UK’s largest outdoor art installation to open at Wakehurst

Opens Wednesday 18 May 2023
Free with day ticket
Wakehurst, Kew and National Trust members: Free
Adults: From £7.50 (late entry); £14.95 (full day)
Children 16yrs and under: Free
Wakehurst, Sussex

Release date: 19 April 2023

  • Epic canvas stretching 1550m2 will wrap the Grade I listed 16th century Mansion
  • Artist Catherine Nelson’s UK premiere Planet Wakehurst is a masterful photo montage of the gardens’ world-leading plant collections
  • Nelson’s installation blends her art background with her experience in film visual effects, having worked on productions including Harry Potter, Moulin Rouge and 300
  • Installation will take six days using sustainably-sourced and weatherproof fabric which will be recycled at the end of its display
  • Built-in viewing platform 33ft high will offer visitors a phenomenal outlook across Wakehurst’s wild landscape and the South Downs beyond
  • Planet Wakehurst was commissioned to transform the Mansion whilst it undergoes a major roof renovation

Wakehurst, Kew’s wild botanic garden in Sussex, will soon be home to one of the UK’s largest outdoor art installations.

Commissioned to wrap the Elizabethan Mansion, currently undergoing an extensive roof restoration, Planet Wakehurst is a bespoke photo montage from Australian-born artist Catherine Nelson. Using photography of plants from across the 535-acre site captured in summer 2022, the dazzling installation is a celebration of Wakehurst’s biodiversity, from the colourful blooms of the abundant Water Gardens to the towering Giant Redwoods of California in Horsebridge Wood.

Measuring over 1550m2, Nelson’s UK premiere installation will form the equivalent of 25 double decker buses, wrapping around three sides of the Mansion. Nelson spent hot summer days in 2022 documenting the vast site and, over the course of six months, used the hundreds of photographs captured to create the immense digital collage. Visitors will have the chance to see beautiful species magnified in exceptional detail, offering new perspectives on the flora which makes Wakehurst so special, and sparking curiosity into science research conducted across this unique living laboratory.

A collection of red and purple flowers in full bloom
A waterlily flower in half bloom in front of large green leaves on water

Artist Catherine Nelsons says: The result is something real yet unreal. I use elements that are real, that is photographs, but put them together using my imagination. I thought a lot about Monet, looking at his summer garden paintings, and I wanted the South elevation to be able to compete with sunny Wakehurst days, so I kept the palette bright and colourful. The West Elevation instead has a dusk feel whilst for the East elevation I looked at Golden Age landscape paintings with their dramatic skies, looking to create a different mood. My work is about nature with a keen awareness of the need for its conservation. I hope people leave Planet Wakehurst with a life affirming feeling. We have a beautiful planet, and we need to take care of it.

Nelson is a visual artist who uses the camera and digital medium as a paintbrush. After studying painting at art school, Nelson moved into film visual effects, working on big budget productions including Moulin Rouge, Harry Potter and 300 where she harnessed her digital skills which she now applies to her photomontage artworks and videos.

The installation will also house a new viewing platform. Raised 33ft above ground level, the lookout point will carve out a new experience for visitors to the Sussex site, affording stunning views across the Mansion lawns and out to the Sussex Downs beyond. This is the first time visitors will be able to take in Wakehurst’s spectacular landscape and the surrounding countryside from this elevation.

Lorraine Lecourtois, Wakehurst’s Head of Public Programmes says:Our Mansion roof work forms the biggest restoration project of the last century. We knew the vast scale of the site with its layers of scaffolding poles and boards could form a magnificent canvas, but we had no idea just how spectacular this opportunity was until we started working with Catherine Nelson. Her vision for Planet Wakehurst will transform a building site into an artwork unlike anything you’ll see around the country. Her connection with our collections and our critical science research is palpable in her work. Her consideration for our important plant collections and her passion for Kew’s mission to halt biodiversity loss has resulted in a truly striking work. We can’t wait to welcome visitors old and new to experience Planet Wakehurst.

About the Mansion roof restoration project

The Elizabethan Mansion, built in 1571-1590 and set in the heart of the gardens, requires an extensive roof restoration to preserve the Grade I listed building, originally bequeathed to the National Trust in 1963 and entrusted to Kew in 1965, for future generations. Building work is expected to last over two years.

Wakehurst has ensured that 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.

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. Volunteer explainers and tour guides will also have further detail on the project.

Wakehurst is grateful that this capital project is funded by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, and for its National Trust endowment, which provides ongoing support for Wakehurst’s landscapes and wider facilities.


For more information or images, please contact Frances Teehan, Strategic Communications Manager at Wakehurst, on

Notes to Editors

Please note that Wakehurst is referred to just as ‘Wakehurst’, not ‘Wakehurst Place’. We are part of RBG Kew. The National Trust was bequeathed the Mansion and grounds of Wakehurst in 1963. It was then entrusted to us here at Kew in 1965, and we now work in partnership with the National Trust to care for our collections and heritage areas.

Address: Wakehurst, Ardingly, Haywards Heath, Sussex, RH17 6TN
Facebook: @wakehurst.kew Twitter: @wakehurst_kew
Instagram: @wakehurst_kew
Hashtag: #Wakehurst

Wakehurst is Kew’s wild botanic garden in the Sussex High Weald. Its ancient and beautiful landscapes span 535 acres and are a place for escape, exploration, tranquillity and wonder. Its diverse collection of plants from Britain and around the globe thrive within a tapestry of innovative gardens, temperate woodlands, meadows and wetlands. Wakehurst is a centre for UK biodiversity and global conservation, seed research and ecosystem science. At its heart is Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, the world’s largest store of seeds from wild plant species.  

RBG Kew receives approximately one third of its funding from Government through the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and research councils. Further funding needed to support RBG Kew’s vital work comes from donors, membership and commercial activity including ticket sales. In the first six months of 2022, Kew welcomed over 10,000 visitors with a £1 ticket for those in receipt of Universal Credit, Pension Credit and Legacy Benefits.