Sussex Gardens

Sussex gardens open for the National Garden Scheme
Sussex Gardener blog

Sussex gardens, whether large or small, are places of real delight. Our own garden , not far from the foot of the South Downs, has developed slowly over the last sixteen years and never ceases to delight us. The happy accidents of planting, the wildlife and the simple satisfaction of watching a beautiful yew hedge grow and create an evergreen backdrop for a medley of summer flowers, all contribute to the pleasure of living in Sussex.

The climate here is fairly temperate, with little more than a day or two of snow (apart from January, November & December 2010 - see our snowy garden in the slide show above), and a few frosty mornings, so passion flowers flourish ...

Passion flower and geranium

Photo: Passion flower and geraniums by Yvonne Hennessy

Denmans Garden
Open from 9.30 to 5pm (last entry 4.15pm) virtually every day of the year, this is the garden created and owned by the famous Garden Designer, John Brookes. Complete with a Plant Centre and Restaurant, it is a very special garden to visit. The extensive use of gravel, both for paths and as a growing medium, is a key characteristic of Denmans. Here, you will find superb planting with the clever use of contrasting plant forms and leaf colour and shapes, as well as the flowers, trees and climbers associated with beautiful Sussex gardens.

Parham House Gardens, near Amberley
Open from 3rd April, 12pm - 5pm, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays, Parham House Gardens, with its lake and many specimen trees, were established during the 18th century. In addition there is a 4 acre walled garden run on organic principles, as well as a park and a beautiful old 'Wendy House' (unlike any Wendy House I've ever seen!)

Nymans Gardens
A National Trust property near Handcross, West Sussex, this is a really lovely garden. There is a restaurant and shop selling plants, books and gifts. Check the website for open dates and times.

Sheffield Park and Garden
A magnificent informal landscape garden, Sheffield Park was laid out in the 18th century by 'Capability' Brown then further developed in the early 20th century. Consisting of over 200 acres of gardens, park, woodlands and a magnificent lake, this is a brilliant place to bring the whole family; you can even catch an old steam train on the historic 'Bluebell Railway line' from nearby.

With formal gardens, meadows bordering a river and woodland, this delightful Sussex garden also has a wonderful 17th Century house. Home to the famous author, Rudyard Kippling and his family, Batemans offers the visitor a fascinating day out. Situated in East Sussex, near the town of Burwash, between Heathfield and Etchingham, this National Trust property is open every day from early March, except Thursdays and Fridays.

Great Dixter
Home for many years to the gardener and garden writer, Christopher Lloyd, Great Dixter is open to the public the first weekend in March, then from 1st April until the end of October. An inspiring garden, re-invigorated by the ambitious exotic planting schemes introduced by Christopher Lloyd, this is a fascinating Sussex house and garden.

Carefully pruned wisteria flowering on a house wall in Ditchling.

Here in Sussex, there are many stunning gardens open to the public; some for just the occasional day, others are open for the long Spring, Summer and Autumn seasons. There are some particularly beautiful gardens along the foothills of the Downs, which are open under the National Gardens Scheme.

Our mild climate means that we are fortunate to grow a fantastic range of plants. With careful placing, many semi-tender plants become quite spectacular in our gardens. For example, I have a beautiful Trachelospermum jasminoides variegatum on my patio, against the south-facing wall of our house. It's been there for five years now!

Love roses? Check out my favourite books about roses on my gardening bookshelf.

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There are many gardens open under the National Gardens Scheme in Sussex; for a full list you will need to get one of their little yellow guide books. I will give details of the ones closest to the Sussex South Downs, around Brighton, Lewes and Eastbourne on this site, but there are many more worth visiting throughout East and West Sussex.

We also have several larger gardens owned by the Royal Horticultural Society or the National Trust. The National Trust also owns several tracts of beautiful Sussex countryside and coastline, which will be explored in other parts of this guide.

The National Garden Scheme
The National Gardens Scheme was founded in 1927 and raises funds by opening gardens to the public throughout England and Wales. For information about Sussex gardens opening for the NGS during 2009, follow this link.

The home of the author, Rudyard Kipling, Batemans is a 17th Century house that sits in the beautiful Sussex Weald. With formal gardens, a meadow and river, this is a stunning place to visit. Check out the National Trust page on Batemans for opening dates and times.

Great Dixter house and garden
Further East is the last home and garden of Christopher Lloyd, plantsman and gardener extraordinaire. Great Dixter House and Gardens are located in Northiam approximately three quarters of a mile off of the A28, which runs through the village.

RHS garden - Wakehurst Place
Wakehurst Place, Ardingly near Haywards Heath, West Sussex
Tel: 01444 894066
Location: On B2028 between Turners Hill & Ardingly
Opening Times: 10 am - 6 pm (4.30 pm in winter); daily, except 24 & 25 December; all year. Last admissions 30 minutes before closing.

Roman Garden at Fishbourne Palace
These formal Roman gardens originally laid out around 100AD, have been beautifully laid out and planted as closely as possible to the original. A visit here is a lovely afternoon out. Of course, the remains of the Palace buildings are also absolutely wonderful!

Borde Hill Gardens
Situated just north of Haywards Heath in West Sussex, Borde Hill Gardens provides a delightful day out for the whole family, children and grandparents included. It's particularly lovely in the Spring when the rhododendrons and azaleas are flowering; in the summer there are woodland walks and a beautiful rose garden designed by Chelsea Gold Medal winner, Robin Williams. The children's playground was a favourite with our sons when they were younger. There's also a very pleasant cafe, called 'Elvira's', next to the smarter and more expensive 'Jeremy's' restaurant.

Garden Gadabout
Set up in aid of the Sussex Beacon charity, this open garden scheme has been running for over fifteen years, starting with a few supporters opening their gardens in Brighton to this year's event where over 70 gardens are throwing open their doors. Gardens in the 2009 event are spread far and wide from Shoreham to Lewes and everywhere in between.

About the Sussex Beacon
The Sussex Beacon is a purpose built clinical care centre for men and women living with HIV. It is one of only two centres of its kind in the UK. The Beacon cares for people both in its ten bedded residential unit and via Health Management Services who provide a series of clinics for people in the community living with HIV. This service is currently funded by the Elton John Aids Foundation.

BBC film series 'A Very English Village' now available on dvd
If you can't visit the Sussex South Downs just yet, why not have a look at the section about the acclaimed series of films set in and around Ditchling and made by resident film-maker, Luke Holland? You can also purchase the full series or just a couple of the films from this part of the site.