Inspiring Sussex Gardeners

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You’ve seen the county’s glorious gardens, now find out about the garden designers, plant hunters and botanical brains behind them. What makes their green thumbs prick, why do they feel so passionate about all things horticultural? We look at the gardeners behind public parks and spaces and those whose small private paradises are so enthralling, catch some of Angus White’s boundless enthusiasm for his architectural plants and even peer over the county fence to look at Derek Jarman’s wonderful painterly garden in Dungeness. And there’s a directory of those who didn’t make first prize in the show. With a foreword by the renowned John Brookes, doyen of garden design, this is an unmissable guide for gardeners of both the armchair and dibber-wielding kind.

Text of Inspiring Sussex Gardeners

  • All gardeners know better than other gardeners.

    CHINESE PROVERB

    A S U S S E X G U I D E

    I N S P I R I N G

    SUSSEXGARDENERS

    IN S P I R I N G S U S S E X G A R D E N E R S

    L O R R A I N E H A R R I S ON

    Lorraine Harrison is the author of 20 SussexGardens, one of the first titles in the Snake RiverPress collection.A long-time resident of Sussexand a very knowledgeable gardener herself,Lorraine has an MA in Garden History andwrites on gardens for Beautiful Britainwhen notout tending her own Downland paradise. In thissecond venture for Snake River Press, sheexplores the lives and personalities of the hands-on gardeners and horticultural theorists whohave helped, and are still helping, to make someof the great and varied gardens of Sussex.

    J O HN B ROOK E S

    John Brookes, MBE, is an internationallyrenowned garden designer who lives and worksin Sussex, and the author of many influentialgardening books.

    I N S P I R I N G

    S U S S E X G A R D E N E R S

    There are as many types of gardener as there arestyles of garden, and Lorraine Harrison hasdone well to fit so many into such a small plot,from the well-known Rudyard Kipling, theLloyds of Great Dixter and the Loders ofWakehurst and Leonardslee to the obscure,such Olive Cockerell and Helen Nussey withtheir French hot beds.We look at the gardenersbehind public parks and spaces and those whosesmall private paradises are so enthralling.We catch some of Angus Whites boundlessenthusiasm for his architectural plants andeven peer over the county fence to look atDerek Jarmans wonderful painterly garden inDungeness. And theres a directory of thosewho didnt make first prize in the show.With aforeword by the renowned John Brookes, doyenof garden design, this is an unmissable guide forgardeners of both the armchair and dibber-wielding kind.

    ASUSSEX

    GUID

    EHARRISON

    8.99

    SNA K E R I V E R P R E S S

    B O O K S A B O U T S U S S E X F O R T H E E N T H U S I A S T

    www.snakeriverpress.co.uk

    SNA K E R I V E R P R E S S

    S N A K E R I V E R B O O K S

    Snake River Press publishes books about the art,culture, personalities and landscape of Sussex. Snake Riverbooks are available by mail order or from bookshops.

    You can order safely online through our website:www.snakeriverpress.co.uk. If you prefer buying offlineyou can contact us by telephone: 01273 403988 or

    by email: sales@snakeriverpress.co.uk

    Youve seen the countys glorious gardens,

    now find out about the garden designers, plant

    collectors and botanical brains behind them:

    what makes their green thumbs prick, why they

    feel so passionate about all things horticultural,

    and how they can inspire you to transform your

    own patch of greenery.

    INSPIR

    ING

    SUSSEX

    GARDENERS

    L O R R A I N E H A R R I S O N

    I N T RODUCED BY

    J O H N B R O O K E S

  • INSPIRATIONAL SUSSEX GARDENERS Livebook:Layout 1 18/6/08 13:28 Page 2 (Black plate)

  • SNA K E R I V E R P R E S S

    I N S P I R I N G

    SUSSEXGARDENERS

    LO R R A I N E H A R R I S O N

    I N T R O D U C E D B Y

    J O H N B R O O K E S

    I l l u s t r a t e d b yS A R A H Y O U N G

    INSPIRATIONAL SUSSEX GARDENERS Livebook:Layout 1 18/6/08 13:28 Page 3 (Black plate)

  • Book No 14Books about Sussex for the enthusiast

    Published in 2008 byS N A K E R I V E R P R E S S

    South Downs Way, Alfriston, Sussex BN26 5XWwww.snakeriverpress.co.uk

    ISBN 978-1-906022-13-6

    This book was conceived, designed and produced byS N A K E R I V E R P R E S S

    Copyright Snake River Press Limited 2008Text Lorraine HarrisonIllustration Sarah Young

    All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproducedin any form without written permission from the publisher.

    The publishers and authors have done their best to ensurethe accuracy and currency of all information at the date of preparation.Readers who intend to rely on the information to undertake any activityshould check the current accuracy. The publishers and authors acceptno responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained by the

    reader as a result of information or advice contained in this book.

    Art Director & Publisher Peter BridgewaterEditorial Director Viv Croot

    Editor Robert YarhamPage makeup Richard Constable & Chris Morris

    Illustrator Sarah Young

    This book is typeset in Perpetua & Gill Sans,two fonts designed by Eric Gill

    Printed and bound in China

    SNA K E R I V E R P R E S S

    DEDICATION

    For PGB with thanks

    INSPIRATIONAL SUSSEX GARDENERS Livebook:Layout 1 18/6/08 13:28 Page 4 (Black plate)

  • C O N T E N T S

    FOREWORD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

    INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . . 8

    VANESSA BELL &LEONARD WOOLF . . . . . . . 12

    WILLIAM BORRER . . . . . . . . . 17

    JOHN BROOKES . . . . . . . . . . 20

    JIM BUCKLAND &SARAH WAIN . . . . . . . . . . . 24

    OLIVE J. COCKERELL &HELEN NUSSSEY . . . . . . . . . 28

    J.R.B. EVISON . . . . . . . . . . . . 33

    WALTER H. GODFREY . . . . . . 36

    GRAHAM GOUGH . . . . . . . . . 39

    ARTHUR HELLYER . . . . . . . . . 43

    DEREK JARMAN . . . . . . . . . . . 47

    RUDYARD KIPLING . . . . . . . . 50

    NATHANIEL &CHRISTOPHER LLOYD . . . 54

    SIR GERALD LODER& FAMILY . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58

    SARAH RAVEN . . . . . . . . . . . 62

    WILLIAM ROBINSON . . . . . . .65

    ARTHUR G. SOAMES . . . . . . . 71

    SIR FREDERICK STERN . . . . . 73

    ANGUS WHITE. . . . . . . . . . . .76

    FRANCES WOLSELEY . . . . . . . 80

    MORE INSPIRINGSUSSEX GARDENERS . . . . . 86

    INDEX . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94

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  • I N S P I R I N G S U S S E X G A R D E N E R S

    [ 12 ]

    VAN E S S A B E L L & L EONARD WOOL F1 8 7 9 - 1 9 6 1 & 1 8 8 0 - 1 9 6 9

    Pick up any cultural guide to Sussex and it will not be long beforethe well-rehearsed accounts of the lives and loves of theBloomsbury Group put in an appearance. However, even thoughboth of the most visited Bloomsbury shrines in the county, CharlestonFarmhouse and Monks House, each have stunning gardens, I do notthink either of their creators are particularly thought of as gardeners.This is a shame as both Vanessa Bell and Leonard Woolf expendedconsiderable portions of their prodigious creative and physical effortson their lovely plots and achieved results well above the ordinary.

    If wishing to categorise Vanessa Bell I would use the term artist-gardener; someone who primarily gardens for visual satisfaction, ratherthan horticultural attainment. Such gardeners often start as ignorantamateurs but invariably gain a high level of expertise, even if in somecases this is somewhat selective or unorthodox. (Others I wouldinclude in this category are Vita Sackville-West, Lawrence Johnstonand more recently Derek Jarman, see p.47.) Although over many yearsVanessa developed her garden at the foot of the Downs into a vibrantand living extension of her painters palette, her immediate preoccupa-tion when confronted with the unpromising patch was to provide foodfor her burgeoning household.

    Vanessa and her entourage (two children, lover, lovers friend,occasionally visiting husband) arrived at Charleston in 1916. Duncan

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  • 1. Woolf, Virginia, letter to Vanessa Bell, The Letters of Virginia Woolf, Vol. 2,edited by Nigel Nicolson and Joanna Trautmann, Hogarth Press, London, 1976, p.118.2. Quoted in Vita: The Life of Vita Sackville-West, Victoria Glendinning, Penguin,London, 1984, p.150.

    V A N E S S A B E L L & L E O N A R D W O O L F

    [ 13 ]

    Grant (lover) and David Garnett (lovers friend) were both conscientiousobjectors and engaged locally as farm workers. Vanessas sister, VirginiaWoolf, found the house for rent and wrote: He [Leonard] says thegarden could be made lovely there are fruit trees, and vegetables, anda most charming walk under trees.1 This was perhaps something of apersuasive understatement as the walled garden immediately to the rearof the house was virtually a potato field dotted with a few aging appletrees. But hunger is hunger and, like most country dwellers in wartime,Charlestons new inhabitants set about creating a full larder. Amongstthe vegetables, chickens, ducks, rabbits, a pig and beehives could all befound. It was quite a contrast for a woman reared in the rarefied atmos-phere of Londons Hyde Park Gate.

    After the war the house continued to be rented as a rural retreat,only becoming the principal home of Vanessa and Grant in 1939.Cessation of hostilities led to a reappraisal of the plot and it graduallybegan to bear more resemblance to a garden than a smallholding.A particularly radical transition was the new formality of layout intro-duced in the walled garden. The artist and critic Roger Fry imposed astrict grid of paths and lawns over the potatoes, while a terrace pavedwith a mosaic floor of broken crockery provided a sheltered suntrap.Frys strong axes were soon softened (and in parts almost obliterated)by Vanessas exuberant planting. Sunken ponds were installed, alongwith a growing number of idiosyncratic sculptures and ornaments.Despite Vita Sackville-Wests impression of life at Charleston as veryplain living and high thinking2, a playfulness and jollity pervades thegarden. Indeed it was the setting for numerous family theatricals overthe years and every August fireworks showered their sparks over thelarge pond to mark the birthday of Vanessas younger son, Quentin