When summer finally arrives in Britain, as it has done in the last week, there can be few places more glorious than the English garden! Sussex is particularly well-endowed with exceptional gardens and it is easy to visit two or three in a day. I visited two of my favourites this week - Great Dixter (above) and Pashley Manor, which make a wonderful combination for a day out because they are so strikingly different, but easily accessible to each other.
Great Dixter will be a familiar name to many, because the house, which dates in part to the 15th century, was extended in 1910 by the famous architect Edward Lutyens, who also created the original garden. The magnificent planting that visitors witness today is the legacy of the well-known gardening writer, Christopher Lloyd, who was born at the house and lived there for 84 years.
Great Dixter is notable for its fabulous borders, meadow-style planting and strident colours. The house is also open to the public and from inside, there are lovely views of the garden. Once you are outside, the house, with its exterior timber features and Lutyens chimneys, provides a memorable backdrop to the gardens. I think this is one of the most inspirational gardens in Britain and I never leave there without wishing that I could make my garden look so vibrant, interesting and full of surprises. The website has details of opening times, but do remember that it's never open on Monday.
Pashley Manor at nearby Ticehurst, also has glorious gardens, set against the backdrop of a Grade I listed house, which has two completely different facades - Tudor at the front (see below) and Queen Anne at the rear. These gardens could not be more different from Great Dixter and extend to 11 acres of beautifully-landscaped grounds and a series of garden "rooms", which are manicured to perfection. Particularly notable and well-worth making a special visit for, are the tulip displays in spring and the roses in summer.
Its present owners have spent more than 25 years restoring the neglected property that they moved into to its former glory, as seen today, and worked with landscape architect Anthony du Gard Pasley to help restore the gardens. The results are impressive and this is a truly lovely garden. The roses and borders are particularly stunning and in June the scent of the roses is wonderful.
Pashley Manor currently has an interesting outdoor sculpture exhibition, with many works by leading artists skillfully displayed against the backdrop of the gardens. Particularly striking are the works by Philip Jackson (left) and Kate Denton.
If you're planning to visit both of these gardens in a day, do time your visit so you can lunch at Pashley, because the food is all home-cooked and the restaurant area is charming. This too, is a notable feature of the property, because all the staff there are smiling and helpful (and I promise I'm not being paid to say this!!). Pashley is open during the week, and is easy to combine with a visit to Great Dixter. Both are members of the Historic Houses Association (HHA), so entry is free to friends (except on special event days).