The Bank Holiday at Borde Hill

The vibrant Mid-Summer Border at Borde Hill Garden
The vibrant Mid-Summer Border at Borde Hill Garden

This week I am returning to Borde Hill Garden near Haywards Heath to enjoy the vibrant summer borders and the 20th Anniversary Sculpture Exhibition. I am met by Andrewjohn Stephenson Clarke whose great grandfather purchased the house in 1893 and created the now Grade II* listed gardens and important plant collections.

Andrewjohn says “Borde Hill has always been an experimental garden to try new plants. The first of these were brought back by plant hunters in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.”

This spirit of adventure is alive and well under the stewardship of Andrewjohn and his wife Eleni. This is apparent in the Round Dell garden. Its contemporary design has at its centre a thin, tapering path defined by low concrete walls which leads you through the rich foliage and planting. Amongst these are a number of exciting new specimens found by contemporary plan hunters, including varieties of Schefflera, and unusual evergreens like Daphniphyllum macropodum.

I love the strong summer colours at Borde Hill. The Mid-Summer Border, just off the South lawn, delights with its vibrant coloured perennials, grasses and shrubs.
The garden reveals itself as a series of rooms. The sculptures compliment the planting and vistas allowing us to see the garden in new ways.

Devon based artist Zoe Singleton’s sculpture ‘The Turning Tide’ carved from Kilkenny Fossil Stone at Borde Hill
Devon based artist Zoe Singleton’s sculpture ‘The Turning Tide’ carved from Kilkenny Fossil Stone at Borde Hill

My eye is taken by a sculpture by the Devon based artist, Zoe Singleton who works predominately in stone natural to the British Isles. It is titled ‘The Turning Tide’ and is carved from Kilkenny Fossil Stone. It sits dramatically on its Larch plinth against the backdrop of Borde Hill’s 200 acres of parkland and woodland. The rhythm and movement of the shoal of fish seems to be echoed in the landscape.

Writing about her work Zoe has said ‘My work is frequently described as “poetic and lyrical”, garden sculpture being inspired by my love of gardening as well as the dramatic coastline of the South West and the rugged geology of Dartmoor which has a continued presence in my work.’ Her words resonate with Borde Hill Garden.

The lives of Andrewjohn and Eleni Stephenson Clarke are bound to this place and the garden in a very personal way. Their forward looking stewardship ensures that the past is valued and preserved but that the garden is constantly evolving and changing in a very contemporary way.

Why not enjoy the art and this beautiful garden in the company of family and friends this coming August Bank Holiday weekend. There is plenty for children to enjoy including an adventure playground. The 20th Anniversary Sculpture Exhibition runs until the 30th September. For more information on opening times and forthcoming events go to www.bordehill.co.uk or telephone 01444 450326.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Clinton Lodge Gardens

The Rose Garden at Clinton Lodge Gardens

This week I am joining the Sussex Heritage Trust at Fletching to celebrate Clinton Lodge Gardens where we are the guests of the garden’s creator and owner, Lady Noel Collum.

As we gather on the terrace between the showers Lady Collum greets us framed by the lawns, architectural hornbeams and the parkland beyond. Lady Collum is delighted as the Chairman of the Sussex Heritage Trust, Dr John Godfrey, thanks her and quotes some lines from Rudyard Kipling’s poem The Glory of the Garden:

“Our England is a garden that is full of stately views
Of borders, beds and shrubberies and lawns and avenues,
With statues on the terraces and peacocks strutting by;
But the Glory of the Garden lies in more than meets the eye…
Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made
By singing: “Oh, how beautiful!” and sitting in the shade…”

Simon Knight and John Godfrey of the Sussex Heritage Trust with Lady Collum
Simon Knight and John Godfrey of the Sussex Heritage Trust with Lady Collum

Lady Collum explains how the garden happened slowly drawing inspiration from the house with its Caroline stonework and George III brick extension. She says “I set out to connect the garden to the house. I really wanted it to be peaceful – being peaceful was absolutely essential. I read a lot about garden designers like Russell Page and my sense of proportion and composition was influenced by looking at paintings, especially of the period of the house, whilst I was with Christies.”

The house and the gardens are very at ease with themselves reflecting a gentle elegance and understated grandeur. The formal garden is made up of a series of garden rooms each complete in its own right. The paths gather and lead us revealing each garden in turn.

Lady Collum observes “You should always go through a supported garden with borders on both sides – double borders support you in that way.”

I comment on the playful sense of theatre in the garden and her remarkable planting with swathes of colour. She responds “Formality with exuberance – rather like at Sissinghurst! I control the colours more as I’ve got older as it’s more relaxing – I think it’s important not to find ‘clever’ shocking [contrasts in] palette. It’s also frightfully important that the plants are happy.”

We arrive in a walled garden filled with abundant, old varieties of scented roses, including Chapeau de Napolean, Empress Josephine, and Compte de Chambord. The roses grow tall and are reflected in William Pye’s remarkable water feature. Lady Collum says “If you’re walking with a nice companion it’s lovely not to have to bend to enjoy the scent.”

I remark on the softness, gentleness and movement which pervades the garden. It has a sensory quality. Lady Collum responds “I did want it to have movement, the fluttering of the lime leaves and a sympathetic texture – I like to be able to stroke the plants. It has taken time.”

Lady Collum’s disarming modesty, her genuine hospitality and delight in the reaction of her visitors make this a very special, peaceful place to be.

Clinton Lodge Gardens welcomes groups by appointment but is rarely open to the public. However, the garden is open this coming Monday, 24th June 2019, as part of the National Garden Scheme between 2pm and 5.30pm. To find out more about Clinton Lodge Gardens visit www.clintonlodgegardens.co.uk. And to learn more about the exceptional work of the Sussex Heritage Trust and how to get involved visit www.sussexheritagetrust.org.uk.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

 

Sussex Prairie Garden

The play of Echinacea, Helenium, Deschampsia and Sanguisorba at the Sussex Prairie garden, Henfield

This week I am excited to be visiting the Sussex Prairie garden at Morlands Farm, Henfield, created and designed by Pauline and Paul McBride.

I pass some happy pigs beneath the canopy of oaks as I walk towards the garden. As the path opens into bright daylight your senses are immediately captured by the scale, colour, light, texture and movement expressed in the planting and design – it is really beautiful.

In the first border I come to the swathes of raspberry pink and white Echinacea play against the Helenium’s flash of orange and red. Beyond, the Deschampsia cespitosa ‘Goldtau’ grasses with their gossamer like flower plumes have matured into a warm golden colour which contrast with the strong vertical of the white Sanguisorba canadensis.

I catch up with Pauline and Paul McBride on the farm terrace amongst the nursery plants for sale outside their splendid tearooms. The terrace overlooks the gardens.

They are delighted as I explain that their garden is food for my heart. Pauline says “It is a beautiful thing – people are moved by it.”

Sussex Prairie garden designers Pauline and Paul McBride
Sussex Prairie garden designers Pauline and Paul McBride

I comment on the exquisite synergy of the plants in the border I have just encountered. Pauline responds “The plants are like our friends we knew how they would behave and how to put them together from the gardens we have worked on.” From the wilds of Rajasthan, to the quiet beech wood valleys of Luxembourg Paul and Pauline McBride have been creating gardens for over 30 years.

I am fascinated by the way that the garden invites you into itself. Wherever you are your eye is met by stunningly conceived views with layered perspective. Pauline explains “It’s to do with the big spiral design. We drew up huge plans for the gardens – each designed in minute detail – we had to think how it would work together, the structure, plants and use of grasses. The gardens readily invite you in with their pathways through the borders in a very calming and seductive way. We want people to engage with the garden – be close to the bees and insects, brush against the plants, engage with them, touch them and experience the fragrance and a freedom as the garden takes on a life of its own and becomes something extraordinary.”

The naturalistic planting belies the underpinning of the generous discipline of their design. Pauline and Paul’s lifetimes work and experience is distilled into their Prairie garden.

Pauline continues “The garden is still evolving as we add new plants to the mix. The garden itself is changing as it seeds and cross-pollinates…the plants have done it themselves it is very exciting.”

Preparations are underway for the Unusual Plant and Garden Fair this coming Sunday. Pauline explains “We invite a great selection of specialist nurseries with their wonderful plants – it’s rare to find so many specialist plants men and women in one place. There’s Jazz and great food too, it’s a real day out!”

This festival of plants will be held this coming Sunday 2nd September 2018, 11am to 5pm at Sussex Prairies, Morlands Farm, Wheatsheaf Road, Henfield, West Sussex, BN5 9AT. To find out more about the gardens and this event visit www.sussexprairies.co.uk or telephone 01273 495902.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Nation’s Passion for Gardening Celebrated at Parham

A garden view at Parham
A garden view at Parham

Parham’s Garden Weekend is celebrating its 25th anniversary this coming weekend.

For me this quintessential celebration of our passion for gardening is one of the highlights of the Sussex summer calendar, thanks to Parham’s long gardening tradition and the national reputation of Head Gardener, Tom Brown.

Over the course of the weekend there will be garden tours, talks and demonstrations from leading experts. The Secrets of Head Gardeners session will be a particular highlight with the South’s most celebrated Head Gardeners including Fergus Garrett from Great Dixter, Troy Scott Smith from Sissinghurst, Sarah Wain from West Dean and Parham’s Tom Brown in conversation.

It’s a measure of Tom Brown’s reputation that many of the country’s leading horticulturalists, gardeners and designers choose to congregate at Parham for the Garden Weekend year after year.

Alongside all these events visitors will discover some of our leading nurseries.
It is the relational quality of this festival of gardening which never fails to delight me – passionate and knowledgeable people coming together at Parham to share their experiences and love of gardening.

Tom Brown, his garden team and volunteers, will once again be out in force to offer advice and to interpret the garden for visitors. It is rare for the public to have such unmediated, direct access to horticulturalists of this calibre.

The gardens themselves are exquisite. The swathes of summer flowers seem to dance in the gentle breeze framing the garden’s paths. I love the stillness that gathers you in the walled gardens at Parham. It transports you, separating you from the busyness of life. To create a garden of this subtlety, depth and beauty requires a sensitivity to place, light, the elements and the seasons.

A dog’s eye view of Parham’s celebration of gardening

Sheltered by the warm hues of the old brick garden walls covered in lichen these gardens have a remarkable ability to gather and engage people. Families find a gentle place to wander in conversation, their time in the garden informed by the beauty around them. Keen horticulturists will pause to explore the subtleties and effects of the planting, colour and compositions before them. But whatever your approach you cannot fail to walk in this beautiful place without being moved by it.

This generous and outward facing spirit pervades all that Parham does and at the heart of it are Lady Emma Barnard and her husband James who, together with their sons, bring such life and vitality to this timeless place. Their patronage and stewardship blesses us all.

I am looking forward to Parham House and Garden’s ‘25th Anniversary Garden Weekend’ this coming Saturday and Sunday, 7th and 8th July 2017, 10.30am to 5.00pm. For more information go to www.parhaminsussex.co.uk or telephone 01903 742021. I look forward to seeing you there!

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

 

Parham’s Garden Weekend

Parham’s Head Gardener, Tom Brown, in the greenhouses at Parham
Parham’s Head Gardener, Tom Brown, in the greenhouses at Parham

Parham’s Garden Weekend is becoming Chelsea by the Sussex Downs thanks to its long gardening tradition and the growing national reputation of Head Gardener, Tom Brown. For me this quintessential celebration of our passion for gardening is one of the highlights of the Sussex summer calendar.

I come across Tom Brown preparing for the weekend in the greenhouse. The light, perspective and abundance of flowers in the greenhouse is reminiscent of Eric Ravilious’ famous watercolours of greenhouses painted in Sussex in the 1930s.

It’s a measure of Tom Brown’s growing stature that many of the country’s leading horticulturalists, gardeners and designers choose to congregate at Parham for the Garden Weekend year after year.

The new White Border against the ancient walls of Parham’s gardens
The new White Border against the ancient walls of Parham’s gardens

Amongst those coming to celebrate gardening at Parham is former Chelsea Physic Head Gardener and BBC Gardener’s World presenter, Nick Bailey, who will be holding a book signing event. Society garden designer, author and Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medallist, Jinny Blom, leading plants woman, Marina Christopher, and doyen of cut flowers and designer of one of BBC Radio 2’s 2017 Chelsea sensory gardens, Sarah Raven, all have Parham’s Garden Weekend on their calendars.

In between the talks and workshops Tom Brown, his garden team and volunteers, will be out in force to offer advice and to interpret the garden for visitors. It is rare for the public to have such unmediated, direct access to horticulturalists like Tom and his team.

This generous and outward facing spirit pervades all that Parham does which allows Tom to put a spot light on the best that Sussex has to offer. Many of our county’s most talented plants men and women, growers, specialist nurseries and local talent will be exhibiting at Parham, giving the discerning gardening public access to top quality plants and advice. It is this authenticity which makes Parham’s Garden Weekend so unique. This and Tom’s vision and integrity is attracting increasing attention from across the country.

The upward trajectory of Tom Brown and the gardens at Parham is set to continue. There is a sense of long-term patronage at Parham. Tom is quick to celebrate Lady Emma Barnard’s role in this. Her love of Parham and her patronage continues to bless this place with such life and creativity.

The restored Blue Border at Parham
The restored Blue Border at Parham

In recent years there has been significant investment in the borders with experimental trials in planting. The palette of plants is very important to the opulent, artistic borders at Parham. The restored Blue Border and the new White Border give expression to the natural informality of the ‘Parham Way’ and delight the senses. There is much in the old and the new to enchant the visitor.

I am looking forward to Parham House and Garden’s ‘Garden Weekend’ this coming Saturday and Sunday, 8th and 9th July 2017, 10.30am to 5.00pm. For more information go to www.parhaminsussex.co.uk or telephone 01903 742021. I look forward to seeing you there!

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.