'Dazzling' photo montage forms part of Sussex garden's ambitious renovation project

Wakehurst renovation project will feature major art installation Credit: Wakehurst

Wakehurst, Kew's wild botanic garden in Sussex, is set to embark on the most ambitious renovation project in its recent history.

The Elizabethan Mansion, which was built in 1571-1590 and set in the heart of the gardens, now requires an extensive roof restoration to preserve the Grade I listed building.

It was originally bequeathed to the National Trust in 1963 and entrusted to Kew in 1965, for future generations.

The Elizabethan mansion's roof is to be renovated Credit: Wakehurst

With building work expected to last over two years, the Mansion will receive a radical facelift in the form of a newly commissioned installation from Australian-born artist, Catherine Nelson.

Using photography of Wakehurst's spectacular collections captured over the summer, she will create 'Planet Wakehurst', a dazzling photo montage of the plants that span the 535-acre site.

It will feature the colourful blooms of the Water Gardens to the towering redwoods of California in Horsebridge Wood.

The scaffolding will feature blooms and plants from the garden's collection Credit: Wakehurst

Measuring more than 1550m2, Nelson's UK premiere will form the equivalent of 25 double decker buses, wrapping around 3 sides of the Mansion.

Visitors will have the chance to see beautiful species magnified in exceptional detail, offering new perspectives on the flora at Wakehurst, that leads to the science research conducted across the living laboratory.

Lorraine Lecourtois, Wakehurst's Head of Public Programmes says: "We have never embarked on a commission of such magnitude at Wakehurst before.

Where some may have seen hoarding as an eyesore, we viewed this site as a unique canvas, giving us the amazing opportunity to platform Nelson's beautifully striking work in the UK for the first time, and visitors a new perspective on the incredible range of plants we nurture at Wakehurst.

We hope this will form a new life-affirming experience that will leave our visitors feeling hopeful about the important conservation research we undertake here and demonstrates our intention to preserve Wakehurst's historic heart for generations to come."

The installation will feature a viewing platform Credit: Wakehurst

The installation will also house a new viewing platform. Raised approximately 33ft above ground level, the lookout point will carve out a new experience for visitors to the Sussex site, affording views across the Mansion lawns and out to the Sussex Downs beyond.

Wakehurst has also ensured the Mansion's resident bats and swifts are protected for the duration of the project.

With approval from Natural England, the restoration work will be phased to account for breeding and hibernating seasons.

Temporary roosts will also be created to ensure minimal disturbance and limit the impact on wildlife.

The scaffolding will start being built this Autumn Credit: Wakehurst

Scaffolding will start being built in late autumn 2022, and is expected to take several months.

Once complete, 'Planet Wakehurst' will be installed, and is due to be on display to the public in Spring 2023.

Visitors to Wakehurst will find information panels around the site where they can discover more about the project, the steps taken to protect resident wildlife, and much more.