Friday, June 17, 2011


Our flight from Lisbon brought us in over the white cliffs of south England and a patchwork of green fields. We landed at Heathrow, picked up a car and drove to spend the first night with friends in North London.

For most of our visit we would be staying in B and Bs, chosen for their proximity to the National Trust properties we were to visit. The first, Little Tidebrook Farm, which I had booked for 3 nights was in the hamlet of Wadhurst. I always book farms, if at all possible.

Arriving in the late afternoon we took a walk in the surrounding countryside before heading to the local pub for dinner.


The next morning we visited Nymans in West Sussex. The 600 acre Nyman estate was purchased by Ludwig Messel in 1890. From first glimpse one might think the house was built during the Tudor period. In fact it was built during the 1920s.

In 1947 the house caught fire and although some of the rooms were restored, much of the building is a ruin. The estate was given to the National Trust in 1953.

The right hand side of the house is just a shell.

Beautiful clipped topiary and long views seen in so many English Estate gardens.

One of the finest herbaceous borders in the country.

The wisteria walk.

Fields of Oxeye daisies overlook the surrounding Sussex countryside.

A perfect stand of lupins.

Stunning dogwood trees.

The pinetum.
One could easily spend a whole day here, but we had to move on. Two more gardens to visit today.


Wakehurst place is known as the country estate of the Royal Botanical Garden at Kew. It is also the home of the Millenium Seed bank. The seed bank is a plant conservation project which currently holds 10% of the world's plant specimens. The seeds are cleaned, dried and stored in the underground vaults. It is a world wide project with partners in many countries, including our own Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, where Flo Oxley heads up the project.

The center is part research, part conservation and part indoor garden.

Visitors can follow the pathway that the seeds take once they arrive at the center. The laboratories, where the scientists work, are open for viewing, although as this was a Saturday no one was working.

Unfortunately we arrived with only 15 minutes to look around as the building was closing for a private function. Still, our visit gave us enough of an appreciation of all the work that is going on here to save the world's plants. Apart from storing seeds for the future, research is being done on how best to preserve the seeds. Not all seeds take well to being kept in the freezer vaults. One example is the seed of the cycad . Extensive study on this plant is a result of the extreme pressure being put on the species by illegal harvesting of native populations and the resulting extinction of some species. Recent research has discovered that the seed remains viable if frozen in liquid nitrogen at a temperature of -196 C.
The great plant hunts of long ago are on again as scientists travel to the four corners of the globe to collect seed. Some of the seeds are saved and some propagated to plant in the great botanical gardens for others to enjoy.

We hiked the cool shady woodland trails to the Himalayan Glade, the Southern Hemisphere Garden, the Winter Garden, and finally into the walled garden by the house.

This garden was created in 1973, inside the old walled garden, as a tribute to Sir Henry Price who was the last owner of Wakefield.

Our last stop of the day was Sheffield Park and Garden. Now I have to admit that I love the English cottage garden look, the garden rooms with their clipped yew hedges and walls, best of all. There are no garden rooms here and yet I have only one word for Sheffield Park. Magnificent.


The gardens at Sheffield were laid out by 'Capability' Brown to showcase the house, which had been remodeled in 1791, in the then, popular gothic style. Later Repton added his touch by landscaping the areas closer to the house..

I never cease to be amazed by the vision these landscapers had.

The rhododendrons and Japanese maples framed against a backdrop of green.

Later additions to the garden, in the 19th and 20th centuries, included an arboretum and plantings of rhododendrons, azaleas and many exotic plantings.

We may have missed seeing the spring show of daffodils and bluebells but the maples and rhododendrons made up for that.

Huge swathes of gunnera along the water's edge.

At the end of a long day we picked up Indian take away to take back to our B&B. Tomorrow we visit Batemans, Scotney Castle and Sissinghurst


  1. Sounds - and looks - like an absolutely amazing trip!

  2. Lucky you! Fabulous photos ...Sheffield Park and Garden wins my vote out of these three, although I adored the Laburnum Walk and herbacous border at Nymans!

  3. Looks like you took the ultimate gardener's vacation! It's no wonder the ideal of so many gardeners is the English garden, and you've shown so many magnificent examples of why that is here. The green English countryside ain't shabby either. ;)

  4. I know you were in heaven in these gardens! Incredible!

    i keep thinking i would like one of these homes, and give the owner one better!

  5. Sheffield is amazing. I liked the walled garden a lot, too.
    We're really enjoying going along on your trip.
    Stay cool this weekend.

  6. Oh my gosh. Just incredible. Love the photo of the laburnum walk. Very inviting. That's too bad the place was closing right as you got there, but as you said, you were still allowed to walk through a little. The walled garden and Sheffield Park and Garden are breath taking. No other word for that. Those are just amazing. Thanks for sharing. A virtual vacation! =)

  7. Great to see these English gardens through your eyes!

  8. Bernie and Kacky-Don't know what I was thinking to put laburnum. It was wisteria.
    College Garden, Sweetbay , Julie and Linda- You are right. The most amazing trip for a gardener. The good thing was that David enjoyed all these visits too. Most laces has something more to offer than just the gardens.
    Charlotte- Thanks for dropping by. I would never have known about Stone House if I had not seen it on your blog. Thank you so very much.

  9. What wonderful gardens. Thanks for taking us along with you! Just beautiful!

  10. cool...woodland...shady...trail..
    I love all those words put together. I really enjoyed this post. We could never get such details from a garden magazine due to their limited pictures per article. I agree some others; the wisteria walk is breathtaking.
    Have fun and please post some more of your botanical adventures.
    David/ Tropical Texana :-)

  11. Thank you for your posts on your travels. These are places I probably will never see in person. I love the borders along the walkway at Nymans.

  12. Absolutely stunning photos! I can't wait to see the
    one of Sissinghurst.

  13. Przepiękne widoki ,cudny pejzaż, śliczne ogrody ,jest co oglądać i podziwiać .Widać dzień choć długi ,ale jednak bardzo udany ...pozdrawiam.

  14. Tall palms are not what I expected to see in an English garden. I guess they can grow whatever they want, eh? I'm loving all those crunchy gravel walks.

  15. Wow some really stunning gardens you visited and looks like you had some pretty decent weather!

    Thanks for sharing these, it's been ages since I last went to Sissinghurst and some of the others.