Cleve West and the M&G Garden

Cleve West designed The M&G Garden for The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016.  The RHS judges awarded The M&G Garden a Gold Medal, and Swatton Landscape, who built The M&G Garden, were presented with The Best Construction Award.  This is a new award, the only one of its kind, which was presented for the first time this year, to recognise the importance, and the skill, of the contractors who work at The RHS Chelsea Flower Show, and to recognise the impact of their work in the finish of each of the Show Gardens.  

The inspiration for the M&G Garden came from garden designer Cleve West’s memories of time spent during his teenage years, in an ancient oak woodland, in Exmoor National Park.  Instead of recreating a particular area of Exmoor Park, Cleve opted to create a modern, contemporary design, which features aspects taken from Cleve’s memories of the ancient woodland that inspired him and evoke happy memories of times gone by.  Oaks – Quercus pubescens, form the main structure of this garden, they evoke the sponsor, M&G’s, values of strength, growth, longevity and reliability.  

I caught up with Cleve West at The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016, to find out more about this special, and very personal garden.

Garden designer Cleve West, pictured in the Gold Medal winning M&G Garden, that he designed for The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016. Swatton Landscape, who built The M&G Garden, were presented with The Best Construction Award to recognise the quality of the build of the garden.
Garden designer Cleve West, pictured in the Gold Medal winning M&G Garden, that he designed for The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016. Swatton Landscape, who built The M&G Garden, were presented with The Best Construction Award to recognise the quality of the build of the garden.

B: Do you have favourite area of your garden?

CW: No, I like all of it.  I think obviously this bit down here, which is the general seating space, that’s always nice to have a sit down next to the water and enjoy the sound.

This area of The M&G Garden is designed to be the general seating space, where visitors can enjoy the relaxing sound of the water running over the rocks, into the pool.
This area of The M&G Garden is designed to be the general seating space, where visitors can enjoy the relaxing sound of the water running over the rocks, into the pool.
The oaks, Quercus pubescens, where Cleve West’s favourite plant in The M&G Garden, at The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016.
The oaks, Quercus pubescens, where Cleve West’s favourite plant in The M&G Garden, at The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016.

B: What’s your favourite plant in the garden?

CW: Well the trees… apart from the trees you mean?  The trees would be my favourite, because the garden would have worked without all the other plants, it just needed the trees.  But if it wasn’t for the trees, there’s a lovely little thing called Taenidia integerrima, a really lovely dainty little umbellifer.

Quercus pubescens, pictured in The M&G Garden, designed by Cleve West for The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016.
Quercus pubescens, pictured in The M&G Garden, designed by Cleve West for The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016.
Second only to the oak trees, Taenidia integerrima, a dainty yellow flowered umbellifer that flowers in late spring was Cleve West’s favourite plant in The M&G Garden he designed for The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016. Taenidia integerrima attracts many beneficial insects to the garden, it's a great plant to grow in shady areas, thriving in shallow and poor soil. Phlox divaricata 'Clouds of Perfume', a hardy perennial with sweetly scented icy blue coloured flowers can also be spotted in this Show Garden.
Second only to the oak trees, Taenidia integerrima, a dainty yellow flowered umbellifer that flowers in late spring was Cleve West’s favourite plant in The M&G Garden he designed for The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016. Taenidia integerrima attracts many beneficial insects to the garden, it’s a great plant to grow in shady areas, thriving in shallow and poor soil. Phlox divaricata ‘Clouds of Perfume’, a hardy perennial with sweetly scented icy blue coloured flowers can also be spotted in this Show Garden.

B: Who grew the plants for the garden?

CW: Hortus Loci grew all the plants for us.

The planting in The M&G Garden is soft and evocative. The delicacy of these plant combinations gives this garden a cheerful and uplifting feel. Aquilegia chrysantha 'Yellow Queen' and Aquilegia vulgaris mingle with Acanthus mollis (Latifolius Group) 'Rue Ledan', Briza media 'Golden Bee', Geranium pyrenaicum 'Bill Wallis', Zizia aurea, Cardamine pratensis, Nectaroscordum siculum subsp. bulgaricum and Lunaria annua 'Chedglow'.
The planting in The M&G Garden is soft and evocative. The delicacy of these plant combinations gives this garden a cheerful and uplifting feel. Aquilegia chrysantha ‘Yellow Queen’ and Aquilegia vulgaris mingle with Acanthus mollis (Latifolius Group) ‘Rue Ledan’, Briza media ‘Golden Bee’, Geranium pyrenaicum ‘Bill Wallis’, Zizia aurea, Cardamine pratensis, Nectaroscordum siculum subsp. bulgaricum and Lunaria annua ‘Chedglow’.

B: After Chelsea Flower Show finishes, what will happen to the garden?

CW: The trees are going to go to a project I’ve got near Guildford.

B: What about all the stone?  Does that have a home to go to?

CW: The stone is going back to the stoneyard.  The stoneyard sort of lent it to us for the show.

B: They are beautiful stones, I love the way you’ve had some of the stones gently carved to create a little well or reservoir for rainwater to collect, and birds can then bathe in the water.

Cleve has used sandstone, sourced from the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, throughout the garden he designed for M&G at The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016. This natural boulder has been carved to form a small reservoir, allowing rainwater to collect, thereby providing a small area of water for birds to bathe in.
Cleve has used sandstone, sourced from the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, throughout the garden he designed for M&G at The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016. This natural boulder has been carved to form a small reservoir, allowing rainwater to collect, thereby providing a small area of water for birds to bathe in.

CW: We were going to put a piece of sculpture into the garden as a homage to David Bowie. It was going to be a star – we carved this starfish out of stone, and we were going to put it in the garden, we planned to make the void of the starfish in the bottom of the pool, and that was going to be black – and of course David Bowie’s last album was called Black Star.  But then it became too busy, and the message was becoming too confusing, so I googled ‘starfish’ and ‘Porlock Bay’ where I used to live, and it turned out there’s a really rare starfish called the brittle starfish, which is black, so we carved the outline of the brittle starfish in one of the rocks in the front of the garden, which other people can’t see.

B: That sounds wonderful!  Whereabouts is the carving?

CW: It’s right in the middle of the garden next to the middle tree.

B: So visitors to the show can’t easily see the carving?

CW: No, no one can see it really.

B: Would I be able to get a photo, so I can show it to my readers?

CW: Yeah, sure!

B: Thank you!

Cleve included this carving of a Brittle Star, an Echinoderm, which is closely related to starfish, as a homage and tribute to David Bowie. David Bowie's last album was called 'Black Star', the Brittle Star, is of course star-shaped and black in colour. Brittle Stars can be found in Porlock Bay, where designer Cleve West lived during his teenage years. In this photograph you can see the pretty reflections of the Quercus pubescens leaves above the water.
Cleve included this carving of a Brittle Star, an Echinoderm, which is closely related to starfish, as a homage and tribute to David Bowie. David Bowie’s last album was called ‘Black Star’, the Brittle Star, is of course star-shaped and black in colour. Brittle Stars can be found in Porlock Bay, where designer Cleve West lived during his teenage years. In this photograph you can see the pretty reflections of the Quercus pubescens leaves above the water.
The M&G Garden, which was designed by Cleve West, for The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016, was awarded a Gold Medal by the RHS Judges. Swatton Lanscapes, who built The M&G Garden, were presented with The Best Construction Award at The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016. This is the first year that this prestigious award, that recognises the skill and input of the construction workers who build the Show Gardens, has been awarded.
The M&G Garden, which was designed by Cleve West, for The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016, was awarded a Gold Medal by the RHS Judges. Swatton Landscapes, who built The M&G Garden, were presented with The Best Construction Award at The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016. This is the first year that this prestigious award, that recognises the skill and input of the construction workers who build the Show Gardens, has been awarded.

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