s got something interesting about it that you can lose yourself in. It’s a different point of view. Release and distraction."

He thought it was fantastic that there were several designers new to Chelsea this year but he did not think it would mean more experienced designers would get phased out.

"I don’t think that’s going to be a problem because most sponsors want to get a certain

 guarantee of the shininess of their medal. There will only be a handful that will risk going for someone who is less experienced."

Chelsea Flower Show opens today to press, sponsors VIPs and The Queen and runs until 24 May.

 

Seven-time gold medal-winning garden designer Cleve West is taking a leap in the dark at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show.

His Paradise Garden for sponsor M&G Investments features a centrepiece fountain made of Bath stone and a tree of life 2m high and 4m wide engraved in limestone, included to symbolise how all modern gardens come from the same roots.

He worked with landscaper and stonemason Steve Swatton but carved the tree of life panel in stone himself, with took him "three or four weeks off and on".

"It’s been interesting, it’s slightly nerve racking how it’s going to be received. It’s really new territory for us. On the one hand you think that you’re being brave and then the next you think you’re stupid.

"It looks alright on paper but the enormity of what you’ve taken on hits you. You’ve got no idea if anyone will like it or not but you’ve got to stop worrying about it and just get on with it."

All of the stonework was made by West and Swatton at Lichen Garden Antiques at Sandhurst, Gloucestershire. During the floods earlier this year they had to take a boat to get there.

 "I’ve got a slight arty background so I had a rough idea of what’s involved," West said.

"We thought about ageing it which would have made the design more prominent but we never wanted it to be the main attraction, this tree of life thing.

"But this way the design is revealed in the right light conditions is great and we liked that kind of fleeting effect."

His garden references ancient Persian paradise gardens and the Bible’s Garden of Eden, using water and shade to evoke serenity and contemplation and sensory planting to provide a sense of refuge. The tree of life is a motif often seen in artwork depicting paradise gardens. It has been built by Swatton Landscapes with plants supplied by Hortus Loci.

"I just quite liked the idea that gardens haven’t really changed," West said. "We did it as an escape in those days from the harsh realities of the desert. The roots of most of the gardens around the world come from these gardens. I thought it was interesting.

"I generally garden on an allotment, it’s about growing vegetables. For a client it’s about interesting gardens, creating a space that’s got something interesting about it that you can lose yourself in. It’s a different point of view. Release and distraction."

He thought it was fantastic that there were several designers new to Chelsea this year but he did not think it would mean more experienced designers would get phased out.

"I don’t think that’s going to be a problem because most sponsors want to get a certain

 guarantee of the shininess of their medal. There will only be a handful that will risk going for someone who is less experienced."

Chelsea Flower Show opens today to press, sponsors VIPs and The Queen and runs until 24 May.


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