Chelsea 2023: Guide to Cleve West's Centrepoint Garden
Cleve West's garden for RHS Chelsea Flower Show considers youth homelessness in the UK through the metaphor of a demolished house
Designer Cleve West is creating the Centrepoint Garden, sponsored by Project Giving Back, at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023. It is one of 12 main show gardens this year, including gardens from Tom Massey, Sarah Price and Harris Bugg Studio.
Don’t miss our guide to everything you need to know about the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023 and our list this year’s main show gardens.
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We talked to Cleve about his garden:
It’s been seven years since Cleve West last created a show garden at Chelsea, and he had no intention of doing another one until he was approached by the team from the Centrepoint charity, which aims to end youth homelessness by 2037.
Sponsors Project Giving Back for Centrepoint.
Plants Hortus Loci.
Theme The garden is a metaphor for youth homelessness in the UK.
After the show Elements of the Centrepoint Garden will be repurposed at one of Centrepoint’s Independent Living developments.
The idea for the garden came to him “literally within a few minutes,” he explains. “It’s a visceral, powerful metaphor for homelessness: the ruins of a house that has been knocked down, and then nature has taken over slowly.” He based the actual dimensions of the building on his stepdaughter’s house, but “none of it will be recognisable, except for a basement kitchen, with a fireplace that’s symbolic of home life, love, warmth and safety.”
The design will also feature piles of rubble, and a fallen tree – a metaphor for being uprooted. The fallen tree is a large birch, echoed throughout the garden with repeated birch seedlings, saplings and trees, which populate the space in the way they actually would in this situation, at different stages of life. There will also be trees and shrubs such as hazel, elder and buddleja that tend to seed themselves around.
“We’re also using what people will call ‘weeds’ in the garden,” Cleve says, alongside a mix of ornamentals; remnants of the old Victorian townhouse garden that would have survived years of neglect, such as Cordyline australis and Yucca elephantipes. The boundary of the space will be formed of plywood hoarding, which Cleve has painted with topiary shapes in the Pointillist style. The circa 120,000 dots represent the number of homeless young people in the UK. “It’s quite a sobering thought and a strong visual representation of that figure,” says Cleve.
What to look out for
1 Ruins The design is centred around fragments of a demolished Victorian townhouse, to represent homelessness.
2 A fallen tree Cleve didn’t want to destroy the incredibly biodiverse habitat of a true felled tree, but spotted an opportunity when contractor Crocus uprooted this tree during recent expansion work.
3 Weeds Wild and pioneer plants from dandelions to buddleja will form a large part of the planting, with many ‘weeds’, including nettles, dandelions, green alkanet, cleavers, wood avens, buttercups and daisies, some sourced from Cleve’s own allotment.
4 Bird boxes created by sculptor Johnny Woodford, which will be mounted on poles, in another play on homes and habitat.
5 A mural of large, grand topiary shapes reminiscent of those seen at gardens such as Levens Hall in Cumbria, will be painted on plywood hoarding, as would be seen around a demolition site. It will be painted in the Pointillist style of Georges Seurat, with each dot representing one of the UK’s 120,000 homeless young people.
Find out more about Cleve’s garden in our Talking Gardens Chelsea podcast.
More on the 2023 RHS Chelsea Flower Show:
Chelsea Flower Show 2023: tickets, information, dates and what’s on
Chelsea Flower Show Main Show Gardens 2023: the full list
Chelsea Flower Show 2023: Balcony Gardens: the full list
10 essentials for visiting the RHS Chelsea Flower Show
Head to our Chelsea Flower Show hub page for all the latest coverage
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