Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Monday, 28 February 2011

West Dean Gardens


I'm fast forming the opinion February is one of the best months for garden visiting. There's less crowds, the reward in the tea shop afterwards is far more comforting and there's a delicious sense of being let outdoors when it really isn't allowed.

Earlier this month I had a gallop round West Dean Gardens following my day's course there and despite the rain, what I saw was enough for me to be smitten instantly. Who can't help but fall in love with a garden boasting features such as a crinkle-crankle wall with matching hedge, plus a dear little hobbit-like building built into it?


When the borders lack flowery fireworks the attention is drawn to the garden's 'bones' instead. West Dean has particularly fine ones and as you can see I was rather taken with the brick and flint contrasts I found there as they add texture as well as visual interest.


West Dean is noted for its walled kitchen garden and I now have severe glasshouse and cold frame envy. Old tools such as watering cans and lantern cloches were posed around the garden to good effect. Even bare earth can be made to look attractive in my view. It was good to see proper rhubarb forcers in action and I now realise I'm far too mean with the amount of manure I use around mine. A good layer a few inches thick is what's needed!


February is the best time to see just how fruit should be pruned and the multitude of different ways in which it can be trained. There's a masterclass of techniques on view here and over at Sign of the Times, I've already displayed the perfect arch. Whilst I was there I met a number of the garden's volunteers plus the garden manager and his wife. They are all truly proud of the place they have under their care.

This pergola was designed by Harold Peto in the 1890s and is a promise of things to come out in the main part of the garden. I'm already planning to return for a his and hers weekend: The Weald and Downland Museum next door for NAH and a much more leisurely stroll around here for me :)

9 comments:

  1. That looks like a great garden, despite the time of year. It's obviously well loved and cared for. I think my first garden visit will be to Sissinghurst in a couple of weeks which is always a joy. Thanks for sharing the pictures.

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  2. See, this is my kind of gardening - posing a few pieces of aesthetically pleasing horticultural equipment around the place. And catering for hobbits. Love it!

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  3. I visited West Dean once in the summer for a workshop and flew round the garden like the proverbial bat after lunch. No time to do it justice. No signs of that glorious wall - maybe it is covered up with greenery in summer.
    Would have liked to have seen your photos in close up VP but nothing happened when I clicked :( Sounds as if you have found a perfect location for a his and hers weekend :)

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  4. I'm sorry this is so far away from me, it looks wonderful. Beautiful bones, and with that Kitchen Garden... On second thoughts I would leave with serious greenhouse and space envy and a profound sense of inadequacy in the pruning department! I look forward to reading about your next visit.

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  5. a little greenhouse would be nice...as would a stone face or two! west dean looks a lovely place to dream in.

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  6. I love those fruit trees - still thinking of some for our end fence

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  7. Jason - I've yet to go to Sissinghurst. I look forward to seeing your blog about it.

    Dawn - you should have seen the old sit on lawn mower I found :)

    Anna - I think it's because I posted 2 collages, Blogger seems to make them non-clickable when I do that. I can send the images to you if you like...

    Plantaliscious - it was a bit of a trek, but so worth it. It's a good area for a weekend away, so worth thinking about.

    Petoskystone - the way the collage has worked out, the stone face reminds me of Natalie Portman in Black Swan!

    Mark - you need some fruit trees on your back fence!

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  8. I love West Dean and am lucky enough to live near enough to visit on Sunday afternoons. The cutting garden is brilliant in the summer and a great place for photographs. I feel the need for a visit coming on. Ronnie

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  9. ronniejt28 - welcome and thanks for the Blotanical fave! I'm envious that you live so close to West Dean: I'd love to be able to pop in from time to time, even volunteer there.

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