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…”
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.